Mozart's opera The Marriage of Figaro opened to great success in May of 1786. It has stayed in the repertoire ever since and to this day remains a cornerstone of any operatic company. The opera is based on the play by Beaumarchais and uses an Italian libretto by Lorenzo da Ponte (who would later emigrate to New York and teach Italian at Columbia University). It tells the story of the marriage of Figaro, a valet to the Count Almaviva, to the lovely Susanna. Before their wedding night, the count schemes to exercise his "droit de seigneur" (a "right" whose historicity has been debated, though it is commonplace in the literature of the time) to sleep with a servant's future bride. On learning of the Count's wishes, Figaro, Susanna and the Countess seek to put a stop to his philandering ways.
The aria "Non so piu, cosa son cosa facio" is sung by Cherubino, the count's young male page. In the aria, Cherubino confesses his blossoming interest in all things feminine and particularly for his "beautiful godmother" - the Countess. Traditionally, Cherubino is played by a female singer dressed as a man, what is known in the business as a "trousers role."
Things to Note
This aria is an example of an aria agitata: an aria sung in a breathless manner which tended to signify "virtue in distress." These types of arias were often cued in the libretto by signs of physical suffering, the shortness of breath and the inability to speak clearly if at all. Musically, the accompaniment moved rapidly, had offbeat accents and a general sense of overrushing emotion. The aria agitata was one of many aria types present in opera of the 18th century.
Opera at the time was divided between comic operas, known as opera buffa, and serious operas, known as opera seria. The buffa version of the aria agitata originally derived from the seria version where it was more associated with rage. (For further information on this type see Jessica Waldoff's Recognition in Mozart's Operas pages 144ff.)
Cherubino's aria is all the more buffa becuase those very sentiments and emotions that characterize this aria are put in the mouth of a teenage boy and an older woman.
TextNon so più cosa son, cosa faccio,
Or di foco, ora sono di ghiacco
ogni donna cangiar di colore,
ogni donna mi fa palpitar.
Solo ai nomi d'amor, di diletto,
mi si turba, mi s'altera il petto
e a parlare mi sforza d'amore
un desio ch'io non posso spiegar.
Non so più cosa son, etc.
Parlo d'amor vegliando,
parlo d'amor sognando,
all'acqua, all'ombre, ai monti,
ai fiori, all'erbe, ai fonti,
all'eco, all'aria, ai venti,
che il suon de' vani accenti
portano via con sé.
Parlo d'amor vegliano, etc.
E se non ho chi m'oda.
Parlo d'amor con me.
TranslationI no longer know what I am, what I do;
Now I'm all fire, now all ice;
every woman changes my temperature,
every woman makes my heart beat faster.
The very mention of love, of delight,
Disturbs me, changes my heart, and
Speaking of love, forces on me a
Desire I cannot restrain!
I no longer no what I am, etc.
I speak of love while I'm awake,
I speak of love while I'm sleeping,
to rivers, to the shadows, to mountains,
to flowers, to the grass, to fountains,
to echoes, to the air, to winds,
until they carry away
the sound of my useless words.
I speak of love when I'm awake, etc.
And if no one is near to hear me
I speak of love to myself.
|0:00||Non so piu cosa son...
||Begins in media res with agitated figure|
|0:16||Solo ai nomi...||Contrasting figure|
|0:40||Non so piu...||Return of opening figure|
|1:00||Parlo d'amor vegliando...||Transitional Section. Leaping figures in violin. Heart skipping beats.|
|2:08||E se non ho chi m'oda...||Sinks to lonliness. Aria moves closer to aria of sentiment|