A manor house near Seville.
Figaro, servant to Count Almaviva, is preparing to marry Susanna, the Countess’s maid. He measures a room for a bed, but Susanna is concerned that the room is too close to the Count’s chamber. She explains to Figaro that Almaviva is pursuing her even though he has abolished feudal right. Furious, Figaro vows to thwart the Count’s plans.
Doctor Bartolo enters with his former housekeeper, Marcellina. Marcellina is angry at Susanna for stealing Figaro away from her, declaring she has a contract binding Figaro to her, while Bartolo is angry at Figaro for making a fool of him in the past. Marcellina and Susanna are sarcastically polite with one another until Marcellina and Bartolo leave.
Cherubino, a young page, rushes in seeking advice from Susanna. Count Almaviva caught him alone with the gardener’s daughter, Barbarina, and he is now to be sent away. He is smitten by all women, he explains, and cannot help himself. Before Susanna can offer advice, they are interrupted by the arrival Count Almaviva himself.
Cherubino hides while Almaviva attempts to set up a tryst with Susanna. Yet, when Don Basilio, the music teacher, knocks on the door, the Count himself is forced to hide. Basilio tells Susanna that everyone knows of Cherubino’s supposed crush on the Countess. Outraged, the Count reveals himself, stating that he is sending Cherubino away, and relates the scene in the gardener’s daughter’s chambers. As he does, Almaviva discovers a hiding Cherubino. Almaviva is fuming, for Cherubino has overheard him propositioning Susanna. Before the Count can accost Cherubino, Figaro returns, having assembled a hoard of festive townspeople to sing the Count’s praises. Put on the spot, Almaviva is forced to bless them. In retaliation, he vows to get rid of the lad by giving him a military commission.
Countess Almaviva's boudoir.
Alone, the Countess sighs the loss of her husband’s love and attention. She and Susanna discuss Count Almaviva’s advances. Figaro tells the Countess that the betrothed couple has a plan: Almaviva will receive a forged letter from Basilio informing him that his wife has taken up a lover. At the same time, Susanna will set up a rendezvous with Almaviva, but will send a disguised Cherubino in her place. This way they will catch the Count in his scheme. Cherubino arrives. At Susanna’s insistence, he sings a song of love for the Countess. He presents to them a commission letter that the Count forgot to seal. Setting the disguise, the women begin to undress him and make him up as a woman. Suddenly, the Count knocks. Having locked the door, they have time to hide Cherubino. Almaviva unexpectedly arrives to speak with his wife about the letter from Basilio, written and planted by Figaro. Noticing the Countess’s agitation, Almaviva is instantly suspicious. He jealously demands entry into the locked closet where Cherubino is hiding, but the Countess refuses to open it, claiming Susanna is inside trying on her wedding dress. Almaviva, taking the Countess with him, leaves the room to get a crowbar. After they leave, Susanna locks herself into the room and Cherubino exits the Countess’s chamber through the window. Unaware of the switch, the Countess confesses everything to her husband upon their return. She is shocked when Susanna exits the locked room. Ashamed of his suspicion and accusations, Almaviva begs forgiveness, as the Countess and Susanna chide him. Figaro arrives to gather up the group for the wedding. Backed into a corner and trying to buy time, the Count asks Figaro if he knows who wrote Basilo’s letter. Figaro counters by claiming ignorance. Antonio, the gardener, enters, fuming. Someone, jumping from the Countess’s balcony, has crushed his flowers. Figaro, the Countess and Susanna call him a drunkard. To confuse the Count further, Figaro claims it was he who jumped. The gardener reveals Cherubino’s dropped commission, which Figaro claims he was holding to get the Count’s seal. Marcellina, Bartolo and Basilio enter. Contract in hand, they lay claim that Figaro is obliged to marry Marcellina to pay off an outstanding debt.
A great hall.
Acting on her lady’s insistence, Susanna approaches Count Almaviva. He once again asks her to meet him in the garden. She promises. On her way from the room, the Count overhears Susanna tell Figaro that his legal troubles will soon be over. He is furious at the apparent deception. Marcellina and Bartolo, their attorney Don Curzio in tow, confront Figaro. Figaro tells them that being of noble birth – though stolen away by thieves as an infant – he can only marry with the consent of his family. To prove his tale, he shows the crowd his birthmark. Immediately, Marcellina and Bartolo recognize the mark as belonging to their son, and the three joyfully reunite. Figaro embraces his long-lost mother as Susanna rejoins the crowd, having just secured the money to pay off his debt from the Countess. She misunderstands the embrace as infidelity and rages at Figaro. Marcellina explains the situation, and everyone is happy. Everyone that is, except the Count. The reunited family leaves. Barbarina takes Cherubino to dress him as a woman. The Countess mourns the lost sense of peace in her life. Antonio reveals to the Count that Cherubino is still in Seville and is dressed as a woman. The Countess dictates a letter from Susanna to the Count and seals it with one of her own pins. She plans to surprise Almaviva in the garden herself. Barbarina and other village girls, including the disguised Cherubino enter to give the bride flowers. Antonio rushes in, seizes Cherubino’s hat, revealing him to the Count. Barbarina, recalling the Count’s promises made to her in moments of passion, asks that he give Cherubino to her in marriage. Figaro returns, trying again to gather everyone for the wedding. Antonio attempts to thwart him by disproving his alibi with Cherubino’s confession of jumping from the window. But Figaro claims that they both must have jumped. Celebrations begin. During the presenting of the wedding couples, Susanna slips the Count her letter, and Figaro notices the pin.
The garden at night.
In the garden, Figaro meets the gardener’s daughter Barbarina, who Almaviva has entrusted to return to Susanna the pin used to seal the letter. Figaro assumes Susanna is cheating on him and vows to catch her mid-tryst. Marcellina, believing in Susanna’s innocence pines over the cruelty of men. Figaro returns, planning to publicly humiliate Susanna. Bartolo and Don Basilio comment on the foolishness of passion. Figaro returns to hide, vowing it madness to trust women. As he hides, the Countess and Susanna appear, each dressed as the other. Knowing Figaro is concealed there, Susanna pretends to declare her love for the Count. Cherubino comes to the garden to meet with Barbarina. He spies the Countess and, thinking she is Susanna, leans in to kiss her. Instead, he kisses Almaviva, who goes to punch him, but hits Figaro instead. The Count declares his love for Susanna, who is really the Countess, while Figaro tells the Countess, who is really Susanna, about the tryst. Susanna forgets to disguise her voice, and Figaro figures out it is she under the Countess’s cloak. Their embrace is noticed by the Count, who is about to expose them to all when his wife takes off her own disguise. Almaviva is shamed and apologizes to his wife for both his jealousy and his infidelity. She forgives him. They all return to the celebration.