"A reporter for the Vienna Realzeitung noted that the first performance [of Le nozze di Figaro:] was not as good as it could have been due to the unusual difficulty of the music, that the less-musically-educated majority of the audience was a bit puzzled by the work..."Whew. It wasn't just me. Figaro now is my favourite, but I confess that unlike other operas, I did not comprehend all the music on first (or second and third) listening.I requested Hunter's book from the library expecting to skim for possible roles for Geneviève, read up on her opinion of Figaro, and return it essentially unread (and unreviewed). As it turned out, I read it cover to cover as if it were a thriller. Fascinating stuff. Hunter separates Mozart's operas into three genres: opera seria, singspiel, and opera buffa. She explains the tropes and history of each leading up to Mozart's entrance on the scene, then gives us the synopsis, origins and analysis of each opera in that genre. The final chapters of the book deal with the physical spaces that hosted Mozart's operas during his lifetime, a brief look at eighteenth century acting and a look at the modern phenomenon of opera on DVD and the new tropes inherent in modern Mozart productions. (I gave a little squee when she mentioned my favourite Figaro production with my opera-crushes Rinat Shaham and Dorothea Röschmann.) Thanks to Hunter, I now hear wonderful details in Mozart, like the significance of Figaro having accompanied recitative leading into "Aprite un po' quegli occhio" (and I say it adds splendidly to the comedy of the aria), and the mocking of opera seria in the Queen of Night's arias in Die Zauberflöte (on which my other opera-crush, Diana Damrau, plays to great effect).Also, Hunter solved an ages old mystery that had been haunting me. In 1786, Mozart composed the famous opera Le nozze di Figaro. In 1816, Rossini composed the famous opera Il barbiere di Siviglia. I could never understand why Mozart randomly adapted Beaumarchais's second play. In truth, there was an earlier setting of Il barbiere di Siviglia. (Duh!) In fact, several lines in Mozart's Figaro make direct reference to the 1782 opera by Giovanni Paisiello. From the reviews I've found, Paisiello's opera does not deserve it's present obscurity and is the equal of Rossini's. I'm currently seeking out more information on it. This discovery includes the brainstorm that I might be able to force Geneviève to fill in as Rosina in Barbiere, with unexpected results. (Psst: singers on my f-list. Possible for a mezzo-soprano to pinch-hit for a contralto?)I'd like to close with a couple last reactions to Ms. Hunter's interpretations: 1.) The horns at the end of "Aprite un po' quegli occhio" are not overdoing the joke, thank-you-very-much. *giggles like a groundling*2.) Bartolo, while entertaining before, is so very much funnier now that I can see "La vendetta" as a classic buffo aria. 3.) Say what you will about Die Zauberflöte's anti-feminist themes and dialogue (though why we're blaming the composer rather than the librettist is beyond me), you much also take the wonderfully pro-feminist characters of Susanna and the Countess in Figaro before you pass final judgement on my dear Wolfie.