In its own time, The Marriage of Figaro was a “dangerous” piece because it openly challenged certain long-standing social conventions of class. The play on which it was based, written in 1781 by French playwright Pierre Augustin Caron de Beaumarchais, was forbidden by the Viennese censors, due to the explicit anti-aristocratic views expressed by Figaro, the barber of Seville. These sentiments were a clear signal of the French Revolution, which broke out only a few years later. The opera, premiered in 1786 in Vienna, was approved only after librettist Lorenzo da Ponte had excised or softened the play's most inflammatory passages. Even so, there is an open class conflict between Count Almaviva and the lower-class characters Figaro and Susanna who devise an elaborate ploy to outwit him.
The overture is a fireball of energy that anticipates the high speed of the action and gives us a foretaste of the strong emotional forces that fill the opera's four acts.