Così fan tutte, ossia La scuola degli amanti (Thus Do They All, or The School For Lovers) K. 588, is an opera buffa by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. The libretto was written by Lorenzo Da Ponte.
Così fan tutte is one of the three Mozart operas for which Da Ponte wrote the libretto. The other two Da Ponte-Mozart collaborations were Le nozze di Figaro and Don Giovanni.
Although it is commonly held that Così fan tutte was written and composed at the suggestion of the Emperor Joseph II, recent research does not support this idea. There is evidence that Mozart's contemporary Antonio Salieri tried to set the libretto but left it unfinished. In 1994, John Rice uncovered two terzetti by Salieri in the Austrian National Library.
The title, Così fan tutte, literally means "Thus do all [women]" but it is often simplified to "Women are like that". The words are sung by the three men in Act II, Scene xiii, just before the finale. Da Ponte had used the line "Così fan tutte le belle" earlier in Le nozze di Figaro (in Act I, Scene vii).
The first performance of Mozart's setting took place at the Burgtheater in Vienna on January 26, 1790.
The subject matter (see synopsis below) did not offend Viennese sensibilities of the time, but throughout the 19th and early 20th centuries it was considered risqué. The opera was rarely performed, and when it did appear it was presented in one of several bowdlerised libretti.
After World War II, it regained its place in the standard operatic repertoire. It is frequently performed and appears as number fifteen on Opera America's list of the 20 most-performed operas in North America.
Playbill of the first performance
||Premiere cast, January 26, 1790
(Conductor: Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart)
|Fiordiligi, Lady from Ferrara and sister to Dorabella, living in Naples
|Dorabella, Lady from Ferrara and sister to Fiordiligi, living in Naples
||Louise (Luisa) Villeneuve
|Guglielmo, Lover of Fiordiligi, a Soldier
|Ferrando, Lover of Dorabella, a Soldier
|Despina, a maid
|Don Alfonso, an old philosopher
|Chorus: soldiers, servants, sailors
While the use of modern fach titles and categories has become customary, Mozart was far more general in his own descriptions of voice type: Fiordiligi (soprano), Dorabella (soprano), Guglielmo (bass), Ferrando (tenor), Despina (soprano), Don Alfonso (bass).
Occasionally the voice categories outlined here are deviated from in performance practice. Don Alfonso is frequently performed by baritones such as Thomas Allen and Bo Skovhus and Despina is often performed by a mezzo-soprano, such as Cecilia Bartoli, Frederica von Stade and Agnes Baltsa. Guglielmo has been performed by basses such as James Morris and Wladimiro Ganzarolli, and Dorabella is occasionally (though far less often than the other three instances cited here) performed by a soprano. Ferrando and Fiordiligi, however, can only be sung by a tenor and a soprano due to the taxing high tessitura of their roles.
Mozart and Da Ponte took as a theme "fiancée swapping" which dates back to the 13th century, with notable earlier versions being those of Boccaccio's Decameron and Shakespeare's play Cymbeline. Elements from Shakespeare's The Taming of the Shrew are also present. Furthermore, it incorporates elements of the myth of Procris as found in Ovid's Metamorphoses, vii.
- Place: Naples.
- Time: the 18th century.
Scene 1: A coffeehouse
In a cafe, Ferrando and Guglielmo (two officers) express certainty that their fiancées (Dorabella and Fiordiligi, respectively) will be eternally faithful. Don Alfonso joins the discussion and lays a wager with the two officers, claiming he can prove in a day's time that these two women (like all women) are fickle. The wager is accepted: the two officers will pretend to have been called off to war; soon thereafter they shall return in disguise and attempt to seduce each other's lover. The scene shifts to the two women (they are sisters) who are praising their men. Alfonso arrives to announce the bad news: the officers have been called off to war. Ferrando and Guglielmo arrive, brokenhearted, and bid farewell (quintet: Sento, o Dio, che questo piedo è restio—"I feel, oh God, that my foot is reluctant"). As the boat with the men sails off to sea, Alfonso and the sisters wish them safe travel (trio: Soave sia il vento—"May the wind be gentle"), then Alfonso, left alone, gloatingly predicts that the women (like all women) will prove unfaithful. (arioso: Oh, poverini, per femmina giocar cento zecchini?—"Oh, poor little ones, to wager 100 sequins on a woman").
Scene 2: A room in the sisters' home
Despina, the maid, arrives and asks what is wrong. Dorabella bemoans the torment of having been left alone (aria: Smanie implacabili—"Torments implacable"). Despina mocks the sisters, advising them to take new lovers while their betrotheds are away (aria: In uomini, in soldati, sperare fedeltà?—"In men, in soldiers, you hope for faithfulness?"). After they depart, Alfonso arrives upon the scene. He fears Despina will recognize the men through their disguises, so he bribes her into helping him win the bet. The two men then arrive, dressed as mustachioed Albanians. The sisters enter and are alarmed by the presence of strange men in their home. The "Albanians" attempt to win over the sisters, Guglielmo going so far as to point out all of his manly attributes (aria: Non siate ritrosi—"Don't be shy"), but to no avail. Fiordiligi pledges to remain faithful. (aria: Come scoglio—"Like a rock"). Ferrando, left alone and sensing victory, praises his love (aria: Un'aura amorosa—"A loving breath").
Scene 3: A garden
The sisters are still pining. But Despina has asked Don Alfonso to let her take over the seduction plan—and suddenly, the "Albanians" burst in the scene and threaten to poison themselves if they are not allowed the chance to woo the sisters. As Alfonso tries to calm them, they drink the poison and pass out. Soon thereafter, a doctor arrives on the scene (Despina in disguise), who, through use of a large magnet (see animal magnetism), is able to revive the "Albanians". The revived men, hallucinating, demand a kiss of the goddesses who stand before them. The sisters refuse, even as Alfonso and the doctor (Despina) urge them to acquiesce.
Scene 1: The sisters' bedroom
Despina urges them to succumb to the "Albanians"' overtures (aria: Una donna a quindici anni—"A fifteen year old woman"). After she leaves, Dorabella confesses to Fiordiligi that she is tempted, and the two agree that a mere flirtation will do no harm and will help them pass the time while they wait for their lovers to return (duet: Prenderò quel brunettino"—"I will take the dark one").
Scene 2: The garden
Dorabella and the disguised Guglielmo pair off, as do the other two. The conversation is haltingly uncomfortable, and Ferrando departs with Fiordiligi. Now alone, Guglielmo attempts to woo Dorabella. She does not resist strongly, and soon she has given him a medallion (with Ferrando's portrait inside) in exchange for a heart-shaped locket (duet: Il core vi dono—"I give you my heart"). Ferrando is less successful with Fiordiligi (Ferrando's aria: Ah, lo veggio—"Ah, I see it," and Fiordiligi's aria: Per pietà, ben mio, perdona—"Please, my beloved, forgive"), so he is enraged when he later finds out from Guglielmo that the medallion with his portrait has been so quickly given away to a new lover. Guglielmo at first sympathises with Ferrando (aria: Donne mie, la fate a tanti—"My ladies, you do it to so many") but then gloats, because his betrothed is faithful.
Scene 3: The sister's room
Dorabella admits her indiscretion to Fiordiligi (È amore un ladroncello—"Love is a little thief"). Fiordiligi, upset by this development, decides to go to the army and find her betrothed. Before she can leave, though, Ferrando arrives and continues his attempted seduction. Fiordiligi finally succumbs and falls into his arms (duet: Fra gli amplessi—"In the embraces"). Guglielmo is distraught while Ferrando turns Guglielmo's earlier gloating back on him. Alfonso, winner of the wager, tells the men to forgive their fiancées. After all: Così fan tutte—"All women are like that."
It begins as a double wedding for the sisters and their "Albanian" grooms. Despina, in disguise as a notary, presents the marriage contract, which all sign. Directly thereafter, military music is heard in the distance, indicating the return of the officers. Alfonso confirms the sisters' fears: Ferrando and Guglielmo are on their way to the house. The "Albanians" hurry off to hide (actually, to change out of their disguises). They return as the officers, professing their love. Alfonso drops the marriage contract in front of the officers, and, when they read it, they become enraged. They then depart and return moments later, half in Albanian disguise, half as officers. Despina has been revealed to be the notary, and the sisters realize they have been duped. All is ultimately forgiven, as the entire group praises the ability to accept life's unavoidable good times and bad times.
Louis Nowra's Così is a theatre production set in the 1970s in a Melbourne mental hospital. A young director is asked to put on a play with inpatients, and a Mozart-obsessed patient ensures that the production is Così fan tutte, in spite of the fact that none of them can sing, nor speak Italian.
La Gueule ouverte, a 1974 French drama film made by controversial director Maurice Pialat, used excerpts of the opera during scenes of adultery involving the protagonist's husband and his mistresses as well as her son and his mistresses.
- ^ Brown, Bruce Allen. W.A. Mozart: Così fan tutte, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1995. p. 10
- ^ Collins, Michael, Notes, Second Series, Vol. 53, No. 4 (Jun., 1997), pp. 1142–1144. Music Library Association.
- ^ OPERA America's "The Top 20" list of most-performed operas
- ^ As evidenced by Baerenreiter's critical editions of the opera and corresponding articles in The New Grove Dictionary of Opera
- ^ Synopsis taken from Leo Melitz, The Opera Goer's Complete Guide, 1921 version.
- ^ Megahey, Noel (April 28, 2009). "La Gueule ouverte (1974)". The Digital Fix. http://homecinema.thedigitalfix.co.uk/content.php?contentid=70590. Retrieved August 24, 2010.