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Opera Essentials: Mozart's Così fan tutte

Our quick introduction to Mozart and Da Ponte’s glorious opera on the nature of love.

By Kate Hopkins (Content Producer (Opera and Music))

6 September 2016 at 4.49pm | 1 Comment

The story begins…

Ferrando and Guglielmo believe that their fiancées Fiordiligi and Dorabella will never be unfaithful. However, when Don Alfonso persuades them to carry out a bet, events take a surprising turn.

Farcical or serious?

The music and drama of Così fan tutte are beautifully balanced between the comical and the more serious. Hilarious ensembles such as the sextet ‘Alla bella Despinetta’ and the finale to Act I contrast with more reflective and poignant sections, such as Ferrando’s ardent aria ‘Un aura amorosa’, Fiordiligi’s heartfelt aria ‘Per pietà ben mio, perdona’ and the genuinely romantic duet between Ferrando and Fiordiligi, ‘Fra gli amplessi’. The opera includes some of Mozart’s most celebrated music, including the trio ‘Soave sia il vento’ and Dorabella’s aria ‘E amore un ladroncello’.

Da Ponte’s most original libretto

Unlike Mozart and librettist Lorenzo da Ponte’s previous collaborations Le nozze di Figaro and Don Giovanni, their final collaboration Così fan tutte has no clear source in literature. Da Ponte drew widely on tales about fidelity from classical myth, Italian Renaissance stories and contemporary French novels and plays – and possibly on his own experiences – to create his libretto. The work’s themes of fidelity, free will, temptation, illusion, self-deception, trickery and forgiveness are timeless, and continue to resonate very much in our own age.

Composed quickly, adored slowly

Little is known about the opera’s genesis, but Mozart probably composed it rapidly, in the final months of 1789. It received its premiere at the Burgtheater in Vienna on 26 January 1790. Da Ponte’s mistress Adriana Ferrarese del Bene sang Fiordiligi. Due to the sudden death of Joseph II and the following Court mourning, the opera only had five performances. Although Così fan tutte only really became popular during the 20th century, it is now regarded as one of Mozart’s greatest masterpieces.

All the world's a stage

Jan Philipp Gloger uses a theatrical setting in which to explore the complex question ‘what is love’? The two couples begin the opera confident they know what love means, but as they enter more thoroughly into the role-playing games set up by Don Alfonso and Despina, their emotional journey leads them to ask important questions about identity and their feelings for each other, and about the nature of love itself.

Così fan tutte runs 22 September–19 October 2016. Tickets are still available.

This production will be broadcast in cinemas around the world on 17 October 2016. Find your nearest cinema screening.

This article has 1 comment

  1. Wonderfully helpful background info.... I will be taking a minor to this as an "introduction to Mozart" at the ROH, so this article was just perfect !

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