Così fan tutte, Opera by W. A. Mozart
Popular accounts of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s personality tend to portray him as a hedonistic, irreverent and naughty character. Even if such portrayals were exaggerated, a string of his comedy operas are decidedly risqué and do not shy away from portraying matters of the heart as well as temptations of the flesh. Così fan tutte, born in the final stages of the Austrian composer’s career, bears no exception. Its provocative plot, full of romantic deception and marital fidelity trials, plays to the lower passions without seeming debauched even for a second, mostly thanks to Mozart’s score that yet again stands out with gracious and supple melodies and memorable themes. The premiere at Vienna’s Burgtheater on 26 January 1790 was a riot, but the work’s successful run was cut short by Emperor Joseph II’s death. Teatro del Maggio Musicale Fiorentino in Florence now revives a classic Mozart opera!
Così fan tutte is Italian for “So do all women” or “Women are like that”. The libretto by Lorenzo Da Ponte explores the centuries-old topic of the partner swap. In the opera, two Neapolitan officers, Ferrando and Guglielmo, are completely convinced of the fidelity of their betrothed, Dorabella and Fiordiligi. The wise philosopher Don Alfonso quickly interjects to state that all women are fickle and eternal love is a sham. At his urging, the two men devise a test for their fiancées’ love. After pretending to leave for the battlefield, Ferrando and Guglielmo return, donning fake moustaches. While they pretend to be Albanian visitors, they start seducing each other’s partners. Don Alfonso and the maid Despina work hard to influence the wooing process. Will true love prevail, or will the old philosopher’s cynical view of female fidelity prove right? Either way, the laughs and good times are guaranteed in this classic comedy opera.
The opera’s score overflows with the characteristic joviality that drives so many of Mozart’s humorous works. The arias and ensembles are playful and witty, both musically and lyrically. Although 19th-century puritanism temporarily limited this brilliant piece’s appeal, Così fan tutte has now been rebooted many times to great critical and audience appeal. As to whether all women really are like that, you will find out if you head over to Florence’s Opera House.