Così fan tutte (often shortened to Così in the English-speaking world) 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.
Così was written and composed at the suggestion of the Emperor Joseph II. The libretto was originally intended to be set to music by Mozart's contemporary Antonio Salieri but Salieri only completed parts of the first act and then broke off work on the opera.
The title, Così fan tutte, literally means "Thus do all [women]" but it is often translated as "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 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.
|Role||Voice type||Premiere Cast, January 26, 1790|
(Conductor: Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart)
|Fiordiligi, Lady from Ferrara and sister to Dorabella, living in Naples||dramatic coloratura soprano||Adriana Ferrarese|
|Dorabella, Lady from Ferrara and sister to Fiordiligi, living in Naples||lyric mezzo-soprano||Louise (Luisa) Villeneuve|
|Guglielmo, Lover of Fiordiligi||lyric baritone||Francesco Benucci|
|Ferrando, Lover of Dorabella||tenore di grazia||Vincenzo Calvesi|
|Despina, a maid||soubrette||Dorotea Bussani|
|Don Alfonso, an old philosopher||basso buffo||Francesco Bussani|
|Chorus: soldiers, servants, sailors|
While the use of modern fach titles and categories has become customary, it should be noted that 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).
The scene shifts to a room in the sisters' home. Despina, their 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 consider new lovers over old lovers (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 (aria: Come scoglio—"Like a rock"). Ferrando, left alone and sensing victory, praises his love (aria: Un'aura amorosa—"A loving breath").
The scene shifts to a garden, with the sisters 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.
The scene shifts to the garden, where 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.
The scene changes to the sister's room, where 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."
The final scene 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.
(Fiordiligi, Dorabella, Despina, Ferrando, Guglielmo, Alfonso)
|Opera House and Orchestra,|
|1935|| Ina Souez,|
| Glyndebourne Festival Chorus and Orchestra, Fritz Busch|
(first ever recording)
| Audio CD: Naxos Records|
|1952|| Eleanor Steber, |
|Metropolitan Opera Chorus and Orchestra, Fritz Stiedry||Audio CD: Columbia Records|
|1954|| Elisabeth Schwarzkopf,|
|Philharmonia Orchestra and Chorus, Herbert von Karajan||Audio CD: EMI Classics|
|1955|| Lisa della Casa,|
|Vienna State Opera Chorus and Orchestra, Karl Böhm||Audio CD: Decca|
|1962|| Elisabeth Schwarzkopf,|
|Philharmonia Orchestra and Chorus, Karl Böhm|| Audio CD: EMI Classics|
|1992|| Amanda Roocroft,|
|Monteverdi Choir, English Baroque Soloists, John Eliot Gardiner|| Audio CD: Archiv Produktion (Deutsche Grammophon)|
(also released on DVD in 2002 with Claudio Nicolai in place of Carlos Feller)
|1999|| Véronique Gens,|
|Concerto Köln, Kolner Kammerchor, René Jacobs||Audio CD: Harmonia Mundi|