Cosi Fan Tutte Opera

 

Covid fan tutte satirically revisits Mozart's classic opera by adapting its storyline to reflect Finland's experience during the coronavirus crisis. Starring Karita Mattila and conducted by Esa-Pekka Salonen, the production lightheartedly follows ordinary Finns’ lives amid press conferences by the government and pandemic experts. Teatro Real de Madrid; Dirigent: Sylvain Cambreling; Inszenierung: Michael Haneke. 'Cosi fan tutte' is often staged as a game in which a bored old cynic plays with the lives of two romantically attached couples with no better object but to prove that eternal fidelity is a.

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  1. Apparently Mozart had an extreme dislike for the soprano Adriana Ferrarese del Bene, for whom the role of Fiordiligi was first created. She had a strange tendency to drop her chin and throw back her head while singing low and high notes respectively, and knowing this, Mozart chose to fill her showpiece aria (“Come scoglio”) with constant harmonic leaps. Presumably he took great pleasure in watching her bob her head “like a chicken”.

  2. While one typically sees the title Così fan tutte attributed to this opera, and translated as “Women are like that”, the full title is actually Così fan tutte, ossia La scuola degli amanti or “Thus do they all, or The School for Lovers”.

  3. Così fan tutte has often been called the perfect “ensemble opera”. This is due to the fact that among the small cast, the six roles are almost equal in weight and importance to the piece, thus making this an opera without the traditional “leading lady”.

  4. Mozart’s own life bears a slight resemblance to the drama of Così fan tutte. A few years before marrying Constanze Weber, he was enamored with her sister Aloysia.

  5. You might know that the storyline of this opera was considered quite scandalous in the 19th and early 20th centuries, and was only performed with an altered plot or accompanied by a public apology for the content. Interestingly enough, the Romantic composer Beethoven, a great admirer of Mozart’s work, is said to have written Così fan tutte off as “immoral”.

  6. Mozart may be the only composer who is also namesake to a frog. The species Eleutherodactylus amadeus was named in 1987.

Learn more about the characters in Mozart's Così fan tutte

Ferrando

  • Good-natured
  • Naïve
  • Romantic

A softer character than his friend Guglielmo, Ferrando is a heart-on-sleeve romantic. While Guglielmo is worrying about dinner, Ferrando can only think of love. The crooning loveliness of his ‘Un’aura amorosa’ and the love that persists even through betrayal in ‘Tradito schernito’ tells us that, unlike his friend, he will have no trouble forgiving his wayward lover.

Both Ferrando and Guglielmo are typical of their voice types. Although there’s no real hero in Così, the tenor Ferrando, with his lovelorn sincerity, comes pretty close.

‘Di scrivermi ogni giorno’ (‘Swear you’ll write every day’)

Guglielmo

  • Quick-thinking
  • Charismatic
  • Persuasive

If there’s a leader among the two young men then it’s definitely Guglielmo. It’s his confidence (bordering on arrogance) in his own attractions and Fiordiligi’s fidelity that allows Don Alfonso to manipulate the lovers so successfully. The pleasure with which he announces his conquest of Dorabella to Ferrando reveals a cruel streak in him – is this another cynical Alfonso in the making?

It’s tempting to see Ferrando and Guglielmo as straightforward characters, drawn from the opera buffa tradition, with little depth or complexity. But look at how Guglielmo develops through the opera, moving from the assurance of ‘Non siate ritrosi’ to the bitterness of ‘Donne mie’ and the barely-concealed anger in the finale.

Don Alfonso

  • Cynical
  • Manipulative
  • Suave

Don Alfonso is the puppet-master for Così’s romantic drama, proposing the bet that leads to all the comic confusion. Why does he do it? Mozart and Da Ponte never give us an answer, and it’s this ambiguity that makes Don Alfonso so compelling a character – the mystery at the heart of the opera.

The only principal character not to sing a proper aria, Don Alfonso uses recitative – the speech-like music that moves the plot along – to direct the actions of others, who react emotionally. He is the catalyst, both musically and dramatically, for all the opera’s events.

Fiordiligi

  • Passionate
  • Sincere
  • Dramatic

Literally translated, Così fan tutte means ‘Women all do thus’ – i.e. women are all unfaithful. She may eventually be tempted into straying, but the conflicted, deep-feeling Fiordiligi complicates this cynical philosophy, inviting the audience to make their own judgement.

Così fan tutte is a comic opera (opera buffa) but Fiordiligi’s music is often much closer to a style we’d expect from opera seria – more formal and more dramatic than Dorabella or Despina’s arias, with their light-hearted musical prettiness.

At the end of the opera we assume that Fiordiligi and her sister return to their original lovers, but there is nothing either in the score or the libretto to confirm this absolutely. Recently directors have begun to explore this ambiguity and its implications for the opera’s happy ending.

Dorabella

  • Affectionate
  • Inconstant
  • Impulsive

A less complicated character than her sister, Dorabella’s music reflects her simpler, sunnier nature. Lyrical lines and lovely melodies bring a youthful sweetness to her music, and she often sings duets where her music mirrors that of other, stronger characters, like her sister or Ferrando.

More easily swayed than her determined sister, Dorabella is the first to fall for her ‘Albanian’ lover, urging her sister to follow suit. She’s also not immune to a little bribery – a gift of a heart-shaped locket is enough to win her love.

Mozart made no distinctions between sopranos and mezzo-sopranos, and all his female roles are nominally for sopranos. Today, however, the role of Dorabella – consistently slightly lower than Fiordiligi – is more often sung by a mezzo-soprano.

Fan

Still a teenager, Despina combines the confidence of youth with the cynicism of one three times her age. Together with Don Alfonso, she takes the lead in pulling the puppet-strings in this drama.

Despina is the lightest soprano on stage. Her arias are character-pieces, full of humour, rhythmically light on their feet. Often appearing in disguise through the opera, it has become traditional for the singer playing Despina to disguise her voice too, impersonating first a doctor and then a notary.

‘Eccovi il medico, Signore belle’ (‘Here’s the doctor’)

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