Cos fan tutte

Così fan tutte: Mozart’s comic opera about love and fidelity


Così fan tutte: Mozart's comic opera about love and fidelity

Così fan tutte is a two-act opera buffa (comic opera) by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, with a libretto by Lorenzo da Ponte. It was first performed in Vienna on 26 January 1790, and is one of Mozart’s last operas with da Ponte, who also wrote the librettos for The Marriage of Figaro and Don Giovanni.

The title of the opera means “Thus Do They All, or The School for Lovers”, and it is a satire on the fickleness of women and the foolishness of men who trust them. The plot revolves around a bet between two young officers, Ferrando and Guglielmo, and an old philosopher, Don Alfonso, who claims that their fiancées, the sisters Fiordiligi and Dorabella, will be unfaithful to them if given the chance. To prove his point, Don Alfonso devises a scheme to make the sisters believe that their lovers have gone to war, and then introduces them to two disguised strangers (actually Ferrando and Guglielmo) who woo them with the help of the sisters’ maid, Despina. The opera explores the themes of love, deception, temptation, and forgiveness through a series of comic and dramatic situations.

Così fan tutte is considered one of Mozart’s masterpieces, and showcases his musical genius and versatility. The score contains some of his most beautiful and expressive arias and ensembles, such as “Come scoglio” (“Like a Rock”), “Un’aura amorosa” (“A Breath of Love”), “Soave sia il vento” (“May the Wind be Gentle”), and “Per pietà” (“Have Pity”). The opera also features a rich orchestration and a variety of musical styles, from the solemnity of the overture to the playfulness of the finale. The opera is full of wit, irony, and humor, but also reveals a profound insight into human nature and emotions.

The opera is divided into two acts, each with a number of scenes. The following is a brief summary of the main events:

Act I

  • The cynical Don Alfonso makes a bet with Ferrando and Guglielmo that their fiancées, the sisters Fiordiligi and Dorabella, are unfaithful like all women. They accept, agree to follow his instructions, and plan how to use their winnings.
  • Fiordiligi and Dorabella gaze lovingly at the locket portraits of their lovers. Don Alfonso, weeping, arrives and tells them that their fiancés have been called to war. Ferrando and Guglielmo, too, arrive only to bid the sisters a tearful farewell. The sisters and Don Alfonso wish them a safe journey.
  • Don Alfonso denounces the foolishness of founding one’s hopes on a woman. Despina, the ladies’ clever maid, is surprised to find them grieving at their lovers’ absence. After Dorabella rages at Fate, Despina advises them to enjoy themselves and do what men would do in the same situation: find new lovers.
  • Don Alfonso, afraid that the shrewd Despina will ruin his plan, promises her a reward if she will help introduce two gentlemen to the ladies. He then brings in Ferrando and Guglielmo disguised as Albanians, who pretend to be madly in love with the sisters and beg for their hospitality.
  • The sisters are shocked and offended by the strangers’ advances, and vow to remain faithful to their absent lovers. Ferrando and Guglielmo are delighted by their reaction, while Don Alfonso warns them not to be too confident.
  • The disguised lovers serenade the sisters with a duet, accompanied by Despina on the guitar. The sisters refuse to listen and slam the door in their faces. Don Alfonso convinces them to at least offer them some refreshment as a gesture of civility.
  • The sisters agree to let the strangers in, but Fiordiligi proclaims that her heart is like a rock in resisting their flattery. The men pretend to take poison in despair, and fall to the ground. Despina and Don Alfonso call for a doctor to save them.
  • Despina disguises herself as a doctor and claims that she can cure the men with a magnet. She revives them, but says that they need a kiss from the sisters to complete their recovery. The sisters reject this idea, while the men plead for their compassion.

Act II


Act I

  • Despina urges the sisters to give in to the strangers’ courtship, since their lovers are unlikely to be faithful to them. She teaches them how to flirt and seduce with a playful aria.
  • Dorabella confesses that she is tempted by the stranger who wooed her (Guglielmo), and Fiordiligi reproaches her for her weakness. They decide to swap partners, so that each will only test the other’s lover. Dorabella gives Fiordiligi her locket with Guglielmo’s portrait.
  • Dorabella and Guglielmo pair off in the garden, while Ferrando tries to woo Fiordiligi. She struggles with her feelings, but ultimately succumbs to his ardor. Ferrando is overjoyed, while Guglielmo is furious when he learns of his lover’s betrayal from Don Alfonso.
  • Don Alfonso tries to console Guglielmo by telling him that women are like that (così fan tutte), and that he should take his revenge by enjoying Dorabella’s love. He also reminds him of their bet, which he has now won.
  • Ferrando and Guglielmo confront each other over their experiences with the sisters. Ferrando is still happy with his conquest, while Guglielmo is bitter and angry. They agree that they have been deceived by Don Alfonso and Despina.
  • The sisters enter, wearing wedding dresses. Don Alfonso tells them that he has arranged a double wedding for them with the strangers, who have agreed to marry them before they go away. He also tells them that he has bribed a notary (

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