COSI FAN TUTTE
a delicious comedy of artful errors
Written and composed at the suggestion of the Emperor Joseph II, the libretto was originally intended to be set to music by Mozart's colleague, and Imperial court composer, Antonio Salieri who completed only parts of the first act and then broke off his work.
The first performance of Mozart's setting took place at the Burgtheater in Vienna on January 26, 1790.
Composer: Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, K.588 (1756 - 1791)
Librettist: Lorenzo da Ponte (1749 - 1838)
At a coffee shop, Ferrando and Guglielmo proclaim that their beloved sweethearts (Dorabella and Fiordiligi, respectively) are eternally faithful. Don Alfonso overhears and wagers that given a day their two women affections can be proven fickle (as all women are.) They challenge that Don Alfonso is wrong and bet on their beloved's affections. While the two sisters are praising their men Don Alfonso announces that the officers have been called off to war. Ferrando and Guglielmo bid a regretful farewell (quintet: Sento, o Dio, che questo piedo è restio—"I feel, oh God, that my foot is reluctant"). Don Alfonso and the sisters wish them safe voyage as the boat sets sail (trio: Soave sia il vento—"May the wind be gentle".) Alfonso, left alone, rails against the fickleness of women (arioso: Oh, poverini, per femmina giocar cento zecchini?—"Oh, poor little ones, to wager 100 sequins on a woman").
The scene shifts to a room in the sisters' home. Despina, the sisters maid, 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 fedeltá?—"In men, in soldiers, you hope for faithfulness?"). The call to war having been a ruse, Ferrando and Guglielmo will return in disguise, as Albanians, and attempt to seduce each others' fiancee. Alfonso bribes Despina for her assistance as he fears the sisters will recognize the men through their disguises. The two men then arrive in disguise and the sisters are alarmed by the presence of strange men in their home. The Albanian lovers attempt to win over the sisters with Guglielmo 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").
In the garden the sisters are still pining. Despina has asked Don Alfonso to let her take over the seduction plan— the disguised men then burst in 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, is able to revive the poisoned men. 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.
Despina urges the sisters to succumb to the men's' overtures (aria: Una donna a quindici anni—"A fifteen year old woman"). Dorabella confesses that she is tempted but Fiordiligi remains steadfast (duet: Prenderó quel brunettino"—"You take the darker one").
In the garden, Dorabella and the disguised Guglielmo pair off, as do the other two. The conversation is haltingly uncomfortable, and Ferrando departs with Fiodiligi. Guglielmo attempts to woo Dorabella and she forfeits Ferrando's medallion 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 Fiodiligi's aria: Per pietá, 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 discarded. Guglielmo at first sympathizes 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.
In the sister's room Dorabella admits her indiscretion to Fiordiligi (É amore un ladroncello—"Is love 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: Tra 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 fiancees. After all: Cosi fan tutte—"All women are like that." The title phrase is sung by the three male singers.
The final scene begins as a double wedding for the sisters and their disguised 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 two grooms hurry off to hide to return as the lovelorn officers. Alfonso drops the marriage contract in front of the men, who read it and become enraged. They depart and return moments later, half in disguise, half as officers. Despina is revealed as the notary, and the sisters realize they have been duped. All is forgiven, as the entire group praises the ability to accept the fickleness of life.