Così fan tutte
Così fan tutte is an opera by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. It is always known by its Italian title. This is probably because it is impossible to find a good translation for the title, which means something like: “They all do it like that”, or “They are all like that” (meaning: “Women are all like that”). Its full title is Così fan tutte ossia La scuola degli amanti (That is how they all do it, or The School For Lovers). It is an opera buffa (a comic opera). The libretto was written by Lorenzo Da Ponte.
The opera is often called Così for short in the English-speaking world. It is one of the three Mozart operas for which da Ponte wrote the libretto (the words). The other two operas on which they worked together were The Marriage of Figaro and Don Giovanni.
Emperor Joseph II suggested to Mozart that he should write the opera. The libretto was originally going to be set to music by another composer, Antonio Salieri but Salieri only finished parts of the first act and then stopped working at the opera.
Performance history [change]
Unlike The Marriage of Figaro, the story of this opera did not offend people at the time. However, during the next two centuries many people thought the story was rather naughty, so it was not often performed. When it was, it was often changed.
Today it is one of the most often performed operas in the opera houses throughout the world. Although the story is quite silly, it has some of Mozart’s most beautiful music.
The story is about two young ladies who each have a lover. Don Alfonso, a cynical bachelor, makes a bet with the two men that their girl friends would easily fall in love with someone else. The two lovers disguise themselves, and make love to the other one’s girl friend. At first the women are not willing, but later they are.
Act 1 [change]
Ferrando and Guglielmo are two young officers. Ferrando is in engaged to Dorabella and Guglielmo to her sister Fiordiligi. When they are talking in a coffee shop, they say that their fiancées will always be faithful to them. Don Alfonso joins the talking and makes a bet with the two officers. He says that he can prove that all women (even Dorabella and Fiordiligi) are fickle (meaning that they easily change lovers instead of being faithful to just one). The men take on the bet. They pretend they have to go to fight in a war and say a sad goodbye. Their boat sails off to sea, while Alfonso and the sisters wish them a safe journey.
Despina, the sisters’ maid, arrives and asks what is wrong. Dorabella is desperately sad. Despina does not take it seriously, and says they should get new lovers. Alfonso is worried that 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 Albanians. They have moustaches. The sisters enter and are worried when they see two strange men in their home. The Albanians try to make friends with them, but the girls do not want them.
The Albanians enter in an uproar, pretend to drink arsenic, and fall to the ground. It seems that a doctor arrives, but it is Despina in disguise who draws out the poison with a magnet. The two men recover and ask for a kiss. They are encouraged to humor the men by Despina and Alfonso, but the sisters refuse.
Act 2 [change]
In the sisters’ bedroom Despina is trying to persuade the sisters to love the Albanians. After she leaves, Dorabella says to Fiordiligi that she does actually fancy the Albanian, and the two girls agree that a little flirtation will do no harm and will help them pass the time while they wait for their lovers to return.
In the garden, Dorabella and the disguised Guglielmo go off together, as do the other two. They have an awkward conversation and Ferrando departs with Fiordiligi. Now alone, Guglielmo tries to woo Dorabella. She pretends at first that she does not want him, but soon gives in. She gives him a medallion (with Ferrando's portrait inside) in exchange for a heart-shaped locket.
Ferrando is less successful with Fiordiligi, so he is angry 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 but then says he is very happy, because his girl is faithful.
In the sister's room, Dorabella tells Fiordiligi about the wrong thing she did. Fiordiligi, who is now upset, decides to go to the army and find her lover. Before she can leave, though, Ferrando arrives and again woos her. Fiordiligi finally gives in and falls into his arms. Guglielmo is very unhappy while Ferrando reminds Guglielmo about how he had been boasting a short while ago about his girl’s faithfulness. Alfonso seems to have won the bet. He tells the men to forgive their fiancées. After all: Così fan tutte ("All women are like that.")
The last scene begins as a wedding for both couples: the sisters and their “Albanian” lovers. Despina is now disguised as a notary. She gets everyone to sign the marriage contract. Military music is heard in the distance. This means that the officers are returning. Alfonso tells the sisters that 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 themselves (the officers), saying how much they love the girls. Alfonso drops the marriage contract in front of the officers, and, when they read it, they become very angry. They then go off and return moments later, half in Albanian disguise, half as officers. Everyone realizes that Despina had been the notary, and the sisters now know they have been deceived. All is forgiven, and everyone sings about accepting life in good times and in bad.