The Enduring Charm of Così fan tutte, or the School for Lovers

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Immediately, one becomes captivated with Così fan tutte upon hearing the first note of the overture. Before the opera opens, the old philosopher Don Alfonso has lectured two young soldiers, Ferrando and Guglielmo, on the unfaithfulness of lovers. The soldiers do not agree, and as the curtain opens, one hears the voice of the tenor Ferrando singing:

La mia Dorabella                              My Dorabella couldn’t
Capace non e;                                     do such a thing:
Fedel quamo bella                            heaven made her
Il cielo la fe                                          as faithful as she’s fair.

Guglielmo sings similar praises on the loyalty of his love, Fiordiligi, who is the sister of Dorabella.

Thus begins one of the most beautiful operas, and one of the most amusing in the world of opera, with Don Alfonso in conspiracy with Despina, the maid of the two sisters, to prove the old saying, “ the course of true love never did run smooth.”

The two soldiers pretend to leave for the army with much weeping and swearing of their love for them by the two sisters. Later the two soldiers return disguised as Albanians and prey upon the sympathy of the two sisters aided, by the maid Despina and Don Alfonso. After seducing the sisters into fake marriages, they return again as themselves not so sure of the fidelity of their two loves, but all is forgiven. The opera ends with the six leads singing the following:

Happy is the man who looks
at everything on the right side
and through trials and tribulations
makes reason his guide.
What makes another weep
will be for him a cause of mirth
and amid the tempests of this world
he will find sweet peace.
(translation by Lionel Salter)

William Mann in his book Operas of Mozart sums up Così fan tutte as follows:

“Così is gloriously comic yet unfathomably profound, the whole story of the attraction between women and men, a subject which deserved and was granted the most captivating music ever composed.”

 

Guest Post Written by Richard Krimm
Annapolis Opera Trustee

 

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