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Cosí fan tutte, the second mainstage production of Central City Opera’s 2017 season, is the final opera collaboration between composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and librettist Lorenzo da Ponte. At the time of Cosí fan tutte‘s premiere in 1790, Mozart and da Ponte were a rockstar writing team, having recently produced blockbuster opera hits Don Giovanni in 1787 and Le nozze di Figaro in 1786. The critical reception of Cosí fan tutte, however, was mixed. Its cynical look at love and questionable behavior of its characters made some wary of the opera, and for more than a century, Cosí fan tutte remained outside standard operatic repertoire.
Throughout the years, however, opera enthusiasts have looked past the seemingly misogynistic text to Mozart’s beautifully crafted score. “[Mozart] transformed the text through music into something supremely compassionate, erotic, and emotionally honest,” said Director Stephen Barlow about the piece. It is Mozart’s music that eases some of the cynical edge to “Thus do they all”, as both the sisters and their lovers are given passionate arias that express the genuine emotional turmoil that surrounds young love. It becomes less a matter of women staying true to an unfaithful nature to which they are destined to succumb and is instead a matter of young, inexperienced lovers trying to navigate their affections.
To this extent, many have found the answer in Cosí fan tutte‘s full name, Cosí fan tutte, ossia La scuola degli amanti, which translated means “Thus do they all, or The School for Lovers”. “The School for Lovers” seems to imply that the conflict and infidelity between Fiordiligi, Dorabella, Ferrando, and Guglielmo is not caused by a woman’s tendency to be unfaithful. Rather, all four of the young lovers are learning, largely through trial and error, what it means to love and to be loved. Their mistakes are not quite as cynical as the text alone would lead you to believe, because while they seem foolish and petty to the outside observer, to these characters they are the results of true and confusing emotion, the pains of learning and growing as lovers.
Perhaps “Thus do they all” does not have to refer to a woman’s duplicity. Perhaps it can refer instead to the turbulent nature of young love that both men and women experience and the wisdom that they gain from experiencing it.
Cosí fan tutte opens at Central City Opera on Saturday, July 15 and runs through Friday, August 4. For tickets and more information, please visit https://centralcityopera.org/event/cosi-fan-tutte.
The Metropolitan Opera
Central City Opera’s 2017 Season Program