Mozart’s opera Così fan tutte is the great composer’s most divisive and controversial work, dismissed in its day as clumsy and miserable. It wasn’t until the mid 20th century that it became popular – although it can still be dogged with accusations of misogyny!
The opera’s full title is Così fan tutte – often loosely translated as ‘they (women) are all like that’. However, Mozart gave it an alternative title La scuola degli amanti or The School for Lovers which perhaps is a more politically-correct translation for today!
Mozart and Da Ponte’s theme of fiancée swapping might take a cynical swipe at men and women, but this was not new in the theatre. Versions of it are found in Boccaccio’s Decameron and in Shakespeare’s Cymbeline and The Taming of the Shrew. It even crops up in Ovid’s Metamorphoses.
The original opera was set in Naples in the 18th century and opens in a café with two officers, Ferrando and Guglielmo discussing how they believe their fiancées, Dorabella and Fiordiligi respectively, will stay faithful to them.
Tempted by a bet, a plot is hatched in which they pretend to be called off to war but return in disguise to try and seduce each other’s fiancée. As the lovers bid a tearful farewell, Despina, the maid suggests to the women that they take new lovers while their fiancés are away.
When Ferrando and Guglielmo return disguised as ‘Albanians’ the women are eventually tempted and a double wedding is arranged. But when military music heralds the return of their ‘true loves’ their true identity is revealed and the sisters realise they have been fooled. The four lovers end up wiser, but are they necessarily happier…?
Love, Trust, Forgiveness… ?
Bath Opera gives Mozart’s Così fan tutte a fresh twist as director Tom Magnone takes us on an emotional 1960s roller-coaster ride of love, trust, loyalty, disguise, betrayal, deception, bewilderment, and self-realisation.
Mozart’s Così fan tutte
Saturday 12 & Sunday 13 July, 7.30pm
Rondo Theatre, St. Saviours Rd, Bath BA1 6RT
Box office: 0333 666 3366 or click below to buy online.