Così fan tutte
We take a look at a much-loved Glyndebourne classic.
In the video below, opera expert Alexandra Coghlan meets pianist Matthew Fletcher to discuss how recitative is used in the opera and Production Manager Tom Harrison to look at the sumptuous stage design. Plus Gus Christie tells her more about the opera’s significance in Glyndebourne history.
So sit back and take five minutes to fall in love with Così fan tutte…
A brief introduction
Così fan tutte (1790) is the last of the three great operatic collaborations between Mozart and librettist Lorenzo Da Ponte. After the politically charged Figaro and the darkness of Don Giovanni, this Neapolitan comedy full of disguises and deceptions looks at first glance like a regression to a simpler style. But scratch the sunny surface, and the opera reveals itself as a probing psychological portrait of human nature in all its flaws and weaknesses.
Così’s embattled performance history – bowdlerised, reworked or simply ignored throughout the 19th and early 20th centuries – speaks of a work whose uncomfortable truths unsettled audiences. Today however the opera has finally found its mark: directors and audiences more interested in shades of grey than musical worlds of black and white, in love as manipulation or self-deception as well as transcendent happily-ever-after.
The story begins with philosopher, Don Alfonso. He bets his two young friends Ferrando and Gugliemo, that their fiancées Fiordiligi and Dorabella will be unfaithful if put to the test. The two men accept, and enrol unwittingly in Alfonso’s ‘School for Lovers’.
Così is arguably the finest ensemble opera Mozart ever wrote. The composer’s interest here is in the interaction between people, their shifting alliances and identities, and his music adapts into wonderfully fluid, continuous forms to enable this. Memorable duets, trios, quintets, as well as lengthy finales to each act, all add to the flow of this inventive comedy.
Why not to miss this production
Richly colourful and suffused with Neapolitan sunshine and warmth, Nicholas Hytner’s ‘irresistible’ period production has been described as an evening of ‘Mozartian magic’ and praised for its ‘passion and compassion’, offering ‘lessons not only in love but lessons in Mozart’.
Vicki Mortimer’s sets transport the audience to 18th-century Italy, with its elegant formal gardens and shady terraces. This sun-dappled world is doll’s-house pretty, but in Hytner’s hands is home to emotions that are vividly (and often painfully) human. Comedy jostles with tragedy in a production that explores both sides of Mozart’s most mercurial opera.
A great moment to look out for: ‘Soave sia il vento’
Sung by Don Alfonso, Fiordiligi and Dorabella as they wave Ferrando and Guglielmo off to ‘war’, the exquisite trio ‘Soave sia il vento’ is probably the opera’s best-known passage – a rare moment where humour, parody and excess fall away.
The sincerity of the sisters’ shared feelings is expressed in arching vocal lines, which move in parallel throughout. The scheming Don Alfonso’s melody however (like Alfonso himself) goes his own way, pushing to the foreground in an unexpected, cadenza-like moment towards the end. We might expect a minor key for this musical farewell, but Mozart defies expectations. Sunny E major gives the music a particular pathos while also reminding us that this is still, after all, a comedy.
Cast and creative team
Images L-R: Alessandro Corbelli (Il barbiere di Siviglia, Festival 2019) / Hera Hyesang Park (Il barbiere di Siviglia, Festival 2019) / Huw Montague Rendall (Die Zauberflöte, Autumn 2020)
‘Early music wizard’ Riccardo Minasi makes his Glyndebourne debut conducting the OAE in this revival of Nicholas Hytner’s much-loved 2006 production. Glyndebourne favourites Alessandro Corbelli and Hera Hyesang Park reprise their irresistible comic partnership from 2019’s Il barbiere di Siviglia as the cynical Don Alfonso and scheming maid Despina, with Swedish soprano Ida Falk Winland (Fiordiligi) and mezzo Stephanie Lauricella (Dorabella) as their unwitting romantic puppets. John Christie Award winner and former Jerwood Young Artist Huw Montague Rendall returns to Glyndebourne as Guglielmo, with Alexey Neklyudov as Ferrando.
Here is a taster for the performance to come, Huw Montague Rendall and pianist Ben-San Lau perform ‘Donne mie, la fate a tanti’ from the opera.
Set the spotlight back on our world-class productions
Help light the way for the return of our Festival season. Transport our audience to Naples by supporting this revival of Nicholas Hytner’s sunny and colourful production.
Supported by Celia Blakey with a Syndicate and Circle of individuals
Image credits: Images © Tom Hammick. All rights reserved, DACS 2021 | Cosi fan tutte, Festival 2006, photos by Mike Hoban | Il barbiere di Siviglia, Festival 2019, photos by Bill Cooper | Die Zauberflöte, Autumn 2020, photos by Bill Cooper