Introducing... Così fan tutte
Everything you need to know about Mozart's Così fan tutte, which is available to watch online for free as part of Glyndebourne Open House on Sunday 7 June.
In this instalment of our Introducing series we explore Nicholas Hytner’s classic production.
Così fan tutte is part of Glyndebourne Open House – a weekly series of free operas, available on YouTube.
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 it:
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 dolls-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:
Sung by Don Alfonso, Fiordiligi and Dorabella as they wave Ferrando and Giglielmo 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:
Celebrated Hungarian conductor Ivan Fischer brings all his characteristic energy and vivacity to Nicholas Hytner’s 2006 production.
An exciting young cast includes Topi Lehtipuu and Luca Pisaroni as Ferrando and Guglielmo – ‘a pair of glamorous Byronic brigands, whose sexuality is an unstoppable force’ – with soprano Miah Persson and mezzo Anke Vondung (‘close to perfect’) as their conflicted fiancees Fiordiligi and Dorabella. Charismatic French baritone Nicolas Rivenq is Don Alfonso, scheming with Ainhoa Garmendia’s ‘charming’ Despina.