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Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

Thus Do They All, or The School for Lovers

Mozart' - Così Fan Tutte 
Complete opera with English Subtitles
1992 France
Amanda Roocroft - Fiordiligi
Rosa Mannion - Dorabella
Rodney Gilfry - Guglielmo
Rainer Trost - Ferrando
Eirian James - Despina
Claudio Nicolai - Don Alfonso 
Monteverdi Choir
English Baroque Soloists 
John Eliot Gardiner - Conductor 

Mozart's score for Cosi fan tutte has been sung under more names than any other opera in history. For example, the Metropolitan Opera has called it Women Are Like That. In England it was once called Tit for Tat. In Germany it has had a dozen different names, including such unlikely ones as Who Won the Bet?, The Girls' Revenge, and even The Guerrillas. In Denmark it appeared as Flight from the Convent, and in France-believe it or not—as The Chinese Laborer and, fifty years later, Love's Labour's Lost. This last version was produced by the firm of Barbier et Саггe, libretto manufacturers who specialized in transforming the literary works of the great into musical shows. They discarded the original libretto completely and adapted Mozart's music to their own mutation of Shakespeare's early comedy.

There was reason for so much tampering. Cosi fan tutte has never been so popular as Figaro and Don Giovanni yet its music, most critics agree, is just as fine. Therefore, it was thought, the trouble must be with the libretto. It was alternately criticized as too immoral, too slight, too artificiaL Maybe so, maybe so. The fact is that none of the alterations bas ever been more popular than the original. So let ш be satisfied with that. I, personally, think it a very fine libretto. As for its meaning, we can take a hint from the orignal subtitle, which was The School for Lovers.

The story story goes that the plot is modeled on something that had recently happened among the courtiers of the Emperor Joseph II. Be that as it may,the commission did come from the Emperor to Da Ponte and Mozart to write a comedy, possibly because a revival of The Marriage of Figaro had proved highly successful. Cosi fan tutte was the delightful fulfillment of the commission.


Opera in two acts by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
with libretto in Italian by Lorenzo Da Ponte,
possibly inspired by a court incident


Fiordiligi and Dorabella, two wealthy sisters

Despina, their maid 

Ferrando, engaged to Dorabella, officer

Guglielmo, engaged to Fiordiligi, officer
Don Alfonso, man-about-town


Time: about 1790
Place: Naples


First performance at Vienna, January 26, 1790


Fiordiligi: Soprano. Sister of Dorabella and betrothed to Guglielmo. The sceptical Don Alfonso is determined to prove to his friends that all women are fickle and enlists the help of the sisters' maid, Despina. He tricks the sisters into accepting the overtures of two foreign gentlemen (who are their own fiances in disguise). Determined to remain faithful to Guglielmo, Fiordiligi admonishes Dorabella for weakening, but gradually she too gives in to her amorous suitor ('T'll take the fair one') who is, in reality, her sister's fiance, Ferrando. A bogus double wedding takes place but no sooner are the marriage contracts signed than the real fiances return. How will the men react and will Fiordiligi settle for? Arias: Come scoglio ('Like a rock'); Per pieta ('Have pity on me'). Created (1790) by Adriana Ferrarese del Bene.

Leontyne Price "Come scoglio" Mozart' Cosi fan tutte

Dorabella: Soprano/ mezzo. Sister of Fiordiligi. She is engaged to Ferrando, whose friend Guglielmo is her sister's fiance. The cynical Alfonso is determined to prove to his friends that all women are fickle and enlists the help of the sisters’ maid, Despina. He tricks the sisters into accepting the overtures of two 'Albanians',who are their own fiances in disguise. At first the sisters reject their overtures, but Dorabella is the first to weaken and decide 'I'll take the dark one'! This is really her sister's fiance, Guglielmo. After Fiordiligi has also capitulated, a fake double wedding takes place一the notary is the disguised Despina. The marriage contracts are signed and almost immediately the real fiances return. Who will Dorabella settle for? Arias: Smanie implacabile ("May those terrible pangs"); Ё amore un ladroncello ("Love's like a little thief"). Created (1790) by Louise Villeneuve. hose sister created Fiordiligi).

Smanie implacabili - Elina Garanca

Lucia Popp: Mozart - Cosi fan tutte, 'In uomini in soldati'

Despina: Soprano. Maid to Fiordiligi and Dorabella. Is bribed by Alfonso to help him prove to their fiances, Guglielmo and Ferrando, that the sisters can be unfaithful. When the two ‘Albanians’ (Guglielmo and Ferrando in disguise) pretend to take poison to gain the sisters' pity, the Dr Mesmer who ‘cures’ them with a magnet is the disguised Despina. And when the giris decide to marry these Albanian lovers, Despina, disguised as the notary Beccavivi, provides the marriage contract which they all sign. Arias: In uomini, in soldati ('In men, in soldiers') ; Una donna a quindici anni ('A woman who's reached the age of 15'), Although designated in the score as a soprano, this role is often sung by mezzos.  Created (1790) by Dorothea Bussani.

Ferrando: Tenor. Fiance of Dorabella. His friend, Guglielmo, is engaged to her sister Fiordiligi. Don Alfonso bets the two men that all women are unfaithful. Ferrando and Guglielmo pretend to leave for battle, don disguises as Albanians, and are presented to the ladies as old friends of Alfonso. Gradually the women give in to the men's overtures, but each to the 'wrong' man, so Fiordiligi is won over by Ferrando. They agree to a double wedding and a bogus cere- monу takes place, the bridegroom being named as Sempronio. Now Ferrando and Guglielmo 'return' from war, each to claim his own original sister! How will the couples finally pair off? Arias: Un'aura amorosa ('A breath of love'); Ah, lo veggio ('Ah, now I see it'). Created (1790) by Vincenzo Calvesi.

Lawrence Brownlee - Un'aura amorosa (Cosi Fan Tutte)

Guglielmo: Ваritone. Engaged to Fiordiligi, whose sister is engaged to his friend Ferrando. The two men accept a wager from Don Alfonso that he can prove that all women are fickle, including the two sisters. Guglielmo and Ferrando pretend to go to war and return disguised as Albanians. They pursue the sisters, but each is after his friend's fiancee, so Guglielmo wins over Dorabella. She gives him her locket (whch contains Ferrando's portrait), as a token of her feelings for him. A bogus double wedding is arranged, the notary being the sisters' maid, Despina, in disguise. After signing the marriage contract (in which Guglielmo is named as Tizio), the men leave the room and return as themselves, back from battle to claim their own fiancees. Confusion ensues—who wall now pair off with whom? Arias: Non siate ritrosi ('Do not be so reluctant'); Donne mie, la fate a tanti ('Dear ladies, you treat so many men like this').  Created (1790) by Francesco Bennuci.

Donne mie, la fate a tanti - Ildebrando D'Arcangelo

Don Alfonso: Baritone/bass. A cynical bachelor who bets his two friends (Guglielmo and Ferrando) that, given the right conditions, all women will be unfaithful. They agree to allow him 24 hours in which to prove his theory. This he does with the assistance of their fiancees maid and with the men's full co-operation. He does win his bet, wreaking havoc on their relationships as his machinations bring together the 'wrong' pairs of lovers. Aria: Vorrei dir ('I'd like to tell you'). Created (1790) by Francesco Bussani.

osi Fan tutte 1996 - Trio "Soave il vento"




The overture is short and unpretentious, and it is specifically related to the story only in so far as it quotes the tune to which the three male principals, in Act II,Scene 3, announce that cosi fan tutte (“all women act like that”).



Scene 1 The comedy itself begins at a Neapolitan cafe at the end of the eighteenth century. Two young officers are arguing with a cynical old man of the world named Don Alfonso. He says that their fiancees will never prove faithful—no women ever do. They insist the idea is unthinkable. Finally Don Alfonso offers to prove his point for a bet of one hundred sequins. (That comes to about $225—as much as a young officer would earn in a year.) The terms are simply these: for twenty-four hours the young men must faithfully act out whatever Don Alfonso tells them to do. And the scene ends in the third of three trios, as the officers decide what they will do with their money when they win it (if they do!).

Scene 2 introduces us to thе two young heroines—Fiordiligi and Dorabella. The two sisters are in a garden overlooking the Bay of Naples, and together they sing about the beauty of their fiances, the officers Guglielmo and Ferrando. They are expecting the young men, but instead old Alfonso arrives to tell them dreadful news. Their fiances, says he, have suddenly been ordered away, to active duty. A moment later these gentlemen enter, already in traveling clothes. Naturally, a fine quintet develops out of this, thе four affianced youngsters expressing their sorrow over parting, while Don Alfonso assures the boys that it's too early in the game to collect fheir bets. Scarcely is the quintet over when soldiers and townfolk arrive to sing the joys of a soldiers life. For now it is really time for the young men to go—though not so fast that they cannot take part in one final quintet of farewell. A repetition of the soldiers' chorus, and off they do go, leaving their girls with Alfonso to wish them bon voyage in a tuneful little trio. The scene closes with some cynical remarks delivered to the audience by Don Alfonso. You may as well, he says in effect, plow the sea or sow the sand as put уоит faith in women.

Scene 3 brings on at once the sixth and most engaging member of the cast. She is the maid Despina, a coloratura soprano. In a recitative she complains about how bad it is to have to be a maid, and, while complaining, she tastes bet mistresses' chocolate. The sisters now enter their drawing room, and Dorabella has a tremendous mock-heroic aria, Smanie implacabili. She cannot bear, she says, having fresh air. Shut the windows! She cannot live through her grief! When Despina learns what all the grief is about—that is, the gills' lovers have gone to war—she gives some real Don Alfonso advice: have a good time while they are gone, for they won't prove faithful. Soldiers never do. Indignantly the girls storm from the room.

Enter now Don Alfonso. With a half-dollar bribe he persuades the maid to help in his plan, which is to get the girls to look with favor on two new suitors. Ferrando and Guglielmo appear almost at once, disguised in beards and dressed like Albanians. When the girls return, Alfonso makes believe that the Albanians are old friends, and the two young men try making love to their own fiancees. But the girls will have none of it. In an aria (Come scoglio) Fiordiligi violently declares her eternal faithfulness. Maybe, like the lady in Hamlet, she protests too much. At any rate, her aria has the most astounding range and huge skips—peculiar, exaggerated difficulties especially composed by Mozart for Da Ponte's talented mistress, who was the first to sing it. Guglielmo tries to plead bis suit with a fine tune—but again without any luck. The girls walk out on him—much to the delight of their fiances. These (in the ensuing trio) try to get Don Alfonso to settle up, but he says ifs still too early. Ferrando, the tenor of the team, then sings of his happiness in his love, and the scene ends with Don Alfonso and Despina making further plans to win the girls over.


Scene 4 takes us back to the garden. The two girls have another sweet duet about bow sad they are, when theie is noise off-stage. Their two lovers, still disguised as Albanians, totter in with Don Alfonso. It seems that they have

arsenic because of their hopeless passion. (Of course, have really done no such thing.) Don Alfonso and Despina assure the sisters that the men die without help—and off they rush for a doctor. While they are gone, the two girls are in delightful confusion, taking their men's pulses and giving other pointless first aid. Then Despina returns, disguised with huge spectacles as a doctor and speaking the most extraordinary jargon. Finally (and this is a bit of satire on Mesmer's theory of animal magnetism), she brings out a huge magnet; she applies it to the prostrate bodies; and—miracle of miracles! —they begin to come to. Their first words are words of love; and though (in the final sextet) the girls continue to protest, it is clear that Don Alfonso's scheme is beginning to work.


Scene 1 Despina, the maid, offers some very worldly advice to her mistresses at the beginning of this act. In a typical soubrette aria, she says that by fifteen any girl should be a champion flirt. She must encourage every man, lie expertly—and she will rule the world. Talking it over, Fiordiligi and Dorabella decide that this makes some sense: no harm in a little flirtation. They thereupon proceed to divide up, between themselves, the two love-struck Albanians. Dorabella chooses the dark one (who is really Guglielmo, engaged to Fiordiligi); and Fiordiligi will take the blond (that is, Ferrando, engaged to Dorabella). And the scene ends as Don Alfonso invites them down into the garden to see something really worth seeing.

Scene 2 begins with a duet sung by the two lovers to their mistresses. They are in a boat near the seaside garden, and they have a band of professional serenaders to help them. When the men land, all four lovers are very shy, and Don Alfonso speaks for the "Albanians", while Despina takes up the office for the girls. Fiordiligi and Ferrando wander off among the flowers, and Dorabella and Guglielmo ate left to carry on the flirtation. It quickly develops into a melodious duet, and before things have got very far, Dorabella gives Guglielmo a miniature of her fiance, Ferrando. Then they walk off among the flowers, and Fiordiligi returns, alone. Apparently Ferrando has also been making improper advances, but he has been repulsed, as the soprano tells us in the virtuoso aria Per pieta. Still, she does not seem to be confident about how long she will hold out. And so, when the three men meet to compare notes, Guglielmo is triumphant, Ferrando is despondent, and Alfonso promises further developments. Just wait till tomorrow, he says.

Scene 3 develops some difference in character and temperament between the two sisters. Dorabella has already sueccumbed to Guglielmo's advances, and Despina congratulates her; but Fiordiligi, though she admits she loves the other supposed Albanian, still resists her feelings. She now decides that they ought to dress in the uniforms of their lovers and join them at the front. But scarcely is she decked out in this warlike garb when Ferrando rushes in. He begs her to kill him with the sword rather than deny her love, and he offers marriage—anything she wants. Fiordiligi, already weakened, finally succumbs, and they rush off. But her fiance, Guglielmo, has been watching with Don Alfonso. It is now the second lovers turn to be in despair, and he curses out the girl thoroughly in her absence. Nor is he more pleased when his self-satisfied friend, having deposited Fiordiligi somewhere, returns. But Don Alfonso soothes them both. In a short speech be advises them to many their fiancees after all, for, as be says, Cosi fan tutte—"All women act like that!" Together they repeat this solemn generalization: Cosi fan tutte; and the scene ends as Despina announces that the ladies are ready to many the Albanians.

Sene 4 Despina and Don Alfonso are directing the servants in preparing a large room for the wedding, and then they depart. The happy lovers (the men still in disguise) are congratulated by the chorus, and they themselves sing a self-gratulatory quartet. It concludes with a three-part canon, for only Guglielmo stands aside and mutters his dissatisfaction.

Now Don Alfonso introduces the necessary notary, who is, of course. Despina in disguise, and who brings along the marriage contract. The marriage ceronony is just beginning when, off-stage, die soldiers9 chorus is again heard. Can it be the returning lovers? The girls hide their supposedly new fiances in the next room,and a few moments later the men reappear in their military uniforms. Almost at once Guglielmo deposits bis knapsack in the next room, and finds Despina, still garbed as a notary. Sbe quickly explains this away (says she bad been to a fancy-dress ball); but when Alfonso carefully drops the marriage contract before Ferrando, the jig is up for the girls. They ask to die for their guilt. But then the two men make a quick costume switch once more, Guglielmo returns Ferrando's portrait to Dorabella; and Don Alfonso finally explains everything. The lovers are properly united and all six principals join in appending a moral: happy is the man who can take the good with the bad—a typical sentiment from tbe Age of Reason.

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