The Performance of Mozart’s Così Fan Tutte
Così fan tutte is the last of the three great operas written by Wolfgang amadeus Mozart and his librettist Lorenzo Da Ponte. Opera lovers will of course know and because we are fans of everything Italian we loved that it is performed in Italian at the San Francisco Opera in November.
Così fan tutte was conceived and composed during the latter part of 1789, which was apparently a particularly difficult period in Mozartlife. It was a period when Mozart was plagued by rumors about his wife Constanze’s flirtations, a theme that prevails throughout the opera. which certainly reflected the plot of his new opera.
Yes, the plot revolves around jealousy and loyalty, with two men pretending to go to war (partly as a joke), just to see if their fiancees can stay loyal. This begs the question: How well do we really know our partners? As opera orchestrators remind us: “We could disagree on what exactly Mozart and Da Ponte wanted with this opera, but one thing is clear: this is one of the deepest and most disturbing comedies.”
Interestingly enough, I was troubled by the calamities that happened, what you might say, is that with all operas, right? This one struck a chord though, much like the movie Slanted Door did in a way – what if we change our actions for a day in our lives? The outcome of our entire life could be different, as it was with Così fan tutte.
Così premiered in Vienna on January 26, 1790, the eve of Mozart’s 34th birthday. It turns out that the frivolity of the theme appealed to the Viennese, but its initial spread was halted after just five performances by the Emperor’s death. Times were indeed tough in the 1700s, something we often overlook in modern times.
Mozart and Da Ponte set up their opera in a variety of rooms and gardens in 18th-century Naples over a 24-hour period, but the opera set in San Francisco of course took on a more modern flavor, taking place in a country club in the 1930s on the east coast of the United States. As for the music? Profound as Mozart always is.
“Even when Mozart puts the most bitter and angry words to his music Cosi is perhaps the most voluptuous he has ever composed, and the miraculous way he used it has led some critics to consider Così his deepest Italian comedy.
The scene below is where they starred the two main male characters Ben Bliss as Ferrando and John Brancy going to war. The cunning Ferruccio Furlanetto (below) who plays Don Alfonso (the country club director) is behind it all.
The scene below was humorous to say the least, as they show up disguised (mustache) and clothed, on their first appearance trying to seduce the girls, seeing if they would fall for another man.
Girls (Nicole Cabell as Fiordiligi and Irene Roberts as Dorabella) start by saying that they could never cheat on their true loves and several scenes are too dramatic showing their grief as they leave for war. This is of course short-lived.
The maid Despina (played by Nicole Heaton – shown below center) gets involved as well as she cheers Dorabelle and Fiordiligi play on the “wild side” and screw a bit.
Below is one of the scenes from Act II as Despina continues to encourage the girls to flirt and play with the new men they just met, who were of course in disguise. She of course received a bribe from Don Alfonso. Naturally.
Despina gets creative by swapping pieces throughout the opera. Below she is called in as a doctor to help. Her character was so endearing that in the end, she became my favorite. Irony after irony. Comedy after comedy.
In the scene below, you can’t help but wonder if the three women were in the masquerade from the very beginning.
A love scene where they were both caught in the act….
Below, the facade of the opera house before the start of Così fan tutte. As always, the building was part of the magical experience of the evening.
Below, Anthony and I during intermission.
More details on SF production
Director Michael Cavanagh’s Mozart-Da Ponte trilogy presents the three masterpieces produced by the partnership of Mozart and Italian poet Lorenzo Da Ponte in an American house spanning three eras. The multi-season project launched in 2019 with Les Noces de Figaro (Le Nozze di Figaro) located in colonial times when the mansion was newly completed. Così fan tutte takes place in the 1930s and the house, now at its peak, has been transformed into a playground for the rich, the Wolfridge Country Club.
The first three performances of Così fan tutte (November 21, 23 and 27) were broadcast live. This new initiative to broadcast live some performances of the San Francisco Opera (on-demand viewing is not available) started last month with the new production of Beethoven’s Fidelio Society, which we have also seen. Be sure to read our review and also check out our Arts section.
The SF Opera is located at the San Francisco War Memorial and Performing Arts Center on 301 Van Ness Avenue in San Francisco. Visit their website for more information, including upcoming performances and how to book tickets.