Opera buffa in two acts
Performed in Italian with Russian subtitles
Libretto by Lorenzo da Ponte
The opera was written in 1790. This version was first performed in Perm in 2011.
The first of Mozart’s three great last operas, written in collaboration with Lorenzo da Ponte, has been staged in the ‘authentic’ style for the first time in Russia. It is not only the instruments and vocal styles of the singers that are of the period: even the fabrics and the cut of the costumes have been made using the technology of the late eighteenth century, while the scenery is an exact copy of the interior of a Neapolitan villa in Mozart’s time.
The plot, however, is as fresh as ever: two young sisters, Fiordiligi and Dorabella, become the victims of their lovers’ practical joke. Their fiancés, Guglielmo and Ferrando, wager with their cynical friend Don Alfonso that their fiancées will be faithful to them to the grave, in spite of any temptations. On the contrary, Don Alfonso, who has seen it all, considers that ‘only a fool could bet 100 sequins on a woman’s heart’, and promises to prove it within the next 24 hours.
Fiordiligi, lady from Ferrara, living in Naples; sister to Dorabella
Dorabella, lady from Ferrara, living in Naples; sister to Fiordiligi
Despina, their maid
Guglielmo, an officer, in love with Fiordiligi
Ferrando, an officer, in love with Dorabella
Don Alfonso, a cynical skeptic
Soldiers, servants, cafe visitors, sailors
Young officers Ferrando and Guglielmo, sitting by the table, praise the virtues of their beloved ones, sisters Dorabella and Fiordiligi, to an old skeptic Don Alfonso.
Don Alfonso, however, thinks women’s fidelity is a non-existent phenomenon. He offers young men a hundred sequins bet: to act out the departure of the grooms and find out whether their brides remain faithful. Ferrando and Guglielmo have no doubts about their victory. Anticipating future success, the officers are discussing how to spend their gain.
Don Alfonso arrives at Dorabella and Fiordiligi’s villa to announce the bad news: the officers must leave immediately, for they have been called off to war. Two sisters, who have just been praising their lovers, are in despair.
Ferrando and Guglielmo arrive, ready for the departure. The ladies are crying bitter tears, and the lovers, seeing their grief, are ready to celebrate the victory.
However, Don Alfonso reminds the officers that the wager has only started. Ferrando and Guglielmo bid farewell to the young women and pretend they are leaving the city.
The sisters are in deep mourning. Dorabella can’t even stand fresh air and she asks to close all the windows. Their maid Despina, lively and good at both understanding human nature and secretly sipping her mistresses’ chocolate, does not take their problem seriously: “Take your pleasure, signorine, for men do not grieve at the camp as well”. The ladies, feeling indignant, refuse to eat their breakfast.
Meanwhile, Don Alfonso bribes Despina into helping him to soften the ladies’ stand so that they agree to accept two Albanians who have heard a lot about the beauty of the sisters and intend to marry them. The foreigners, Ferrando and Guglielmo in disguise, appear unrecognized even by Despina. Faithful to their fiancés, Fiordiligi and Dorabella want to get rid of the unwished guests, but Don Alfonso does not let that happen, by saying that these Albanians are his old acquaintances and that bustling them out is totally indecent.
The “Albanians” immediately start their intense wooing, making great display of their wealth and voluminous mustaches. The sisters, however, do not yield. Ferrando and Guglielmo are once again convinced that their beloved ones are faithful. They want to get their money from Don Alfonso, but he says it is still far too early to be sure. He has another trick in his pocket. Following Don Alfonso’s advice, the grooms act out suicide: rejected “Albanians” poison themselves.
Don Alfonso and Despina convince the sisters that the young men will die unless they call a doctor. Fiordiligi and Dorabella try to save the poor Albanians” themselves, and gradually move from resentment to pity, followed, eventually, by interest. Soon the doctor arrives — Despina in disguise. With help of a magic magnet she manages to revive the dying “Albanians”. After leaving their beds, the “Albanians” declare their love to the sisters, while the doctor (Despina) suggests that they need to encourage the courting of the young men so that they can fully recover. However, as the survivors ask for a healing kiss, the young women get frightened and run away. Ferrando and Guglielmo are not that certain about their victory anymore.
Despina, feeling superior over the young and naive sisters, shares some advice: they should be casual about relationships — a woman must know how to flirt, pretend and lie, if she wants to rule men and the world.
The young ladies decide to flirt a little with their persistent admirers. They decide who will pair off with whom, and, eventually, Dorabella chooses dark-haired Guglielmo, Fiordiligi’s fiance, while her sister gets the blond one, Ferrando, who is Dorabella’s beloved.
Dorabella, much more lightminded than her sister, is an easy prey for Guglielmo. Ferrando suffers, noticing it, as it is his fiancé who turns out to be unfaithful. At least Guglielmo is more fortunate — Fiordiligi does not yield. The young men are ready to pay Don Alfonso fifty sequins accepting the fact that they have partially lost the bet. But their sly mentor knows he might be expecting a total victory.
Dorabella is now ready to marry the “Albanian” — Guglielmo. Fiordiligi can not hide her feelings for her admirer as well, but she still remembers the old vows given to Guglielmo. She decides to go to the army to find her betrothed. At that very moment, the “Albanian” — Ferrando comes to her and begs her to kill him if she is really going to leave. Fiordiligi cannot control her feelings anymore. She has to give up.
“Cosi fan tutte”, confirms Don Alfonso. “Cosi fan tutte”, agree the officers, who have lost the bet. Don Alfonso gives his final advice: Ferrando and Guglielmo should neither be upset nor seek for revenge, but, otherwise, marry their real betrothed. He suggests, however, not to reveal the truth yet.
Despina announces that the young ladies are willing to marry the foreign guests, and she makes her way to find a notary.
The notary, yet again Despina in disguise, arrives when the wedding preparations are in full swing. During the ceremony the military music starts playing unexpectedly. The sisters, afraid of the return of their betrothed, try to hide the “Albanians”. Putting on the military uniform, Ferrando and Guglielmo come out to the sisters. But the false marriage contract has already been signed. The first wish of the young men is to take revenge on the women for deceit and infidelity, so they dress as Albanians for the last time, and the game is over. The sisters, having understood their mistake, beg for forgiveness and swear future fidelity. “We believe you, but we’d rather never test you again”, reply the young men.
Don Alfonso is here to help the tangled lovers. He urges all of them to forgive each other. Despite the happy ending, one question still remains: will the couples ever regain trust and be as carefree as they used to be?
The theatre would like to express its gratitude to Alkor-Edition Kassel for its assistance in tracking down the scores