Così Fan Tutte: Director's Notes
The entire team behind Opera Omaha’s Così fan tutte would like to welcome you to experience Mozart’s timeless opera in a production that brings all of the passion and pathos of these classic characters to life in the present day.
Mozart and librettist Lorenzo Da Ponte’s final collaboration (after their successes on Le nozze di Figaro and Don Giovanni) was the only one of their works to have an original story. The opera is about two young couples whose love is tested after the men place a bet that their fiancées will remain faithful. First performed in 1790, only about one year before Mozart’s death, the opera is replete with everything we cherish about Mozart’s late comedies, and is particularly rich in brilliant aria and ensemble writing for the leading characters. Yet in spite of its musical sophistication, the opera fell out of favor for more than a century after Mozart’s death. Its subject matter was widely viewed as too risqué and immoral to be staged, and generations of audiences missed seeing and hearing one of the true masterpieces of late eighteenth-century opera. When the opera was performed, it was often given with so many cuts and rewrites required by the censors that it was hardly recognizable. Only in the middle of the twentieth century did the opera become a part of the standard repertoire in its original form, and it is now beloved by audiences around the world.
Why? One theory for the reason that the opera fell out of favor is that, like so much of Mozart’s mature art, this very special opera is a perfect synthesis of looking back and looking forward. Da Ponte’s libretto presents six fascinating characters, each one profound and complex in their emotional lives. The actions of the young lovers become so fascinating to us because each one is torn between listening to their mind and listening to their heart. Coming out of the age of the Enlightenment, a time when human reason and intellect were prized above all, and moving toward the Romantic era, with its much more subjective emotional world, these are people who transcend the stock character types from which they were derived. We hear it and feel it in every measure of Mozart’s music, which is simultaneously reaching back into the very best of the Classical style while pushing opera in bold new directions.
Who today does not understand what it feels like to be torn between what the heart tells us it wants and what the mind tells us is right? Who does not in some way empathize with a character that knows what they ought to do but ultimately gives into the forces of love? Mozart and Da Ponte created a perfect artistic statement about real, complex, confusing, deeply human love, perhaps so insightful that it took us mere humans more than a hundred years to catch up with them.
But we certainly have. And that is the reason why we have chosen to set our production in the present day, where we can witness these complex minds and hearts that are so very much like our own. Both couples (Fiordiligi and Guglielmo, Dorabella and Ferrando) believe they know exactly what love is. They are young people who think they have their lives under control and their futures together planned until everything is turned upside down. They go out to celebrate in classy, sophisticated nightclub, a hip type of place where couples go with their friends for a fun night out on the town. Don Alfonso is the proprietor and Despina is an old flame of his who now works in the club. It’s just the sort of environment where these couples can relax, let down their inhibitions, and make some decisions they might regret the next day. Too risqué? Immoral? Or all too true to life, in which all of these couples emerge a little less innocent, perhaps, but also a lot wiser about love.
We invite you to open your minds and hearts to one of Mozart’s greatest operas, to laugh and to cry, and hope that you, too, may come out of the experience just a bit wiser in the ways of love.