Did you know…? Così fan tutte

15 January 2024

Mozart’s comedy opera Così fan tutte has become one of the world’s most performed operas, and as with many great productions, there are a number of interesting stories surrounding it. As Welsh National Opera prepares  its new production of Mozart’s witty story, directed by Max Hoehn, let us find out more about the history surrounding the comedic classic.

A lesser known instrument

Così fan tutte features a unique instrument that was commonly used during Mozart’s lifetime, but not often included in operatic compositions. The fortepiano, a predecessor of the modern piano, is used throughout the opera to accompany the singers, and the expressive and dynamic instrument adds a unique twist to Mozart’s wonderful score.

Mozart almost didn't get the libretto 

Lorenzo da Ponte was a prolific librettist throughout the late 18th and early 19th century and had already worked with Mozart on The Marriage of Figaro and Don Giovanni. However, da Ponte’s original libretto for Così fan tutte was offered to Salieri, with whom he’d collaborated on a number of previous occasions. Mozart was eventually offered the libretto for the new opera after his successful revival of The Marriage of Figaro.

The practical joke within Mozart's score

Mozart’s humour is well documented, and the young composer used his music to amuse himself at times. Mozart disliked the soprano Adriana Ferrarese del Bene, although she was da Ponte’s mistress. In his libretto, da Ponte wrote the role of Fiordiligi for his mistress, and Mozart took the opportunity to attempt to humiliate her in the opera. Knowing the soprano’s tendency to drop her chin on low notes, and throw her head back on high notes, Mozart filled her aria Come scoglio with constant jumps from high to low and back again to make her head bob like a chicken on stage.

Così’s inconsistent performances

Così fan tutte was not always a mainstay of the opera repertoire. The opera’s initial run in Vienna was cut short by the death of Austrian Emperor Joseph II in February 1790, and the period of national mourning that followed. Following Mozart’s death in 1791, the opera was rarely performed, as audiences in the 19th and 20th century believed that the story was too scandalous and immoral, and most performances in this period predominantly altered and amended the libretto to be more suitable. However, it did not stay out of the limelight forever, and in the time following the Second World War, its popularity increased, and it is now regularly performed around the world.  

Mozart’s comedic tale of an experiment to determine the sincerity of love joins Death in Venice and Opera Favourites in Cardiff and on tour this Spring Season. Book now to make sure you don’t miss the story of Don Alfonso’s ruse, and the young lovers’ tangled emotions.