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Così fan tutte

For the first one hundred and fifty years after it debuted, this clever commentary on the battle of the sexes was considered risqué—not until after World War II did it join the standard repertoire—but today we can appreciate how clever and subtle Mozart and his librettist, Lorenzo da Ponte, were in raising questions that male-dominated Europe was loath to consider.

(Left to right) Jacquest Imbrailo (Guglielmo), Leah Summers (Dorabella), Nicolle Foland (Fiordiligi), and Norman Reinhardt (Ferrando)
(L to R) Jacques Imbrailo (Guglielmo),
Leah Summers (Dorabella),
Nicolle Foland (Fiordiligi),
and Norman Reinhardt (Ferrando)
Photo: Matthew Staver
On the surface, Così fan tutte (which, along with its subtitle, is usually translated as "Women are Like That, or School for Lovers") seems to be a cynical commentary on the infidelity of the fairer sex, but upon closer reading reveals "alienation of affections" as a two-way street.

Director James Robinson takes da Ponte's original title (now the subtitle) to heart (Mozart added the main title at the end of the collaborative process, infuriating da Ponte), opening the story in a military school setting, with Don Alfonso (Dale Travis) mocking the "blissfully ignorant" romantic notions of Ferrando (Norman Reinhardt) and Guglielmo (Jacques Imbrailo), precipitating a bet that he could prove to them that their betrotheds, Dorabella (Leah Summers) and Fiordiligi (Nicolle Foland), respectively, are unfaithful.

Dale Travis as Don Alfonso
Dale Travis as Don Alfonso
Photo: Matthew Staver
The upshot of the deal—in which the men pretend to go away to war, return in disguise, and romance each other's sweetheart—is that Ferrando and Guglielmo must be convincing in their passion. Opera is the perfect media for such a dynamic, since song reveals insincerity more readily than mere words (theatre); so in effect, the men must themselves become unfaithful to convincingly woo their best friend's girl.

Mozart and da Ponte wisely leave the ending ambiguous, letting us fend for ourselves in unraveling the moral.

Susanne Mentzer as Despina
Susanne Mentzer as Despina
Photo: Matthew Staver
Many consider this to be Mozart's finest operatic effort, not only for the fine music and wonderful arias, but for the harmonic counterpoints provided in the voice pairings, which have evolved into Fiordiligi (soprano), Dorabella (mezzo-soprano), Ferrando (tenor), and Guglielmo (baritone), creating a strong subtext for the cross-over relationships.

All six voices—the four lovers, plus Don Alfonso and his partner in temptation, Despina the maid (Susanne Mentzer), who nearly steals the show—provide wonderful moments throughout, lifted by maestro Carlo Montanaro's well-paced and rich interpretation of Mozart's melodic score.

Remaining performances of Opera Colorado's Così fan tutte are May 1st at 7:30 pm and May 3rd at 2 pm. 800-982-ARTS (2787) or www.OperaColorado.org.

Bob Bows

 

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