A winning cast comes together for Phelim McDermott’s clever vision of Mozart’s comedy about the sexes, set in a carnival-esque, funhouse environment inspired by 1950s Coney Island—complete with bearded ladies, fire eaters, and a Ferris wheel. Manipulating the action are the Don Alfonso of Christopher Maltman and the Despina of Tony Award–winner Kelli O’Hara, with Amanda Majeski, Serena Malfi, Ben Bliss, and Adam Plachetka as the pairs of young lovers who test each other’s faithfulness. David Robertson conducts.
Premiere: Vienna, Court Theater, 1790. The third and final collaboration between Mozart and librettist Lorenzo Da Ponte is a fascinating paradox: a frothy comedy of manners with an intensely dark take on human nature; an old story (it has antecedents in Boccaccio, Shakespeare, and Cervantes, among others) with a startlingly modern tone; and a beautiful score depicting questionable behaviour. Così fan tutte was only moderately successful at its premiere and remained just outside the standard repertoire for more than a century. Così still poses unique challenges, and correspondingly unique rewards, for the public today. Every possible impression of love—from the loftiest to the basest—is explored in this extraordinary opera.
The music of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756–1791) continues to enthrall audiences around the world. His achievements in opera, in terms of beauty, vocal challenge, and dramatic insight, remain unsurpassed. The extraordinary Lorenzo Da Ponte (1749–1838) led an adventurous life in Venice and Vienna. He supplied librettos for the prominent composers of his time, including Antonio Salieri, and collaborated with Mozart on his greatest operatic achievements, including Così fan tutte, Le Nozze di Figaro, and Don Giovanni. Da Ponte migrated to America and eventually settled in New York, where he was granted the first Chair of Italian at Columbia College (now University).
The opera is set in Naples. With its natural beauty and abundant sunshine, the city became the equivalent of a tourist destination in the 18th century. It has been suggested that the preponderance of woodwinds in the score is meant to evoke the breezy atmosphere of the seashore.