Così fan tutte
music by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
libretto by Lorenzo da Ponte

Director’s Notes
by Director David F. Ostwald

Così fan tutte has always made audiences uncomfortable. Either it is too simple, “an empty, mechanical trifle,” or too difficult, “a profoundly disturbing exploration of the tension between philosophy and passion.” Our contemporary sensitivity to issues of sexual equality only increases our discomfort. After all, the title is sexist: “That’s How All Women Do It.” I would argue that although on the mechanical turf of the plot the men know all and the women nothing, in the field of passion they all suffer equally. The game in which the boys engage with lighthearted certainty becomes a mine field of anger, jealousy, betrayal, confusion and love.

Così fan tutte takes on a big challenge. In an epoch which exalted human beings as creatures of reason, it asks what these reasonable creatures should do with their feelings. Not surprisingly, it was a question which Mozart could not answer neatly.

Mozart’s difficulty may stem in part from his personal situation. Mozart married one of two sisters, both of whom he found strongly appealing. Seven years later, he composed Così fan tutte. Although the biographical evidence is indirect, it seems likely that both he and his wife were suffering from the proverbial itch, and were having, at the least, serious extramarital flirtations. So the questions this piece poses may be ones with which he was actively struggling.

For this work Mozart composed some of his most exquisite music, but perhaps equally extraordinary is his gift of these questions: how do you balance the dictates of belief with the siren calls of passion (or more specifically, how do you know when you’re in love) and what do you do with your feelings of love and jealousy when you have them?

Mozart knew his ideal answer: be reasonable and laugh at your follies. But can we?

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