Mozart – Overture to Così fan tutte

by Max Derrickson

Overture to Così fan tutte

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
(Born in Salzburg in 1756; died in Vienna in 1791)

Even after his failed attempt to create and sustain a German National Opera company, Emperor Joseph II still patronized the arts, especially opera.  By 1789, he was fully aware that the Austrian public still demanded Italian Opera buffa (Comic opera sung in Italian).  He commissioned Mozart to write just that, and together with Mozart’s great collaborator/librettist, Lorenzo da Ponte, Così fan tutte premiered in 1790.

It was an immediate success, but fate held Così’s fame in check – one of so many moments in Mozart’s life that thwarted the success he truly deserved.  Four performances after Così’s phenomenal opening night, Joseph II died.  All theatres were shut down [. . .]

The opera is one of Mozart’s great masterworks, assimilating both the buffa aspects of the popular Italian opera and the serious (Opera seria) aspects, giving the drama and the music a greater depth.  Mozart’s music, fun and mirthful as it often needs to be, [. . .]

The title translates roughly as “Women are like that” or “They all do it,” referring to the belief that all women will eventually be unfaithful.  Set in Naples, two young officers, Ferrando and Guglielmo, brag about the beauty and faithfulness of their sweethearts, sisters Fiordiligi and Dorabella.  Their older friend, Don Alfonzo, however, wagers that the two sisters can be found to be unfaithful as are all women.  A complex set of frauds and mistruths and disguises are set into motion, and eventually both sisters are seduced into abandoning their old loves for these two new fellows – only the new fellows are their current boyfriends in disguise as “Albanians.”  In the end, all is forgiven, and though [. . .]

The Overture alone has retained its own staying power.  It’s a gallant and joyful speed-ride.  Unlike many operas, however, there is virtually no melodic material from the opera in this Overture; rather, new music issued to set the tone.  In a very clever quote upon himself, though, the quick paced Presto music is based [. . .] Among its many delights is an abundance of woodwind work, specifically the interplay between [. . .]