Così fan tutte | Da Ponte-Zyklus
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s collaboration with Lorenzo Da Ponte is among the happiest and most prolific symbioses in the history of opera. In the Italian adventurer Mozart found a kindred spirit, a librettist who was also willing to accept the composer’s ideas. In the space of only four years the pair created three operas: The Marriage of Figaro (1786), Don Giovanni (1787) and Così fan tutte (1789/90). The central theme of all three is the most important human relationship: love.
In The Marriage of Figaro the conflicts that are caused by love and involve practically all the characters lead to chaotic situations in which the social status of the protagonists, from the gardener to the count, give rise to numerous conflicts. However, the social criticism contained in the original comedy by Beaumarchais was radically cut.
Don Giovanni portrays the final adventures of a libertine who, ignoring any sense of moral propriety, has always acted as a sexual force of nature and now, hunted by his victims, must face death in his last rendezvous.
In Così fan tutte the cynical Alfonso undermines the love of two happy couples by putting their fidelity to the test, thereby challenging love itself. This last work by Mozart and Da Ponte is also their most mysterious. What is illusion, what reality? Can a promise of love ever be trusted at all? Even the dénouement remains a mystery.
These three works epitomise the art of opera in the 18th century in its entirety and in utter perfection. Never before had characters in opera been so precisely evoked by the music and so precisely defined as individuals as in these three works: every gesture, every word, every show of emotion is eloquently characterised, commented on or reversed using musical subtext by Mozart. This precise observation of human relationships also finds expression in the dénouements which were unusually fragile for the time. While it is true that, at least superficially, all three works have a happy ending, the events portrayed have challenged everything and none of the characters can carry on as if nothing has happened.