Programme booklet »Così fan tutte«

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WOLFGANG A M ADEUS MOZART

COSÌ FAN TUTTE


CONTENTS

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4

SYNOPSIS P.

8

IN THE SHADOWY REALM OF EMOTIONS PHILIPPE JORDAN P.

12

COSÌ FAN TUTTE UNPICKED PASCALE OSTERWALDER

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LIFE IS PERFORMATIVE BARRIE KOSKY IN AN INTERVIEW P.

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FROM COSÌ FAN TUTTE TO GIRLS ARE GIRLS SILKE LEOPOLD P.

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ALL WISDOM, ALL JEST? MELANIE UNSELD P.

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IMPRINT


WOLFGANG A M ADEUS MOZART

COSÌ FAN TUTTE OSSIA LA SCUOLA DEGLI AMANTI

DRAMMA GIOCOSO in two acts Text LORENZO DA PONTE

ORCHESTRA

2 flutes / 2 oboes 2 clarinets 2 bassoons / 2 horns 2 trumpets timpani / strings pianoforte military drum

CONTINUO STAGE MUSIC

AUTOGRAPH

Act I Biblioteka Jagiellońska, Krakow, Act II Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin – Preußischer Kulturbesitz WORLD PREMIÈRE 26 JANUARY 1790 Burgtheater Vienna PREMIÈRE AT THE HOUSE ON THE RING 18 OCT 1872 Vienna Court Opera

DURATION

3 H 30 M

INCL. 1 INTERMISSION




COSÌ FA N T U T T E

SYNOPSIS FIRST ACT Ferrando and Guglielmo are outraged. Don Alfonso has hinted at the possibility of their brides-to-be, the sisters Dorabella and Fiordiligi, being unfaithful! The “old philosopher” dismisses their agitation as greatly exaggerated. After all, everyone knows there is no such thing as a faithful woman. He proposes a wager - one hundred sequins for him if he manages to prove his point within the day. The friends accept the bet, promising to follow Alfonso’s instructions to keep the arrangement secret from their fiancées. Fiordiligi and Dorabella sing the praises of their lovers, eagerly anticipating their forthcoming weddings. Don Alfonso confronts the sisters with devastating news. Guglielmo and Ferrando have been summoned to the battlefield and must depart at once. The two men are already on their way to bid farewell. While the women are heartbroken, Don Alfonso secretly delights in how effectively the men are carrying out his scheme. Amidst military fanfare, Ferrando and Guglielmo take their leave, leaving the women in despair. Despina, while preparing breakfast for Fiordiligi and Dorabella, grumbles about her daily duties. Upon hearing from the sisters, in suicidal despair, of their lovers’ departure, she laughs at them. They would be back – and if not, there would be others. Either way, now would be the time to have fun. All men, she explains to the dumbfounded sisters, are unfaithful. So, it is only just to give them a taste of their own medicine. Don Alfonso recruits Despina as an accomplice. He requests her support in pairing Fiordiligi and Dorabella with two men. For the right price, Despina is more than happy to help. Don Alfonso introduces the gentlemen in question to Despina as his best friends. It is Ferrando and Guglielmo in disguise. When Dorabella and Fiordiligi encounter the strangers in their house, they are outraged. The men declare themselves eternally in love with the two women and beg to be heard. Don Alfonso requests Previous pages: FEDERICA LOMBARDI as FIORDILIGI EMILY D’ANGELO as DORABELLA PETER KELLNER as GUGLIELMO CHRISTOPHER MALTMAN as DON ALFONSO

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SYNOPSIS

some kindness towards his friends. Dorabella and Fiordiligi angrily reject their advances. Guglielmo and Ferrando are delighted by their lovers’ dismissive attitudes, believing they have essentially won the bet. Don Alfonso urges caution – the agreed-upon timeframe has not yet concluded. Don Alfonso cannot believe that he is dealing here with two such steadfast women. Despina declares the grieving lovers mad – love, after all, is there to be enjoyed – as she tries to ensure that their intrigue gains momentum. The disguised Guglielmo and Ferrando threaten to end their lives on account of these cruel women refusing to hear them out. They pretend to ingest poison, collapsing before Dorabella and Fiordiligi. Shaken, the women call for help. Don Alfonso has fetched a doctor. It is Despina in disguise. Using unconventional methods, she “cures” the two men in no time. Fiordiligi and Dorabella begin to soften their stance until the men become too insistent. Doctor Despina attributes this behaviour to the aftereffects of the poison. The women, however, remain unyielding.

SECOND ACT Despina implores the two sisters to take love lightly. They should embrace the two suitors without concern for their reputations. She observes Fiordiligi and Dorabella beginning to waver. The sisters deliberate. Dorabella wonders whether it might not be such a betrayal to indulge in a little fun. Fiordiligi is still reluctant, but ultimately, the sisters go ahead and pair off with the men. Don Alfonso and Despina arrange another meeting.

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COSÌ FA N T U T T E

Fiordiligi and Ferrando take a stroll. Guglielmo eagerly courts Dorabella, gifting her a keepsake. The two then retreat. Fiordiligi resists Ferrando’s advances. Once left alone, she wrestles with her conflicting emotions. Ferrando brings Guglielmo the joyful news of Fiordiligi’s steadfastness. However, Guglielmo must disappoint his friend by reporting that Dorabella has indeed become involved with him. To the shaken Ferrando, he appeals for understanding – resisting a Guglielmo is no simple feat. Don Alfonso reminds them that the agreed deadline has not yet elapsed. Dorabella confesses to Despina that she had been powerless to resist the charms of her admirer. Fiordiligi is distraught: she, too, has now fallen in love. She reproaches herself for her feelings. Dorabella, thrilled, already envisions them both as brides, attempting to alleviate her sister’s concerns by suggesting that their fiancés could fall in battle. Moreover, should their betrothed return, the sisters would already be far away with their new husbands. Fiordiligi is not swayed by Dorabella’s and Despina’s persuasions. She pictures the men in the battlefield and herself in uniform, alongside her beloved Guglielmo. Guglielmo, in disguise, is touched by her loyalty. Ferrando, however, tries once again to sway Fiordiligi, and she succumbs. Guglielmo is beside himself. Ferrando taunts him. Don Alfonso counsels the two men to be reasonable - after all, they do love their fiancées. He shares his philosophy: such is the nature of all women – driven by their hearts. Despina brings the joyful news that the women are prepared to wed their new lovers. The couples arrive. Don Alfonso announces the notary who carries the marriage contracts, once again,

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SYNOPSIS

played by Despina in disguise. After the women have signed, the unexpected news arrives - Ferrando and Guglielmo have returned! The women, shocked, are reassured by Don Alfonso that everything will be fine. Ferrando and Guglielmo have arrived safely and in good spirits but are unsettled by the women’s nervous demeanour. When they discover the presence of the “notary”, Despina proudly unveils her disguise. Don Alfonso presents the marriage contracts to the men. The women seek forgiveness. The men reveal their deception. Fiordiligi and Dorabella reproach Don Alfonso for his betrayal. He explains that through the deception, the lovers would now be wiser, and they would heed his counsel. Fiordiligi and Dorabella pledge fidelity for the future. Guglielmo and Ferrando resolve to trust them anew, vowing never to test them again. Together, the entire group concludes that happy is the man who looks on the bright side of everything and in all circumstances and trials lets himself be guided by reason.

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PHILIPPE JORDAN

IN THE SHADOWY REALM OF EMOTIONS When comparing the performance numbers of the Mozart-Da Ponte trilogy The Marriage of Figaro, Don Giovanni, and Così fan tutte, the latter work has been performed the least. This is, I think, because of the plot. For me, musically, Così fan tutte is the most beautiful work; it is the essence of the previous operas, in which everything that was achieved in Don Giovanni and Le nozze di Figaro is distilled, condensed, and brought in its purest form. Musically, I would almost speak of frugality. Everything is reduced to the essentials. There is no note too much. The orchestration is extremely economical, offering only the bare essentials in the best sense. This mature work, which allows us to experience incredible compositional perfection, marks the transition to Mozart’s late style. In its short phrases, its melodies, harmonies, and also in its instrumentation, there are unmistakably touches of Zauberflöte. At the same time, Così fan tutte – and this is clearly evident in the second act – already foreshadows the

Romantic period, striking out in an entirely new direction. However, the plot is problematic, and I dare to say that, as great as Da Ponte’s text is in terms of language, choice of words and wit, his strength was in the reworking of established themes of the likes of Molière and Beaumarchais rather than the development of his own original works. Without a doubt, Così fan tutte is a comedy; Mozart himself called the work – like Don Giovanni – a dramma giocoso. But every good comedy also has a depth of sobriety, of darkness, of shadow. Indeed, Così fan tutte is also a black comedy - ultimately just like Don Giovanni and Le nozze di Figaro. Only that, in this case, at some point, the smile freezes upon one’s lips. The opera begins with a perfectly constructed first act; we experience a classical form in absolute perfection. There is a balance in all the ensembles, in the dramaturgy – simply flawless! But then follows an extreme irritation: the second act, which intentionally falls apart both musically and dra-

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maturgically. The whole thing takes on a momentum of its own – including emotionally – which completely throws the piece off course, linguistically and dramaturgically. Lastly, a finale that leaves one quite deliberately unsatisfied. It is not like in Le nozze di Figaro, which ends with a request for forgiveness – the famous “perdono” of the count – and one can perhaps say: “let’s start again!” In Così, we have an open ending with the question of whether the couples have truly reconciled or not. Probably not. Or, indeed, which pairs? The end is not directly tragic, but neither is it cheerful. It is undefined, as it is so often in real life. For that time, it was revolutionary! Despite the C major ending, which suggests that all is well again, you come out of the piece with a bitter aftertaste. Things are indeed not all well! The incredibly many emotions that are at play in this opera evoke correspondingly diverse music. Yet, there is no longer a uniform style. Each number is different, unique. And one senses that nothing is real. Everything is orchestrated. For instance, in the fictitious wedding scene at the end of the opera, with its canon of the pledge, one hears music that sounds inauthentic. The deceit and falsehood of the game become clearly palpable. And the second act finale finally falls completely apart! I once counted how many fermatas are in this finale: there are almost fifty! And the longer it takes, the more the breaks prevail. One hears a piece of music, and then there is silence again. And again. Silence. Someone says something, and then: silence. Answer: silence again. There are only question marks, exclamation marks, commas – the music

in between tries in vain to find a way out. In the final ensemble, “Fortunato lʼuom che prende”, we hear: How happy is the man who looks on the bright side of everything. However, this is not an actual final statement, as there are numerous sotto-voce moments in between - each person sings for themselves. So, what this means is that it would be nice if I could be like the one who knows how to look on the bright side of everything. But, unfortunately, I am not. And when it gets loud musically, it’s just an expression of anger, frustration, an outburst. I can hardly think of any piece by Mozart in which silence and pauses are as important as in this Così finale. Due to these musical and dramaturgical peculiarities, it is not surprising that this work had a difficult time in the 19th century. Let’s just consider Richard Wagner, who admired Don Giovanni but was vehemently critical of Così fan tutte. That also has to do with the utopian image of love in Romanticism, invoked by Wagner in particular, in which love was idealised. And, of course, the plot of Così fan tutte is at odds with such an image! By the time the opera was created in the 18th century, by the way, they were already further along – consider, for example, Marivaux and his experimental play with feelings. From this point of view, it is no wonder that Così fan tutte was played more and enjoyed greater popularity in the 20th century. What is breathtaking about Così fan tutte is how Mozart created a sound world that positions and describes the figures so precisely. In the case of Fiordiligi, for example, she has music that reflects her “high” standing. This can certainly also be seen as parody pre-

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PHILIPPE JORDAN

cisely because, at that time, this concept of elevated social position was becoming unstable. Dorabella’s case is similar, yet her music is somewhat more playful. Musically, Despina is clearly defined as a maid; her sisters are Zerlina in Don Giovanni and Susanna in Le nozze di Figaro. Alfonso is deliberately shown as very dry; the analyst who represses all emotion, is pragmatic and matter-of-fact. The portrayal of Ferrando and Guglielmo reflects that of the ladies, with Guglielmo somewhat more playful, and Ferrando more lyrical and poetic. Actually, in the initial constellation, the two couples, Ferrando-Dorabella and Guglielmo-Fiordiligi, are poorly paired. Musically, Fiordiligi and Ferrando are a better match; they are the lyrical couple, while Dorabella and Guglielmo are the more playful and emotional pair. Yet none of them are aware of this at the beginning of the opera. Indeed, what’s more, at times, the characters themselves no longer know in the heat of the moment what is real and what is not, who and what can still be trusted, and where lies or deceptions are at play. Sometimes, you still trust yourself without knowing that your feelings are no longer so clear. By way of example, in Fiordiligi’s so-called “rock aria”, she sings of steadfast loyalty. But why does she need to swear her fidelity for an entire aria? If she feels so secure? Or in her aria “Per pietà”, her emotions are deep and true, yet one can reinterpret each phrase at least once and find a subtext that tells us something more. Mozart and Da Ponte are incredibly complex! A good example is also Ferrando’s “Volgi a me”, which addresses Fiordiligi – one of the most beautiful parts of the opera. On the one hand,

Ferrando tries to sing the most touching music to finally win her over, using all his skills and his senses, telling himself: now I must succeed! Yet, at the same time, he knows that he has fallen in love with her. One notices this in a minor but important detail. In Da Ponte’s original libretto, Ferrando says just before his “Volgi a me”: “I sense that her faithfulness can no longer hold out.” Mozart changed the text in the autograph to: “I sense that my faithfulness can no longer hold out.” This passage thus contains two elements: it is still a bet that Ferrando wants to win – and at the same time, he has already developed feelings for Fiordiligi. One particular aspect that strikes me is that Mozart gives men and women their own musical languages in this opera. Even the overture is an example for me - the two opening chords represent for me the world of men, the following woodwinds that of women. One also senses this with Alfonso and Despina, who actually get along very well. So, in Così fan tutte, it’s not just about a bet or about two couples, but always about the question: how do they all deal with each other? There is also a battle of the sexes! And it must also be made musically perceptible that these are young people. Dealing with feelings, the intensity of the emotions, sudden flare-ups, as well as the very palpable naivety and melodrama - it is evident throughout that these people have little experience, that it may even be their first love. If the opera is performed today, it raises a number of casting questions. That is, in Mozart’s time, all female singers would have been sopranos, and the distinction commonly made today between soprano and mezzo-soprano

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would not have existed as such. What does this mean for the three female roles? How do you cast these roles today? Two remarks: as is well known, Mozart often wrote his roles specifically for certain singers and their abilities. From the role of Fiordiligi, we learn, for example, that the singer of the premiere must have had great highs and lows - the large leaps in her part clearly indicate this. So, Mozart did not think in standardised voice categories (however these might be called) but always had specific individuals in mind. And, of course, in the practice of the 18th century, attention was also paid to which singer had the better low range and who had the better high range – and the roles were cast accordingly. Since the tessitura of the female roles in Così fan tutte requires a slightly darker Dorabella and a slightly lighter Fiordiligi, it makes sense – today – to cast Fiordiligi with a soprano and Dorabella with a mezzo. In the case of Despina, it is like with Zerlina in Don Giovanni: one can choose a true mezzo but also a quite bright soprano, a soubrette. I’m more interested in the mezzo-soprano casting because it makes the character seem more grounded and experienced. I spoke at the beginning about the perfection of the opera. The perfection that Così fan tutte offers requires a

similar approach on the part of the performer. It requires the highest quality in phrasing, text handling, and intonation because this music is incredibly “open”; you can’t hide anything, and every inaccuracy is immediately audible. But in this perfection, one must not become rigid – there must emerge a lively theatre – and that requires a balancing act which is not easy to achieve. And there must be a successful arc that incorporates the second act – an act which, as mentioned, deliberately falls apart compositionally. Bringing all of these things together – that’s no easy feat! One must not lose sight of the big picture, especially with all the attention to detail. Another challenge is that at the time of the premiere, there was a musical vocabulary with which the audience was familiar and cognisant. That was a long time ago, and of course, we no longer have this knowledge as readily to hand as Mozart’s contemporaries would have had. And even if one acquires a musical knowledge of this era, the approach is still different from that which people would have had in the 18th century. Nevertheless, I think that we can still hear, feel, and understand completely clearly and distinctly what Mozart meant, even today – this is also what makes a masterpiece like Così fan tutte so remarkable!

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PA S C A L E O S T E RWA L DE R

COSÌ FAN TUTTE UNPICKED


FRIENDS

SISTERS

GUGLIELMO

FIORDILIGI

DORABELLA

COUPLE

FERRANDO

COUPLE

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Military →

DORABELLA

DESPINA

DON ALFONSO

← Employee & confidant

← Pays friend →

GUGLIELMO

FERRANDO

DON ALFONSO

SEMPRONIO (FERRANDO)

FIORDILIGI

TIZIO (GUGLIELMO) DORABELLA

FIORDILIGI

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DESPINA TIZIO (GUGLIELMO)

DORABELLA

FIORDILIGI

SEMPRONIO (FERRANDO)

SEMPRONIO (FERRANDO)

FIORDILIGI

DOCTOR (DESPINA) DORABELLA TIZIO (GUGLIELMO)

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TIZIO (GUGLIELMO)

TIZIO (GUGLIELMO)

DORABELLA

FIORDILIGI

DORABELLA

SEMPRONIO (FERRANDO)

FIORDILIGI NOTARY (DESPINA)

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SEMPRONIO (FERRANDO)


DORABELLA

FIORDILIGI

FERRANDO

GUGLIELMO

DESPINA GUGLIELMO

FIORDILIGI

DON ALFONSO

DORABELLA

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FERRANDO


DIRECTOR BARRIE KOSKY TALKS TO NIKOLAUS STENITZER

LIFE IS PERFORMATIVE ns

You once said that Così fan tutte was the most difficult of the three Mozart Da Ponte operas to stage. Why? bk Le nozze di Figaro, for example, follows a mechanism. It’s like a carousel – you jump up, and then it’s all about solving problems all the time. Appear­ ances, departures, hiding places, and so on. If you don’t respect this mechanism – the comic principle that is the heart of Le nozze di Figaro – you fall off the merry-go-round. Ultimately, it’s like a dance theatre. You have to follow the structure. The narrative structure of Così fan tutte is different. Actually, everything is very clear and simple. It’s about collisions that arise between a group of different people. But putting these constellations together is like a delicate puzzle that can only be assembled with very precise work. Così fan tutte lives – more than Le nozze di Figaro and more than Don Giovanni – from a concrete on-stage portrayal. The work is ultimately much more abstract than it first seems – by the time one gets to the second act, the

narrative has practically dissolved. But precisely in this second act, in this resolution, there are extraordinary moments of human interaction, which are completely unprotected and painful and beautiful. And that’s what makes Così such a masterpiece – and so difficult to stage. ns You have often referred to the disposition of Così fan tutte as that of an “experiment.” Sometimes, you have also called the piece a “laboratory.” Despina does play a significant role, but the one who ultimately conducts the experiment is Don Alfonso. A fundamental question for any discussion of the work is: why does he do this? What motivates him in your version of the story? bk I think this question needs to be addressed in a broader context, that is, what is Don Alfonso’s status, and what is his relationship to the younger men? The piece develops over the course of the evening more and more towards an emotional abstraction – one must have established a very specific setting

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for the experiment beforehand. I have seen productions of Così fan tutte that did not at all engage with the question of who Don Alfonso actually is. For me, that was a very important question. That’s why I thought a lot about the framework in which I could place it – what would be a setting in which one could play with the distinctions between genuine emotion and fake emotion; what does it mean to adopt a role, a costume, or an attitude towards love? In which kind of space can you start and stop the emotion on command, enter into it, step out of it, and also comment on it? What kind of world would that be? At some point it became clear to me – it’s the rehearsal room. ns So, your reflections have led you into the world of theatre. bk I started to imagine Don Alfonso as a director and theatre manager. He is working with four young singers, rehearsing a more or less obscure opera, with Despina as the stage manager. The four young people form two romantic couples – they are together in real life. We play with the idea that Don Alfonso is a kind of method director from hell [Method Acting: an acting technique based on empathy and calculated reproduction of emotions, rooted in the work of Konstantin S. Stanislawski and Lee Strasberg, note]. He is now using the framework of rehearsal and play to prove his point, that is, that women, in principle, are unfaithful. It is important to emphasise that one cannot escape the inherent misogyny of the piece. ns Why is it so important for Don Alfonso to prove his point in your interpretation? bk To answer this question, one must psychoanalyse him. I am working

out his biography with our Don Alfonso performer, Chris Maltman, who is a very intelligent singer. In our story, Don Alfonso was once a famous director, now working in a small theatre in the provinces. ns So he may no longer receive the admiration he was used to. bk He has perhaps twenty relationships behind him, wives and girlfriends, and maybe he also has children. What is decisive is what defines him: the inability to distinguish between theatre and reality. His manipulative character. His emotional sado­masochism and his obsession with revenge that he wants to take on the world for his own emotional impotence. Don Alfonso is an unpleasant character. So, we need to find a way that, in the 21st century, we don’t simply accept his words at face value. That cannot be what the play is about. ns The original story is constructed in such a way that the scuola degli amanti is a school for men. Women are, in a certain way, the subject of instruction. How do you strengthen the position of women in your production? bk That is an essential question. I think it helps a lot that, in our production, we have Fiordiligi and Dorabella on stage from the very beginning. This means that the women hear what Don Alfonso says about them and are able to react to this in ways that lead them along an entirely different path through the play. Essentially, I find it amazing how much can be achieved in this piece with a little humour and self-reflection when it comes to the women’s perceptions of their own roles. ns Do you have an example of that? bk During the first act, the men appear after their alleged arsenic poison-

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BARRIE KOSKY IN AN INTERVIEW

ing, pretending to be in the throes of death. Often this scene requires those playing Fiordiligi and Dorabella to display sustained expressions of distress and concern, easily undermining the dramatic tension. At this point, we make use of the text – Fiordiligi and Dorabella initially call the men’s appearance a “tragico spettacolo” – a spectacle, a show, which indeed it is. If taken literally, Fiordiligi and Dorabella will first laugh at the men, make fun of them – and then gradually develop concern. In this way, they become three-dimensional characters. I think, in any case, that the female characters in this play are fantastic characters, deep and complex. One can infer that from their music, one hears the complexity of their emotions in all their arias. And there are numerous ways to approach the recitatives. That’s what makes opera so fascinating in general. One can take a work that was written several hundred years ago, and without changing a single word or note, just through the interpretation – and interpretation is, by definition, the performance of an opera the piece comes to life in a completely new way. ns Così fan tutte has a long tradition of adaptation – just a few years after its premiere, theatres began making changes to the text and the story, leading to versions that would completely replace Da Ponte’s text. But even less radical adaptations often insisted that the women find out about the intrigue – the wager – and either participate or seek revenge. In your adaptation, do Dorabella and Fiordiligi see

through the game? Or does the question arise differently in light of the theatre situation that you establish? bk The basic premise results in an unconventional narrative. In our version, the four young people consciously decide to participate in a theatrical experiment. We will thus see four individuals who are fully aware of everything but act as if they do not know what is being played out. In doing so, they portray characters who are equally clueless. This allows us to create a situation that gets to the heart of the matter, which is what the whole piece is about - can one fake emotions? Can I convince you that I love you – by the way I express myself? And what happens when, in the course of an artificial, constructed game, an unforeseen revelation comes to light? ns You are making an important point: the whole piece is about creating truth and manifesting reality. Don Alfonso’s project is to prove a point – albeit within a game of disguise and temptation that shifts the boundaries of the four lovers. You mentioned method acting, which is an artistic technique intended to create and reproduce believable, “authentic” emotions on stage and in film. Now, we can connect this idea of generating authentic emotions with recent discussions of theatre as a space where crossing boundaries is traditionally seen as part of art. bk First, Così fan tutte has one thing in common with all great works of musical theatre – it follows a logic and rules that differ from those of real life. There is nothing realistic or natural

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about opera – and through its artificiality, through the notes of the music and the syllables of the text, a greater truth is revealed. In my opinion, this is the purpose of art and theatre. In Così fan tutte – unlike Don Giovanni and Le nozze di Figaro – role play and disguise are at the natural core of the opera, providing us with very fertile ground for this staging. I don’t think the play is about fidelity. I have already addressed the important themes at the heart of the work – can I feign love? What happens if I fall in love while pretending to be in love? We’re in Shakespearean territory here. Through the comedy, through the absurdity of role play, there comes a revelation – a motif that dates back to ancient Greece and runs through the entire history of theatre. ns Shakespeare’s Cymbeline is sometimes cited as a source of several themes in Così fan tutte, which in turn are also found in Boccaccio’s Decameron. But when we first talked about Così fan tutte, there was another of Shakespeare’s works that you felt was important – The Tempest. bk In The Tempest, Prospero tries to control the plot. The island that he rules has much in common with a theatre. One could say that he is trying to stage the entire story of The Tempest – Ariel and Caliban, his daughter, the love story, the storm – the whole mechanism of The Tempest is a theatrical metaphor. Don Alfonso is not Prospero, but he is convinced of his ability to control everything and to direct and manipulate the four young people throughout his game – like figures on a chess board. The difference is that Prospero decides to end his game. Don Alfonso, on the other hand, does not

make this decision. The experiment gets out of control. This makes him a kind of failed Prospero. ns How is it with Despina? While Don Alfonso conducts the experiment, she also has her own interests, and on top of that, she expresses quite clear views about love. bk One thing is very important – if Despina is involved in Don Alfonso’s scheming, then she does it for the money. She is the character in this play who has to work for a living – which, incidentally, makes her akin to Susanna in Le nozze di Figaro. Like Susanna, Despina must deliver her lines and concoct her schemes while constantly occupied with her work. In our production, Despina is the stage manager, but it’s a small theatre, and she is responsible for pretty much everything. She has a role against which she can rebel and into which she can simultaneously retreat. It is important to me that she is neither particularly attracted to nor particularly repelled by Don Alfonso. Nor is she the Sancho Panza to his Don Quixote or the Leporello to his Don Giovanni. Their cooperation is inevitable and not particularly pleasant. Despina can be very cynical, with a cynicism that comes from experience – like that of Don Alfonso, yet in a completely different way. When she offers advice to Fiordiligi and Dorabella in her aria in the first act, it is based on a narrative of pain and experience. Don Alfonso’s actions stem from a similar source, but he is out for revenge, and Despina is not, which is an important difference. How she manipulates the girls is as interesting as it is problematic. She simply says: “your men are just playing around anyway.

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BARRIE KOSKY IN AN INTERVIEW

Why don’t you have a bit of fun?” We must not forget that they are 17-yearold girls! And she tells them: “don’t be such drama queens! Maybe you need to broaden your horizons!” ns Despina’s proclamations about love have also led to her being seen as a prominent representative of libertine culture. bk And she is. As though she had studied the Don Giovanni manual. What she says to the girls is reminiscent of how Don Giovanni behaves. ns Let’s talk about disguise. It is an incredibly important theme in Così fan tutte – the entire story is based on it, and every production must make decisions about the function and workings of disguise, which drastically influence the outcome. The history of disguise is ancient and fascinating, both in theatre and in mythology. Masks have been associated with seduction and eroticism but also with betrayal and abuse. bk Here, this extraordinary reflection of mythology, fairy tale, literature, and theatre is evident. One of the most common themes in all forms of storytelling is the concept of disguise – Jupiter, Mercury, Pluto. But what does that mean? In fact, dressing up is ubiquitous – we disguise ourselves through the very clothes we wear. We are hiding. We try to present ourselves through our bodies and our clothes as we want to be seen. Our lives are performative. And, of course, this is also reflected in theatre. Shakespeare was obsessed with disguises. Don Giovanni and The Marriage of Figaro feature prominent and important episodes in which disguises are used. In Così fan

tutte, however, the disguise is the centrepiece; it is the main event. Here, the disguise is the absolute theatrical metaphor for this experiment in love - the essential question is that of emotional disguise. Emotions are masked with other emotions, artificially created, invented emotions become real and generate new emotions – and in the end, no one will be able to say which of these emotions are authentic. Or the question is even obsolete. Overall, disguise is something very primal in the art of making theatre. It is the foundation of the theatrical play. ns And isn’t it also central to the eroticism of theatre? In Così fan tutte, the men’s “Albanian” costumes traditionally had something ridiculous about them – at the risk of making the women who fall for this masquerade look ridiculous. But if we trace this topos back to its origins in ancient literature, every scene in which someone pretends to be someone else – or something else – has something essentially erotic about it, often with a dark touch to it. bk Anything to do with costumes covering the body is erotic. In Figaro and Don Giovanni, this eroticism or eros is a fundamental force. In the Cherubino dressing scene, in the trio scene from Don Giovanni, in the finale of Le nozze di Figaro with Susanna and the Countess in the garden with the men. The whole game is fuelled by eros. I’ve often said that Eros and Thanatos are the two driving forces in theatre. In the performing arts, it is this tension between eroticism and mortality and death that represents the underlying tango.

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ns

As the opera concludes, the four lovers have encountered a great many experiences – love, new attractions, pain, disappointment. How do you see them in the end? And what do you want the audience to see? bk In the last 30 minutes of the opera, Mozart tells us exactly what is happening. He writes it in his music. It is striking how he leaves phrases unfinished, how he sets fermatas again and again. Philippe Jordan and I have devoted a lot of attention to these fermatas; these moments of pausing, hesitating, and holding off are very important in the production. Mozart writes pauses in the middle of words, of the most important words: co. sì. fan. tu. te. Why does he do that? Why are there so many fermatas in the finale? Is it because the whole thing is disintegrating? What was very clear in the first act, musically and dramaturgically, falls apart in the second act, and continues to do so up until the finale. Once the final game with the fake wedding and the return of the two men as soldiers concludes, the audience finds itself in a similar position to that of four lovers – adrift in a strange landscape of confusion. Which love was real, which was fake? Which pain was performed, which was experienced? Everyone is confused at the end of the opera. I see no way that we can assume that Da Ponte and Mozart wanted either the original pairs or the newly formed pairs to reconcile

and happily set off into the sunset. The final allegro molto, which is basically the lieto fine, is written in C Major – it sounds ridiculously happy; it’s almost a parody. It’s too happy to be true. ns Do you think that the final chorus holds any truth for the four young people? “Happy is the man who sees everything from the good side and lets himself be guided by reason” – after all they have been through? bk Maybe not in the moment they are singing that. Maybe the next day. The idea of our production is that they are very young, we imagined them around 18. And that is important - they gained an experience, and they will draw their own conclusions from it. I do not think that they are traumatised in such a way that they will never be able to love again. They have learnt something, which is what we have to do in life. What is crucial in our production is that they do not accept Don Alfonso’s lesson. They turn against him. And this also means that his plot, this cruel, manipulative, misogynic, misanthropic game turns against him. I do not see him in triumph. He will stay bitter, lonely, and impotent until the very end. For the four young people, I do not at all make the presumption that they will still be together tomorrow. I think it is important that what remains at the end is a question mark. A question of how confusing this labyrinth of love is. That’s the end of the opera. The labyrinth of love.

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Following pages: FEDERICA LOMBARDI as FIORDILIGI FILIPE MANU as FERRANDO PETER KELLNER as GUGLIELMO EMILY D’ANGELO as DORABELLA




SILKE LEOPOLD

FROM COSÌ FAN TUTTE TO GIRLS ARE GIRLS HOW MOZART’S OPERA BECAME A FARCE

“Benedictus qui venit in nomine domine”. Around 1800, anyone who wanted to hear Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s Così fan tutte did not necessarily have to go to the opera. The music for this erotic experimental arrangement also spread quickly in the church. Shortly after Mozart’s death, an adaptation began to circulate as a mass, in which the Kyrie was based on the trio “Soave sia il vento,” the “Gratias agimus tibi” from the Gloria on Dorabella’s aria “Smanie implacabili,” and the Benedictus on “Secondate, aurette amiche”, that arcadianly beautiful duet in the second act, with which Guglielmo and Ferrando, disguised as Albanians, began their cunning charm offensive. It was precisely this piece that had held particular appeal to the clergy throughout the 19th century. It was wonderfully underlaid with the Marian antiphon “Alma redemptoris mater”, but also with German lyrics

like “Komm, o komm in Gottes Garten” (Come, oh come into God’s garden) or “Auf der Andacht heil’gen Schwingen” (On the holy wings of devotion). It almost seems as if Così fan tutte was better known around 1800 as a music of religion than it was on the stages of the opera. After all, Mozart’s last opera buffa was not particularly successful there at first. In the Berlin Annals of Theatre in 1790, it was stated that the opera was a “wretched foreign work”, and for the Viennese Journal of Luxury and Fashion in 1792, it was “the silliest stuff in the world” The only point of agreement was their assessment of Mozart’s music, which was described as “powerfully sublime” or as “excellent.” In fact, the discomfort with Così fan tutte had more to do with the libretto than it did with Mozart’s music. We know almost nothing about the creation of the work nor about the collaboration between Mozart and the

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FROM COSÌ FAN TUTTE TO GIRLS ARE GIRLS

librettist Lorenzo Da Ponte. For Mozart, who had dreamed of writing operas all his life, the commission was, above all, a welcome and sorely needed source of money. In December 1789, Mozart wrote one of the notorious begging letters to his friend and fellow Freemason Michael Puchberg, in which he mentioned an imminent fee of “200 ducats for my opera.” At the same time, he invited Puchberg to a rehearsal. On 26 January 1790, the opera premiered at the old Burgtheater. It might have had more lasting success had Emperor Joseph II not died a few weeks later, leaving the theatre closed for national mourning. Although it reopened in August and Così fan tutte was performed several more times, the moral climate had shifted with the new Emperor Leopold II. Frivolous stories like Così fan tutte were no longer so popular, and thus the opera, adapted into a German-language Singspiel (singing play), moved north to Frankfurt and Berlin, to Hanover and Hamburg. The Italian libretto had to be trimmed down not only on account of the change in genre, where spoken dialogue replaced the sung recitatives that connected the musical numbers but also, and more importantly, because of how the societal ideals differed from those of the Viennese court. What is Così fan tutte about? With the quill as a scalpel, Da Ponte dissected the emotional worlds of two couples in love, who are driven into a web of intrigue by the old, seemingly wise misanthrope Don Alfonso and the young, sassy maid Despina. Ostensibly, officers Guglielmo and Ferrando must go to war, although they return disguised as Albanians and play their pranks on sisters Fiordiligi and Dora-

bella, who are almost desperate with longing until they agree to marry the passionately courting strangers. But now all four emerge badly plucked from this charade, the two women, because they were less steadfast than they had imagined themselves to be, but also the two men because, as deceived deceivers, they must now live with their own self-sown doubt. Don Alfonso’s guiding principle was not fidelity but “disinganno”, the disillusionment in whose name the couples can meet again on a less fanciful but more lifelike level. Da Ponte was a well-read man. Così fan tutte sometimes feels like a compendium of Italian literary history. For example, the names of the two female protagonists, Fiordiligi and Dorabella, are borrowed from Lodovico Ariosto’s Orlando Furioso, first published in 1516, where they are called Fiordiligi and Doralice. Despina, the name of the maid, is also likely derived from Ariosto’s Fiordispina. Various quotes from other classics of Italian literature established a tongue-in-cheek dialogue with the courtly Viennese audience, who had grown up with Italian as their court language. Above all, however, Così fan tutte is a witty parody of the opera seria, the musical art form that the imperial court poet Pietro Metastasio had shaped in Vienna with his librettos over decades. Everyone in the audience understood the allusion to the dramaturgical scheme of the seria with the ruler at the top and the confidant at the bottom of the role hierarchy, as well as the two couples from whose dynamic and emotional confusions the plot developed. And as if to make the proximity to Metastasio even clearer, Da Ponte quoted a well-

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known aria text. Metastasios Demetrio spoke of the fidelity of lovers (“È la fede degli amanti”), which was like the Arabian phoenix. Don Alfonso, for his part, rephrased this text, turning the lovers into women: “è la fede delle femmine”... Mozart played along with Da Ponte’s literary game; indeed, he even intensified it by making Don Alfonso’s condescending sentence “così fan tutte” the musical motto and captured the parody of the seria through musical means. For example, Don Alfonso delivers the supposed dreadful news of the drafting of the two officers in an aria that, in beautiful exaggeration, bears all the musical hallmarks of a tragic outburst; Dorabella’s aria “Smanie implacabili” is a little too exalted to qualify as truly tragic despair; Fiordiligi’s assurance to remain steadfast as a rock in the surf, with its leaps of melody and its virtuoso coloratures, comes across as somewhat too flamboyant; and Ferrando in his seduction aria “Ah lo veggio: quell’anima mia” with its gavotte rhythm and the designation “lietissimo” (extremely cheerful) is perhaps just slightly too exuberant to be taken seriously. These are all musical elements of the old opera seria, and Mozart probably also put a knowing smile on the audiences’ faces. But Mozart also took the opportunity to look deeply into the souls of his protagonists with his music and to make it clear that this whole adventure was not without consequences for these young people. No other of his operas contains as many duets as Così fan tutte – duets of the two officers and the two sisters, but also a duet of the “false” couples, the faltering “Il core vi dono” by Dorabella and Guglielmo

and the fateful “Fra gli amplessi in pochi istanti” by Fiordiligi and Ferrando. It is one of the most beautiful pieces ever to have been penned by Mozart, and from a musical ambiguity that is unparalleled even in this opera of ambiguities – for it is only the despair over Dorabella’s infidelity that drives Ferrando to seriously pursue his courtship of Fiordiligi, and this in a situation where Fiordiligi tries to flee from him and from herself. Ferrando does not want Fiordiligi, and Fiordiligi resists the feelings that Ferrando has aroused in her. The situation could not be more laughable. Nevertheless, the music speaks of perhaps the most heartfelt of all the affection expressed throughout this opera. Suddenly, this game of emotions has pivoted towards the seriousness of a deep, loving relationship. Such a story of a war of love, where no one emerged victorious, in which both the ladies and the gentlemen found themselves in compromising situations, did not fit into the new era of a bourgeois society which, like the courtly society before it, sought figures of identification on the opera stage. In the 19th century, no one really knew what to make of a story of two officers who seduced each other’s fiancées, only then to complain about the women’s infidelity. People did not want to do without Mozart’s music, so they set about changing the text according to their own view of the world. The fact that such contradictory titles emerged as Mädchenlist (Girls’ List) (1796), Weibertreue (Women’s Loyalty) (1794) or Mädchen sind Mädchen (Girls are Girls) (1816) illustrates, on the one hand, how bourgeois morality found its way onto the opera stage, but on the other hand that it was now actually

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FROM COSÌ FAN TUTTE TO GIRLS ARE GIRLS

women – and women alone – who were to be accused of infidelity, only to then be defended against this assumption. The same diminutivising tendencies seen in the “Girls” titles are also reflected in the adaptation of the names, for example, when Dorabella became “Dorchen.” The fact that Fiordiligi and Dorabella did not recognise their fiancés in disguise was considered particularly bothersome and was remedied in various ways. In adaptations such as Die Zauber-Probe (The Magic Trial) (1816) or Die Zauber-Spiegel (The Magic Mirror) (1823), these protagonists were spellbound. In a version that was often performed from 1820 onwards, Guglielmo and Ferrando were replaced by two other performers appearing as Albanians so that the two women could at least be forgiven of the accusation of blindness. In 1837, the plot was charged with both military and patriotic flare with the introduction of two rival pairs of men. The “good guys”, the officers, disguised as guerrillas, reach their sweethearts and liberate the besieged castle, while the “bad guys”, the actual guerrillas, are unsuccessful

in both their military and romantic endeavours. Titled Die Guerrillas this version enjoyed some success. Berlin arranger Louis Schneider was firmly on the side of the women in his 1846 version in which Despina discloses the plot to Fiordiligi and Dorabella, allowing them to respond to the scheme at every turn. And finally, in 1856, the arranger Bernhard Gugler came up with the idea to group the “wrong” couples as the “right” ones from the start: Guglielmo is thus engaged to Dorabella and Ferrando to Fiordiligi, so that the infidelity is in reality none at all. All these textual adaptations anticipate the perceived concerns of 20th and 21st-century Regietheater—namely, the search for a unique and contemporary interpretation of a work which, having lost the cultural, political, or social context, is no longer immediately accessible. Così fan tutte, created half a year after the French Revolution and in an imperial Vienna which wanted to know nothing of this revolution (yet), was a product of its time – and a swansong for a world that was soon to disappear forever.

Following pages: PETER KELLNER as GUGLIELMO EMILY D’ANGELO as DORABELLA FEDERICA LOMBARDI as FIORDILIGI FILIPE MANU as FERRANDO




MELANIE UNSELD

ALL WISDOM, ALL JEST? STAGES OF KNOWLEDGE AROUND 1800 Is it faith or certainty? Is it opinion or experience? Knowledge or insight? “Così fan tutte” – an assertion about all women that requires justification? Insight based on evidence? First and foremost, Così fan tutte is the title of a comedy that brings to the stage, through words and music, something resembling a scientific argument. From a philosopher’s bet with two gullible gentlemen arises a process of understanding, at the end of which everybody is smarter – all, that is, except the philosopher himself and the servant, who in this performance is a great many things – she is embodied science and everyday knowledge, she is a driving force, she is a caricature of two learned institutions, she is an omniscientist. The two young men, however, are to learn what women are really like. After all, they go to school, the “scuola degli amanti”, according to the opera’s Ossia title. Yet what is learning, and what is meant by reasoning in the Age of Enlightenment?

The concrete examination of the spaces of the Royal Institution in London may help us understand this question from the perspective of that era – in a spacious room, the luminaries of British science are gathered, experimenting with gases. (In fact, the Royal Institution of Great Britain was an important centre of scientific research in London.) The English cartoonist James Gilray, renowned as much for his sharp caricatures as for his keen powers of observation, furnishes the central table in this room with an array of scientific apparatus, with these being utilised by three scientists in rather dramatic fashion. The central proceedings are observed with amazement by a large group of interested individuals. Learned men and blue-stocking ladies sit and stand around the table, some recording the events in notebooks as they learn through contemplation. That Gilray is attacking the popularisation of science, something for which the Royal Institution actually faced criticism, is only one perspective

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JAMES GILRAY NEW DISCOVERIES IN PNEUMATICS! OR AN EXPERIMENTAL LECTURE ON THE POWERS OF AIR (1802)]

of this 1802 caricature. The other is that the scientific experiment resembles a stage surrounded by an audience as curious as it is illustrious. Così fan tutte by Lorenzo da Ponte and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart is also a theatrical experimental setup. It must be proven that all women are, to some extent, unfaithful by nature. The curtain has barely risen when Ferrando and Guglielmo, the two lovers, demand proof: “provar cel dovete / you must prove it.” They demand this from Don Alfonso, who, with his provocation that evidence here is just a foolish desire (“pazzo desire/sheer

madness”), only further fuels the fire of knowledge. But how Don Alfonso then takes over the argumentation is entirely – to put it in Figaro’s words – “all’usanza teatrale.” The philosopher stages a theatrum amicorum styled as a game of concealment and disguise, which allows Ferrando and Guglielmo to watch their lovers becoming unfaithful: experience through direct observation, wherein the truth reveals itself through precise perception of the experiment. Don Alfonso did not expect the resistance of the women (and Fiordiligi refers to nothing less than nature itself in her steadfastness:

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„come scoglio immoto resta contra i venti e la tempesta, così ognor quest’ alma è forte nella fede e nell’amor“ (“As a rock stands firm against winds and

theatrical quality has seldom been questioned ever since the era of the Theatrum anatomicum. Yet, while in the anatomical theatre, lectures were

ANATOMICAL THEATRE verre-eglimosé by JONAS ZEUNER, 1779, AMSTERDAM MUSEUM. Anatomical theatres as fixed buildings have been documented since the late 16th century. They use the panoptic principle of the Roman antique amphitheatre for medical and scientific demonstrations.

storms, so this soul will always be strong in its fidelity and its love.”). Yet Despina comes to his aid, actively assisting in the demonstration. It requires some support to ensure the “success” of the experiment ... and it is precisely this that underpins the comedic aspect of the play. The notion that knowledge through observation inherently possesses a

given over lifeless bodies, Lorenzo da Ponte and James Gilray take it a step further. The Così experiment, like the New Discoveries in Pneumatics, is indeed an experiment on living human beings. The experiment on the living body is showcased on the stage of science, with the audience – well entertained – participating in the process of discovery.

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Incidentally, another contemporary who acted no differently was the highly controversial physician Franz Anton Mesmer. He, too, experimented on living humans, promising to cure various ailments through the application of magnetic radiation onto and into the body. Hypnosis played just as big a role as the sensory-enhancing aura of the whole setting, with music, incidentally, playing a prominent role, often in the form of the glass harmonica. Mesmer’s séances were social events – scenes of healing in the drawing room. Here, too, we see the experiment on the living body, displayed in a society that was just as curious as it was well entertained, awaiting the outcome of the experiment. Of course, Mesmer’s healing method, known as “animal magnetism”, certainly did not cure the blindness of the Viennese pianist Maria Theresia Paradis, nor did it remedy many other illnesses. Consequently, Mesmer was repeatedly brought before the courts on charges of charlatanism. However, that this healing method permeated various arts is not solely due to a romantic reception deeply imbued with themes of sleep, dreams, and altered states of consciousness. It is also, and perhaps more significantly, due to its controversial and comedic potential – discussing and debating Mesmerism provided ample opportunity for comedy and satire. E.T.A. Hoffmann, for example, a master of subtle irony, dedicated an episode of his Fantasy Pieces in Callot’s Manner to the “Magnetizer.” In this episode, a lively debate unfolds between the proponents and critics of the magnetic method: “As soon as Ottmar uttered the word ‘magnetism’, a twitch began on Bickert’s face, first faintly, then crescendoing through all

his muscles, until finally, an utterly absurd grimace appeared on his face, so exaggerated that the Baron was on the verge of bursting into laughter, when Bickert jumped up and began to lecture…” When Despina appears disguised as “signor dottore” to heal the disguised lovers with the “pietra mesmerica / that mesmeric stone,” a contemporary discourse indeed unfolds on stage. The Viennese audience of 1790 witnessed on stage what had recently caused a great stir in the city. Franz Anton Mesmer moved to Vienna in 1759 to study medicine under renowned teachers, including Maria Theresa’s personal physician, Gerard van Swieten. In his medical dissertation, Mesmer had already described the “influence of the planets on the human body” (De planetarum influxu in corpus humanum). What might be less interesting here is how this theory connected with contemporary medical discourse and modern theories of electricity and ferromagnetism, and more so the specific approach to research, work, and life that became characteristic of Doctor Mesmer in Vienna in the following years. He expressed his affinity for music and theatre in his house on Landstraße. On the large garden estate, not only were there practice rooms and a laboratory but also a theatre. Musicians frequently visited Mesmer, including the Mozarts. In the summer of 1773, when Leopold and Wolfgang Mozart were guests in Vienna, Leopold wrote to Salzburg: “I didn’t write on the last post day because we had a grand musical performance on the Landstraße in the garden.” Leo­ pold Mozart was referring to Mesmer’s palace, which stood (until 1920) at the corner of Landstraße and Rasumof-

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skygasse in today’s 3rd district. The literal interplay of music, theatre, and medicine was a hallmark of Mesmer’s activities. Many came as guests, and many also as patients. Although Mesmer was initially quite successful as a physician, an expert commission declared him a charlatan after the unsuccessful healing of Maria Theresia Paradis in 1777. Mesmer had to leave Vienna. Discussions about the scientific validity of his methods continued in Vienna, as people heard about his successes in Paris as well as from his travels through southern Germany. „Questo è quel pezzo di calamita: pietra mesmerica, ch’ebbe l’origine nell’Alemagna, che poi sì celebre là in Francia fu“ (“This is the magnet, that mesmeric stone which originated in Germany, and then became so famous in France.”), explains Despina in her role as “Signor Dottore.” The fact that she heals supposedly ill, seemingly poisoned individuals in this scene is a jab at the credibility of Mesmer’s healing method – Is it only successful where the illnesses are feigned? Can it only cure “all’usanza teatrale”? The fact that Ferrando and Guglielmo pretend to awaken from a kind of trance („Dove son? Che loco è questo? Chi è colui? Color chi sono? Son di Giove innanzi al trono? Sei tu Palla o Citerea?” – “Where am I? What place is this? Who is he? Who are they? Am I before the throne of love? Are you Pallas, or Venus?”) ties into the “theory of dreaming.” Mesmer induced hypnotic states in his patients, from which they were supposed to awaken healed. E.T.A. Hoffmann explored this journey into the unconscious extensively in his “The Magnetizer”, which is unsurprising given that it already makes the Romantic affinity for liminal and

suspended states tangible: “...he stands before me, and I gradually sink into a dreamlike state, whose last thought, in which my consciousness fades, brings me foreign ideas, which with a special, I might say, golden glowing life permeate me, and I know that Alban thinks these divine ideas within me, for he is then himself within my being, like the higher animating spark, and if he departs, which can only happen spiritually since physical distance is irrelevant, then everything is dead.” Despina, alias “Signor Dottore,” clearly rejects such raptures. The fact that she is both doctor and servant – a disguise the audience is fully aware of – reveals her “medical practice” as a prank, as a comedic play. She refers to the still steadfast women as “bizzarre ragazze / strange girls” and lectures on the infidelity of men, now in her own role as a maid. Lorenzo Da Ponte avoids the obvious wordplay of “così fan tutti” – and yet Despina’s wisdom can be summed up precisely in that phrase. Since men are fundamentally unfaithful, women must learn to deal with it: “foresee the disgrace which is so common among those who trust men.” But where does Despina’s insight come from? She is aware of her lowly status in a society still shaped by the estate system of the late 18th century. She knows that she is essentially only allowed to smell the chocolate in the cup, not to taste it. And yet she takes a sip – “com’è buono! / Oh, it’s good!” – and thus turns the whims of her mistresses to her own advantage. Despina also understands gender relations, knows the moral corset in which her own sex is tightly laced, and is familiar with desire. From experience, she knows that hoping for

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fidelity is futile. She does not possess insight but rather knowledge derived from experience, which she shares with her mistresses – or indeed, all women (“o femmine”): „in uomini, in soldati Sperare fedeltà? (ridendo) Non vi fate sentir, per carità! Di pasta simile son tutti quanti…” (“You think men and soldiers will be faithful? (She laughs.) Don’t let anyone hear you, for goodness’ sake! They’re all made of the same stuff.”) Since men love nothing but their own pleasure and treat their lovers heartlessly, the only way to deal with them is to repay them in kind: “women, let us pay back in their own coin the pernicious, impertinent race of men; let us love to suit ourselves, for our own gratification.” Immediately after Despina’s aria in the first act, the game begins: Don Alfonso enters and initiates Despina into his plans. For the philosopher, it is clear from the start that the lesson on the (un)faithfulness of women should proceed as a game, as a “little joke” or “trick” on stage. He stages the lesson, sending the lovers away to come back in disguise and participate in the game himself. Despina also actively supports this game of disguise – unlike the philosopher, who always appears as “himself,” Despina disguises herself as “Signor Dottore” and later as a notary. But what about the two women, Dorabella and Fiordiligi? Are they merely objects of the game (and the experiment), or are they actively participating? At first, it appears as though they are puppets led by Don Alfonso and Despina. But by the second act, after Despina has shared her own life philosophy with her mistresses, the two women gain insight and become aware of their active roles. „Quando Guglielmo viene, se

sapessi che burla gli vo’ far!” says Fiordiligi (“When Guglielmo comes, if you knew how I’d like to play a joke on him!”). And a little later: „Ed intanto io col biondino vo’ un po’ ridere e burlar.“ (“And meanwhile I’ll laugh and joke with the little fair one.”) Enlightenment as a game? Isn’t Enlightenment supposed to stand for rationality and sharp argumentation in scholarly writing? At first glance, it may seem peculiar that the Enlightenment period is associated with popular and entertaining stages of knowledge. However, the triad of wonder, learning, and laughter – in short, experience – is as central to Enlightenment as reading and writing. Thus, the theatre is also an important site of Enlightenment, a school of recognition. According to Johann Christoph Adelung’s Grammatisch-kritisches Wörterbuch der Hochdeutschen Mundart or Grammatically Critical Dictionary of High German Dialect (1774-1786), a school is “the place where […] young people, in particular, are instructed in useful knowledge and pleasant arts.” For learning, however, “the right disposition of the mind is necessary.” In Da Ponte’s and Mozart’s “scuola degli amanti” (school for lovers), two instructors ensure the “right disposition of the mind” – Don Alfonso and Despina embody different forms of knowledge and understanding. Don Alfonso, the philosopher, is the director of the play. He sees himself as a rational knower and orchestrates the experiment that allows the young men to gain experience. So begins the experiment. Despina, on the other hand, literally embodies knowledge in a variety of forms. In her disguises, she assumes the roles of both the medical-empirical and the juridical-normative knower.

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However, both forms of knowledge are “pretended.” The pretence (especially with the added element of gender crossing) is thus made all the more apparent – with significant consequences for credibility and persuasive power. Would one believe that “doctor” when he waves around his Mesmeric stone? Or the notary with his monotonous, caricatured, trilling violin-accompa-

nied voice? Despina, whose practical knowledge as a maid extends beyond her mistresses’ speculations, parodies these caricatures of the knowledgeable professions. She herself knows that “the quality of sensation is always purely empirical and cannot be presented a priori.” In this way, her insight reaches the level of Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason.

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CHRISTOPHER MALTMAN as DON ALFONSO EMILY D’ANGELO as DORABELLA



KATE LINDSEY as DESPINA

IMPRINT WOLFGANG AMADEUS MOZART

COSÌ FAN TUTTE SEASON 2023/24 PREMIÈRE OF THE PRODUCTION 16 JUNE 2024 Publisher WIENER STAATSOPER GMBH, Opernring 2, 1010 Wien Director DR. BOGDAN ROŠČIĆ Music Director PHILIPPE JORDAN Administrative Director DR. PETRA BOHUSLAV General Editors SERGIO MORABITO & NIKOLAUS STENITZER Design & concept EXEX Layout & typesetting MIWA MEUSBURGER Image concept MARTIN CONRADS, BERLIN (Cover) All performance fotos by MICHAEL PÖHN Printed by PRINT ALLIANCE HAV PRODUKTIONS GMBH, BAD VÖSLAU TEXT REFERENCES – All texts in this programme booklet are original contributions. ENGLISH TRANSLATIONS Paul Talbot. IMAGE REFERENCES: Cover: Doan Ly: Feast, 2021 / Pascale Osterwalder: Così fan tutte Unpicked, original contribution. Reproduction only with approval of Wiener Staatsoper GmbH / Dramaturgy. Holders of rights who were unavailable regarding retrospect compensation are requested to make contact.




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