Broadcast

Metropolitan Opera Broadcast: Così Fan Tutte 

Radio Broadcast and Live in HD Transmission of Saturday, April 26, 12:55 P.M. (HD), 1 P.M. (Radio)

Broadcast Così HDL 414
The sisters Fiordiligi and Dorabella are discomfited by the presence of Ferrando and Guglielmo (Polenzani, Pogossov, Phillips, Leonard)
© Johan Elbers 2014
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The 2013–14 Metropolitan Opera broadcast season is sponsored by 
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Così Fan Tutte

Music by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Libretto by Lorenzo da Ponte
THE CAST   (in order of vocal appearance)
Ferrando tenor, MATTHEW POLENZANI
Guglielmo baritone, RODION POGOSSOV
Don Alfonso  bass-baritone, MAURIZIO MURARO
Fiordiligi soprano, SUSANNA PHILLIPS 
Dorabella mezzo, ISABEL LEONARD
Despina soprano, DANIELLE DE NIESE

Conducted by JAMES LEVINE
 
Production: Lesley Koenig
Set and costume designer: Michael Yeargan
Lighting designer: Duane Schuler
Stage director: Robin Guarino
Chorus master: Donald Palumbo
Musical preparation: Jane Klaviter,
    Robert Morrison, Derrick Inouye, 
Howard Watkins
Assistant stage director: Gregory Keller
Harpsichord continuo: Howard Watkins
Italian coach: Hemdi Kfir
Prompter: Jane Klaviter
 
Production a gift of Alberto Vilar
 
Additional funding from the Metropolitan
    Opera Club; the Denenberg Foundation 
    in honor of Dan Denenberg; The DuBose 
    and Dorothy Heyward Memorial Fund; 
    and Mr. and Mrs. Samuel L. Tedlow
 
Revival a gift of DOLCE & GABBANA
 
This performance is also being broadcast
    live on Metropolitan Opera Radio on
    SiriusXM channel 74.
THE SCENES    Timings (ET)
  (Naples, 18th c.)  
ACT I   1:00–2:39
    Sc. 1 A piazza  
    Sc. 2 A terrace overlooking
    the sea
 
    Sc. 3 Fiordiligi and Dorabella's
    home and garden
 
ACT II Fiordiligi and Dorabella's
    home and garden, later
    that day
3:10–4:49

Host: Margaret Juntwait
Commentator: Ira Siff
Music producer: Jay David Saks
Producers: Mary Jo Heath, Ellen Keel,
    William Berger
Executive producers: Mia Bongiovanni,
    Elena Park

Directed for Live Cinema by:
    Gary Halvorson
HD host: Renée Fleming

For more information on the broadcasts,
    please visit www.operainfo.org.

Send quiz questions to:
    Metropolitan Opera Quiz
    Metropolitan Opera
    30 Lincoln Center
    New York, NY 10023
    or e-mail metquiz@metopera.org.
This performance will be transmitted live, in high definition and surround sound,
into selected movie theaters as part of The Met: Live in HD series, and will be shared with
students in more than 150 U.S. schools as part of the Met's HD Live in Schools program.
For information on tickets, visit www.metopera.org/hdlive.

THE STORY 

ACT I. In eighteenth-century Naples, the cynical Don Alfonso discusses women with two young officers, Ferrando and Guglielmo. The gallants insist their sweethearts are paragons of virtue ("La mia Dorabella") and accept Alfonso's bet that he can prove the ladies fickle if they do as he says for twenty-four hours.

The sisters Fiordiligi and Dorabella compare the merits of their respective beaux, Guglielmo and Ferrando, showing pictures they carry in their lockets ("Ah, guarda, sorella"). Alfonso brings sad news: the young men have been called to their regiment. They appear, and the five make elaborate farewells ("Sento, o Dio"). As soldiers march by, Ferrando and Guglielmo fall in; Fiordiligi, Dorabella and Alfonso sorrowfully wish them a prosperous journey ("Soave sia il vento"). Alfonso, alone, delivers one last jeer at women's inconstancy.

The maid, Despina, advises her mistresses to forget old lovers with the help of new ones ("In uomini, in soldati"), but Dorabella is outraged at her capricious approach to love ("Smanie implacabili"). When the sisters leave, Alfonso comes to bribe Despina to introduce two foreign friends of his to the ladies. Fiordiligi and Dorabella, returning, are scandalized to see the strangers, whom they do not recognize as their lovers, heavily disguised as Albanians. The newcomers declare their admiration for the ladies, but both repulse them, and Fiordiligi likens her fidelity to a rock ("Come scoglio"). The men are thrilled, but Alfonso warns that the bet isn't won yet. Ferrando blissfully looks forward to victory and reunion with his love ("Un'aura amorosa"). When he is gone, Des-pina suggests a plan to Alfonso to win the ladies' sympathy.

Alone in their garden, the sisters lament the absence of their lovers. Suddenly the "Albanians" stagger in, pretending to have poisoned themselves in despair over their rejection. Alfonso and Despina run for a doctor. Meanwhile, the ladies begin to waver; pity for the strangers will be their undoing. Despina returns, disguised as a doctor using Dr. Mesmer's invention, the magnet, to draw out the poison, and urging the sisters to nurse the patients as they recover. The men revive ("Dove son?"), but their increased ardor alarms the women, who angrily refuse their demands for a kiss. 

Broadcast Così 3 hdl 414
The schemers Don Alfonso and Despina (Muraro, Danielle de Niese as Despina)
© Beth Bergman 2014

ACT II. Attending her mistresses, Despina lectures them on how to handle men ("Una donna a quindici anni"). Dorabella is easily persuaded that there is no harm in a little flirtation, and surprisingly, Fiordiligi agrees. They decide who will pair off with whom ("Prenderò quel brunettino").

The young men have arranged a serenade in the garden. Seeing their wager through, Guglielmo ardently pursues Dorabella ("Il core vi dono"), while Ferrando woos Fiordiligi ("Ah, lo veggio quell'anima bella"); when he leaves, she admits he has touched her heart ("Per pietà"), hoping her absent lover will forgive her. When the men compare notes, Guglielmo is glad to see Fiordiligi apparently standing fast but Ferrando is dismayed that Dorabella has given Guglielmo the locket containing his portrait. Guglielmo decries the waywardness of the fair sex ("Donne mie, la fate a tanti!"). Left alone, Ferrando sighs that he still loves Dorabella, though he feels betrayed ("Tradito, schernito").

Fiordiligi rebukes Dorabella for being fickle, although she admits that in her heart she has succumbed to the stranger. Dorabella coaxes her to give way, saying love is a thief and people get robbed every day ("È amore un ladroncello"). Alone, Fiordiligi decides to drag her sister off to join their sweethearts at the front, but when Ferrando, pursuing the wager, enters and threatens suicide, Fiordiligi gives in. Now Guglielmo is furious, but Alfonso counsels forgiveness; that's the way women are, he claims ("Tutti accusan le donne").

A double wedding is arranged between the sisters and the "Albanians." Alfonso brings in the notary - Despina in another disguise. Just as the ladies have signed the marriage contract, familiar martial strains outside herald the return of the former lovers' regiment. In panic, the sisters push their intended husbands from the room and go more or less to pieces when the men reappear without their "Albanian" mufti. Ferrando and Guglielmo storm at the ladies when the marriage contract is discovered. But Alfonso explains the deception, reasoning that true happiness lies not in romantic illusion but in accepting things as they are. Agreeing a trick can work both ways, the lovers are reconciled.

Broadcast Così hdl 2 414
Don Alfonso, Guglielmo and Ferrando hatch their plot (Maurizio Muraro as Don Alfonso, Pogossov, Matthew Polenzani as Ferrando)
© Johan Elbers 2014

THE BACKGROUND 

The fifteenth of Mozart's operas, Così Fan Tutte dates from the final period of his life. If his alacrity in writing Così is explainable in terms of his hectic activity during this period, the score's sparkle and technical and expressive virtuosity seem more remarkable in view of his failing health and many distractions. He used manuscript abbreviations - unusual for him - and adapted music to the specific vocal strengths and weaknesses of the soloists.

Legend has it that an actual Viennese scandal prompted Austrian Emperor Joseph II to commission Così Fan Tutte. To turn the story into a libretto, he chose Lorenzo da Ponte, peripatetic scholar, entrepreneur and erstwhile crony of Casanova. Da Ponte had supplied Mozart with texts for Figaro and Don Giovanni.

Probably no opera has been subjected to such revision as Così Fan Tutte, for the nineteenth century found the story and libretto unacceptable. Beethoven lamented that Mozart should have squandered his genius on such a trivial, immoral subject.

One day before Mozart's thirty-fourth birthday, Così Fan Tutte had its premiere at the Burgtheater in Vienna, Janu-ary 26, 1790. The work enjoyed repetitions through August and then was dropped, not to be revived in Vienna during the composer's lifetime. He did witness it in Prague, and it soon reached Leipzig and Dresden. The Metropolitan first performed it on March 24, 1922. The present production was unveiled on February 8, 1996.

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Ferrando lavishes attention on Fiordiligi (Polenzani,
Susanna Phillips as Fiordiligi)

© Beatriz Schiller 2014

WHAT TO READ AND HEAR 

For suggested reading on Mozart, see Die Zauberflöte's What to Read and Hear. Other valuable books include Edmund J. Goehring's Three Modes of Perception in Mozart (Cambridge) and the Così entry in the Cambridge Opera Handbook series. Jane Glover's Mozart's Women (HarperCollins) offers fascinating background on the ladies who were important in the composer's onstage and offstage lives.

On CD, James Levine leads the Vienna Philharmonic in a fleet, elegant performance of an opera that is one of his specialties (DG); his responsive cast includes Kiri Te Kanawa, Ann Murray and Thomas Hampson. .

Così is unusually well represented on disc, especially when one considers its long lack of currency in international houses. An outstanding Così of recent vintage is led by René Jacobs (Harmonia Mundi), who captures the opera's bittersweet flavor to perfection. The Glyndebourne Festival's happy association with Così is well documented on CD; Fritz Busch's 1935 (Lyrica) and 1951 (Guild) recordings preserve the vivid Fiordiligis of Ina Souez and Sena Jurinac, respectively. Karl Böhm's enduring affection for Così is well demonstrated by his 1954 Salzburg performance (Orfeo d'Or) and his 1962 studio recording (EMI). Herbert von Karajan's dark-edged 1954 Così (EMI) has an especially splendid quartet of lovers: Léopold Simoneau, Rolando Panerai, Nan Merriman and Elisabeth Schwarzkopf, caught at her vocal peak. Arnold Östman's period-instrument performance from Drottningholm is available in a mid-price set of all three da Ponte operas (Decca). 

There are currently more than a dozen DVD or Blu-ray issues of Cosi Fan Tutte available. Roberto de Simone directs a refined, witty 1996 production from Vienna, with Riccardo Muti conducting a perfectly calibrated musical performance (EuroArts). Muti also leads an admirable Così from Salzburg in 1983; Michael Hampe's highly traditional staging shows off the practiced charms of a cast of veteran Mozarteans, including Ann Murray and Margaret Marshall as the sisters, Kathleen Battle as Despina and James Morris as Guglielmo. An enchanting young ensemble takes the stage in the 1984 production from the intimate Drottningholm Court Theater, conducted by Arnold Östman (Kultur). Peter Sellars's eye-catching modern-dress staging sets the action in a Cape Cod, Massachusetts diner (Decca). Patrice Chéreau's 2005 Aix-en-Provence production (Virgin) benefits from the director's careful attention to character interaction, but has little buoyancy or humor; the best singing is from Elina Garanča, a soprano-ish Dorabella, and Stéphane Degout, a trim, sexy Guglielmo.  spacer

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Current Issue: December 2014 — VOL. 79, NO. 6