Così fan tutte - Synopsis
Così fan tutte
Lorenzo da Ponte
Don Alfonso, a cynically inclined follower of Enlightenment philosophy, feels provoked by the officers Ferrando and Guglielmo: they overexaggerate for his taste the beauty and above all the fidelity of their fiancées, the sisters Dorabella and Fiordiligi. Alfonso is deeply sceptical about the constancy of the fairer sex. Therefore he proposes to his protesting friends a wager of one hundred gold pieces: the constancy of the young women is to be tested over the course of a day. Ferrando and Guglielmo agree to the deal. They promise to follow Alfonso's orders without question. If the women remain steadfast, the young men will have won the wager.
Dorabella and Fiordiligi are expecting their fiancés. Alfonso appears instead with the terrible news that both officers have been called up to go to war without delay. The lovers bid their tender farewells: while for the men the sorrow is feigned, for the women it is genuine and deeply felt.
With a bribe Don Alfonso acquires the active help of Despina, the sisters' maid. It is her task to introduce to her mistresses Ferrando and Guglielmo who are disguised as rich Albanians. Without being recognised, the strangers cheekily pay court each other's fiancées. The women indignantly reject these overtures. The friends want to claim victory. But Alfonso reminds them that the deadline for the wager has not yet expired. So the men renew their assault and pretend to attempt suicide out of desperation over their unrequited love. The ladies begin to feel pity. Despina, disguised as a doctor, revives the supposedly "dead" lovers, who begin their passionate assault once again, whereupon the ladies flee in confusion.
Meanwhile Despina, who is in league with Alfonso, urges her mistresses to look favourably on the foreign suitors. After much hesitation Dorabella and Fiordiligi agree to allow themselves a harmless flirt. Dorabella succumbs to Guglielmo's overtures more quickly than expected. Fiordiligi on the other hand struggles desperately to remain steadfast. The friendship between the two young men suffers a first dangerous rift.
As a kind of salutary remedy against all temptation, Fiordiligi resolves to join her fiancé at the front. When Ferrando suddenly confronts her again, she weakens and gives in: she can no longer resist his declarations of love.
Victorious, Don Alfonso explains to the disillusioned friends his cynical philosophy of life: cosí fan tutte - all women are like that. The wedding of the two new couples is quickly prepared. Despina enters disguised as a notary. In the middle of the marriage ceremony the old suitors Ferrando and Guglielmo suddenly appear, returned from the war. There are feelings of disappointment and reproach on the part of the men towards the women, who for their part express feelings of guilt, shame and regret. Alfonso reveals the game he has played and urges reconciliation. In the midst of the general despair nobody wants to reject his suggestion. The couples agree to a reconciliation as the best of all possible solutions.
Translation: Christopher Balme
© Bavarian State Opera