Boston Conservatory at Berklee Presents Mozart's Opera 'Così Fan Tutte'

January 26, 2018 Susan Scotti

Boston Conservatory at Berklee presents the opera Così fan tutte, written by Mozart and Lorenzo Da Ponte in 1790—their third collaboration and arguably their strongest. This sparkling comedy begins with a wager between a cynical old bachelor and two young men, who swear that their fiancées will always be faithful. The boys pretend to go off to war, and then return—disguised as Albanians—to woo each other’s betrothed, aided by the wily chambermaid of the ladies. Lessons in love are learned, unrealistic expectations are shattered, and everyone comes out a little wiser in the process. Although well-received when it was written, Così fan tutte lost favor in the mid-19th century, since Victorian audiences found the subject scandalous. The opera gained a new audience in the mid-20th century and has remained popular ever since. The Conservatory’s production will be sung in Italian with English supertitles.

“It is important to take a fresh look at how to make Così fan tutte relevant for today’s audience,” said director Johnathon Pape, professor of opera. “The title itself has a built-in double standard—it means 'all women are like that.' The subtitle, ossia la scuola degli amanti, or 'the school for lovers,' is perhaps less overtly sexist, but doesn’t address the imbalance inherent in the plot. The male characters are equally guilty of deception, inconstancy, and unrealistic romantic expectations, but only the women are condemned. Worse, the cynical old bachelor Don Alfonso excuses the women, saying, ‘It is just their nature to be fickle!’ Sadly, Mozart and Da Ponte never considered calling their work Così fan tutti ('everyone is like that').”

Despite the mixed messages in the show, Pape sees merit in presenting it from an educational standpoint. “The opera is a valid experience for singers and orchestra alike. Learning to perform Mozart well is a critical part of our students’ training. The arias in Così are as beautiful as they are technically challenging, and the score contains some of Mozart’s best ensemble writing. These are characters that young singers can relate to and successfully portray, and since the opera is frequently performed, it is valuable for them to have the roles in their repertoire.”
Così fan tutte
will be performed at Boston Conservatory Theater, February 8 through 10; and at Shalin Liu Performance Center in Rockport, Massachusetts, on Sunday, February 11.