Così fan tutte, ossia La scuola degli amanti (Thus Do They All, or The School For Lovers) K. 588, is an opera buffa by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. The libretto was written by Lorenzo Da Ponte.
Così fan tutte is one of the three Mozart operas for which Da Ponte wrote the libretto. The other two Da Ponte-Mozart collaborations were Le nozze di Figaro and Don Giovanni.
Although it is commonly held that Così fan tutte was written and composed at the suggestion of the Emperor Joseph II, recent research does not support this idea. There is evidence that Mozart's contemporary Antonio Salieri tried to set the libretto but left it unfinished. In 1994, John Rice uncovered two terzetti by Salieri in the Austrian National Library.
The title, Così fan tutte, literally means "Thus do all [women]" but it is often simplified to "Women are like that". The words are sung by the three men in Act II, Scene xiii, just before the finale. Da Ponte had used the line "Così fan tutte le belle" earlier in Le nozze di Figaro (in Act I, Scene vii).
The first performance of Mozart's setting took place at the Burgtheater in Vienna on January 26, 1790.
The subject matter (see synopsis below) did not offend Viennese sensibilities of the time, but throughout the 19th and early 20th centuries it was considered risqué. The opera was rarely performed, and when it did appear it was presented in one of several bowdlerised libretti.
After World War II, it regained its place in the standard operatic repertoire. It is frequently performed and appears as number fifteen on Opera America's list of the 20 most-performed operas in North America.
While the use of modern fach titles and categories has become customary, Mozart was far more general in his own descriptions of voice type: Fiordiligi (soprano), Dorabella (soprano), Guglielmo (bass), Ferrando (tenor), Despina (soprano), Don Alfonso (bass).
Occasionally the voice categories outlined here are deviated from in performance practice. Don Alfonso is frequently performed by baritones such as Thomas Allen and Bo Skovhus and Despina is often performed by a mezzo-soprano, such as Cecilia Bartoli, Frederica von Stade and Agnes Baltsa. Guglielmo has been performed by basses such as James Morris and Wladimiro Ganzarolli, and Dorabella is occasionally (though far less often than the other three instances cited here) performed by a soprano. Ferrando and Fiordiligi, however, can only be sung by a tenor and a soprano due to the taxing high tessitura of their roles.
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