School for Lovers


It might seem as if Mozart and Da Ponte have returned to the traditional 18th century opera buffa form with stock personages lifted from the commedia dell’arte. But this is just at a preliminary, superficial glance. A few years earlier Mozart had described a similar model in a letter to his father: “Here what is needed are two female roles of equal importance, one of them should be serious, the other — a demi-character part. And in terms of quality the roles should be equal. The third female role can be entirely comical. The same goes for the men”. But in Così fan tutte Mozart does not follow the symmetrical nature of this scheme. His characters acquire new traits: the ‘serious’ Ferrando also gets comical music, while the ‘demi-character’ Dorabella is given an aria worthy of a tragic heroine. The opera totally departs from the traditional definitions of the genre. Its authors themselves designate it as a dramma giocoso. In point of fact Così fan tutte embraces a vast spectrum of genres — ranging all the way from opera seria to frivolous farce. The comic and the dramatic are superimposed one upon the other. The inappropriateness of high pathos raises a smile, while beyond the play acting live human emotions and true drama suddenly come to the fore. The opera’s apparent superficiality conceals thoughts about the motives for a man’s actions, the fickleness of human nature, the rules governing society, and the ‘dictates of the heart’.

has only had one production at the Bolshoi — in 1978. The première performances were conducted by Yuri Simonov, the staging was by Natalia Kasatkina and Vladimir Vasilyov, Valery Leventhal did the sets. The production was given 52 performances and in 1986 it was dropped from the repertoire.
In 1989, La Scala presented its production of Così fan tutte at the Bolshoi.
In 2012, the Bolshoi returned to the opera, giving it a concert performance at the Tchaikovsky Concert Hall.
And now, two years on, the Theatre is to get its second production of Così fan tutte at the hands of a young production team headed by the Dutch director Floris Visser.

Floris Visser, Alexandra Kadurina, Anna Krainikova

After learning to sing, acting in theatre and cinema, and teaching Visser, who turned 30 last year, opted for the profession of opera director. He has staged productions at Amsterdam’s Royal Theater Carré, De Nederlandse Opera, the Royal Theater of The Hague, and for the Theatre Osnabrück (Germany). Last year he was appointed Artistic Director of the Opera Trionfo (Amstelven, the Netherlands).

According to Visser, Così fan tutte is anything but a frivolous work:

“On the title page of the score Mozart and Da Ponte clearly indicated the genre — “drama giocoso”. And for me the key word here is “drama”. To locate and show the heart of this drama, to penetrate to its core — such is my goal.

I am inspired by Caravaggio. It seems to me that he, like no one else, manages to grasp a concrete moment in the story he wants to tell. He is brilliant at highlighting key points and leaving less important details in the shadows. I try to achieve this too. To achieve clarity of ideas, naturalness in acting and to avoid melodramatization (which in the case of this opera is pretty difficult,because at times its libretto is fairly paradoxical).

As I see it there is only one world where this plot with all its switching of costumes and failure to see through disguises can exist naturally. And that is the world of theatre. And therefore we will create this magical world on stage and Don Alfonso will be its boss.

A key moment, in my view, is the finale. We see four young people (and here it is crucial they are very young) after they have been given a very bitter lesson. In the course of life we are all dealt such lessons. In effect it is to grow up. And we see alongside them a man who has long reached adulthood — Don Alfonso. Why did he involve them in this game, changing the rules of the game himself as he went along? The libretto does not provide us with an answer to this question.

But we can find similar motifs in the literature of that age — for instance, in Shoderlo de Laklo’s Dangerous Liaisons. Social games of this sort were common in the 18th century. I personally am not inclined to view the opera’s finale as a happy and conciliatory ending. It is sufficient to read the libretto carefully to realize that this is not the case. Here no one emerges as the winner. Each person arrives at the finale with a broken heart. This is a very human opera. Despite the comic and, at times, even farcical element, it contains real pain, real drama and real love".

On the podium is Stefano Montanari, the famous Italian violinist and conductor, and specialist in authentic performance. Montanari collaborates with the Accademia Bizantina and Orchestra 1813 ensembles, the Baroque Orchestra of the Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia, Opéra de Lyon, Teatro la Fenice, Toronto’s Opera Atelier etc., And this is his fourth Così fan tutte.

Stefano Montanari:

"Così fan tutte
is a story for all times. A story about what a man is and what a woman is. After all throughout the history of mankind our inner essence has remained virtually unchanged. When we read Da Ponte’s text it does not seem dated. When I read it for the first time, I repeated to myself over and over again: ‘That is exactly it!’

Mozart’s musical treatments are striking: how he constructed the opera, his distribution of the voices, arrangement of the recitatives, his use of the forms of old music. The finest thing about Mozart is that he is always new. He never repeats himself, each time he seeks for new means. Each of his operas is a discovery.

The Così Fan tutte sets are by the young British designer Gideon Davey. Davey has worked with such directors as Robert Carsen, David Alden, Stephen Lawless. He has designed for the Glyndebourne and Edinburgh Festivals, the Aix-en-Provence Opera Festival. He has collaborated with the world’s leading opera houses and theatres, amongst which are London’s Royal Opera House, ENO, Bavarian State Opera, Berlin’s Komische-Oper, Theater an der Wien, La Fenice, Opéra de Lyons, London’s Royal National Theatre.

Répétitions. Photo by Damir Yusupov.

All the singers taking part in the production are as young as their heroes. They are members and graduates of the Bolshoi Theatre’s Young Opera Artists Program, as well as Company soloists and guest artists:

Anna Krainikova and Ekaterina Morozova (Fiordiligi),
Alexandra Kadurina and Julia Mazurova (Dorabella),
Alina Yarova and Nina Minasyan (Despina),
Yuri Gorodetsky and Alexei Neklyudov (Ferrando),
Alexander Miminoshvili and Andrei Zhilikhovsky (Guglielmo),
Nikolai Kazansky and Oleg Tsybulko (Don Alfonso).

The première series of performances will be on 24th-25th and 27th-31st May and lst June.