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.
Runtime: 3 hours 21 minutes