ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Wacky farce, philosophical waxing and desperate tragicomedy thread throughout Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s “Così fan tutte.”
This “school for lovers” will be performed by the University of New Mexico Opera Theatre on Friday, Feb. 28, and Saturday, Feb. 29, repeating on Monday, March 1.
The composer’s classic opera buffa (comic opera) pits men against women in a satirical swipe at the battle of the sexes.
“We always try to choose something that is appropriate for the students we have,” director Sam Shepperson said. “Mozart is more appropriate for a college student than maybe Verdi or Puccini or some of the bigger works. The orchestral parts are lighter; they’re not so full that you have to sing so big.”
About 25 students will sing in Italian, including the six principal roles and a chorus, accompanied by the UNM Symphony Orchestra. Supertitles will translate the lyrics.
“Così” marks the largest production since Shepperson arrived at UNM in 2011.
“All of the ladies’ vocals are double cast,” he added.
The opera has long proved controversial, first for its title, which translates to “Women Are Like That.” The work was unpopular with Mozart’s contemporaries, who dismissed it as clumsy. It premiered in 1790, but languished until the mid-20th century.
The plot is a bittersweet meditation on women’s faithfulness against a backdrop of disguises, false farewells and deceptions.
“Don Alfonso approaches the men about their girlfriends and says no woman can be faithful,” Shepperson said. “The men say, ‘Oh, you’re crazy.’ ”
Don Alfonso hatches a plan to prove his theory.
Determined to prove him wrong, two young men dress up as Albanians and attempt to seduce the others’ lover.
Lorenzo Da Ponte, who also wrote “Le nozze di Figaro” and “Don Giovanni,” wrote the libretto in his final collaboration with Mozart.
Da Ponte reportedly wrote the role of Fiordiligi for his mistress. But Mozart hated her singing so much that he filled her showpiece aria with big leaps from low to high notes and back again in order to make her head “bob like a chicken” on stage.