Così fan tutte (often shortened to Così in the English-speaking world) 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.
Così was written and composed at the suggestion of the Emperor Joseph II. The libretto was originally intended to be set to music by Mozart’s contemporary Antonio Salieri but Salieri only completed parts of the first act and then broke off work on the opera.
The title, Così fan tutte, literally means “Thus do all [women]” but it is often translated as “Women are like that”. The first performance of Mozart’s setting took place at the Burgtheater in Vienna on January 26, 1790.
Synopsis Mozart and Da Ponte took as a theme “fiancée swapping” which dates back to the 13th century, with notable earlier versions being those of Boccaccio’s Decameron and Shakespeare’s play Cymbeline. Elements from Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew are also present. Furthermore, it incorporates elements of the myth of Procris as found in Ovid’s Metamorphoses, vii.
The two officers Ferrando and Guilelmo are in a coffehouse raving about their brides, the two sisters Dorabella and Fiordiligi. Their skeptical friend Don Alfonso, as old philosopher, expresses his doubt concerning the women’s fidelity, immediately provoking such indignation on the part of the young men that they challenge him to a duel.