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The old cynic has inveigled the young men into a wager that involves disguise and a swapping of girlfriends. Suddenly they are apparently summoned by the army to take ship for foreign service. The only consolation in the midst of total heartbreak will be a daily letter [listen -- DVD 1 chapter 6, 30:00-31:29]. The 'soldiers' return to the tenement and the astonishment of its curious inhabitants as 'Albanians', exotic enough to interest the young ladies but in no way to shake their devotion. It is only when the visitors resort to poison in despair at their rejection and the maid Despina (Barbara Bonney) brings them round as a pseudo-doctor that the female fortress begins to crumble [listen -- DVD 1 chapter 14, 82:19-83:40].

Ruggero Raimondi (Don Alfonso), Elina Garanca (Dorabella), Barbara Bonney (Despina) and Erin Wall (Fiordiligi) at the end of Act I of Così fan tutte. © 2006 Azor Films/Bel Air Media
Ruggero Raimondi (Don Alfonso), Elina Garanca (Dorabella), Barbara Bonney (Despina) and Erin Wall (Fiordiligi) at the end of Act I of Così fan tutte. © 2006 Azor Films/Bel Air Media

Of course there is total capitulation. The young men can hardly face their disillusion, but Alfonso has won the bet and convinces his friends that all women are just the same [listen -- DVD 2 chapter 9, 65:05-65:59]. Having already written Don Giovanni, Mozart was in a strong position to make such a case; in isolation Così needs more sensitive handling not to risk breaking whatever may be the latest law regarding such matters. Operatic misunderstanding, though, can be quickly cleared up, and we are left in no doubt by Mozart, Da Ponte or the admirable cast and chorus that for the time being everyone is radiantly happy. But how will the malevolent Alfonso spend his ill-gotten gains [listen -- DVD 2 chapter 12, 85:10-86:47]?

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Copyright © 2 November 2006 Robert Anderson, Cairo, Egypt

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