The Peabody Opera Theatre presents

Così fan tutte

music by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

text by Lorenzo da Ponte

JoAnn Kulesza, music director

A. Scott Parry, stage director

Thomas Donahue, set designer

Douglas Nelson, lighting designer

Peabody Symphony Orchestra

Thursday–Saturday, November 91–21, 2009 at 7:30 PM
Sunday, November 22, 2009 at 3:00 PM
Miriam A. Friedberg Concert Hall
Peabody Conservatory of Music
1 East Mt. Vernon Place
Baltimore, Maryland
Admission $25 / Seniors $15 / Students with ID $10
Box Office: 410/659-8100 x2, or book online
Cast list        Peabody Opera home

The story of Così fan tutte (“All women do it”) is so well-known as to require no more than the briefest summary. Two young officers, Ferrando and Gugliemo, are engaged to two sisters, Dorabella and Fiordiligi. Their friend and mentor Don Alfonso, tired of hearing the young men boasting of the virtue of their paragons, engages them in a bet. They will pretend to go away only to return in disguise to woo the other one’s sweetheart. If by the end of 24 hours, neither woman has fallen, the men will have won their bet. The action that follows, aided and abetted by the sisters’ maid Despina, goes through many madcap stages and reversals. But soon real emotions come into play, and what had begun as farce comes uncomfortably close to tragedy. Alfonso wins his bet, of course, but by now the demonstration is not confined merely to women’s infidelity, but to men’s desires also.

Original playbill
The playbill from the first production

Guest stage director A. Scott Parry writes:

Così fan tutte is a crowning example of the Enlightenment’s search for balance between idealistic opposites: masculine and feminine, rational and emotional, social and individual. It begins within the structured confines of societal regulations and steadily makes its way into the amorphous and mysterious variations of the natural and instinctual, finally returning again to its origin. But on its return, we are able to perceive its path through an opposite lens, clearly seeing the results of the steps and missteps made from the start. It presents for the characters, and for us by extension, a “teachable moment,” as is made clear by the opera’s alternate title La scuola degli amanti (The School for Lovers). More than anything, Così finds its true purpose in teaching youthful lovers the folly of idealism and embittered critics a path back from cynicism.

1981 Peabody production
Charles Nieberding
The last production in the old Peabody Concert Hall, 1981
Judith Pannill, James Harp, and Beth Rothenberg; Roger Brunyate director/designer

We begin by breakfasting with the boys at a café and get the set-up and plan of action. This Act is the “masculine” Act. Everything takes place in the light of day, all being overseen by the symbolically logical and rational Sun. The men are the motivators here. Theirs are the plans that play themselves out and to which the women react. We, the audience, are made aware of their scheme and share in the spinning-out of the plot. The scene moves to the sisters’ terrace, who have received gifts, presumed to be from their men; they behave as we expect they will when confronted with harsh separation, as they are wooed by the “Albanians,” and eventually rebuke them. All this proceeds as we’ve been told would happen. We then move outside to the gardens. As the scene plays on, dusk settles and twilight begins to envelop the stage. A shift has started to take place within the lovers. Expectations, ours and theirs, begin to be questioned as night falls.

Lancret: Serenade
Lancret: Serenade
As the curtain opens on Act Two, things are as we left them — the sisters and Despina are in the garden, the moon is in the sky. The story goes forward, except now we find ourselves in the “feminine” of night. This is the girls’ Act. They are the motivators of the action and motivations become more obscure. Shadows pervade, cool moonlight bathes over all and uncertain emotions reign where once a sure masculine reason held sway. The girls decide on a more individual tack and we find ourselves back on their terrace, now romantically festooned with lanterns and flower petals. As an audience, we no longer know quite what to expect. Neither do the men. Social convention has been disrupted and who can know who goes with whom and what might result? Eventually, the individual-emotional wins out over the social-rational and everything has shifted 180 degrees from where we began. Alfonso was right; the expected social order has been turned on its head.

Final scene in the 2002 Peabody production
Jesse Hellman
The final scene in the 2002 Peabody production
Shannon Kiser, Jennifer Strauss, and Chad Freeburg

Ultimately, we come full circle, returning to the café, the dawn just beginning to break as decorations are hung and plans are set for the impending nuptials. As the sun ascends the sky, the soldiers come back and all is exposed and judged by the bright light of day, leaving us with the task of putting the broken egg back into its shell, which by this point, we fully realize is an impossible task to accomplish. In the last moments of the Act, the lovers are reunited, but now share a greater understanding of the balance that must be found between opposing ideals, for each has gained a sense that any belief without acceptance of other possibilities is simply unsustainable. Forgiveness abounds and authentic love now is more truly known. An Enlightened equilibrium has been realized in the balancing of idealistic extremes.

List of Singers

Singers listed first appear in the Thursday and Saturday performances.
Passing the cursor over singer’s names will show any previous roles.
Fiordiligi   Katherine Woodward
Jennifer Edwards
Dorabella   Marissa Del Campo
Laura Koznarek
Despina   Elexa Bancroft
Stephanie Kruskol
Ferrando   Peter Drackley
David Kirkwood
Guglielmo   James Parks
Nathan Wyatt
Don Alfonso   Benjamin Moore
Servants, Soldiers &c.  Amy Chao (s)
Huyngji Chang (a)
Daniel Taylor (t)
Jordan Markham (b)