*FREE INTERVIEW* George Jackson on Mozart’s Così fan tutte

Interviewed 29th April 2018 on the production currently running at Opera Holland Park until 22nd June.


Winner of the 2015 Aspen Conducting Prize, London-born conductor George Jackson came to international attention after stepping in at short notice for Daniel Harding at the Philharmonie de Paris. Highlights in 2018 include his company debut as Associate Conductor of Opera Holland Park (Così Fan Tutte), a new production for Kammeroper Frankfurt (Pagliacci), and concerts with the London Symphony Orchestra and the Opéra Orchestre National Montpellier. In 2017 he made his Hamburg State Opera debut, and has conducted the ORF Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra, the Nordwestdeutsche Philharmonie, the Haydn Orchestra di Bolzano e Trento, the RTÉ Concert and Symphony Orchestras, the Vienna Chamber Orchestra, the Transylvania State Philharmonic Orchestra, Ensemble Intercontemporain, and Les Arts Florissants. In 2010, George founded the Vienna-based Speculum Musicae Opera Company, conducting new productions of Pergolesi’s La serva padrona and Charpentier’s David et Jonathas.


So, how long have you been learning Così fan tutte?


Well, with repertoire pieces you just start learning them when you know they exist. The first time I remember specifically because I was quite new to opera, when I was a student in Dublin. I studied musicology and composition first of all, and the university had a massive DVD collection of operas. I remember watching the famous Glyndebourne production from the 90’s on DVD in my student accommodation, I must have been twenty or twenty-one – that was the first I knew of Così fan tutte. So from then on I’ve come across it again and again. Having spent a lot of time living in Austria and then Germany after that, it’s an opera that’s definitely on somewhere very close by at least once a year, if not more. So I’ve seen a lot of it over the last five years or so.


When did you find out you were working on the project?


I was invited in November. There are things coming up in the next year or eighteen months that I’ve known about for longer, but this particular position at Opera Holland Park is quite a new position that they’ve created, so that’s why it was quite a late process.


Ah, right I see! So how do you go about preparing an opera score? What’s your process?


Well, the first thing is to know what’s being said in the text. At first, I don’t really touch any of the music or even look at the score. I usually just take just the libretto and translate that or read it through (depending on what language it’s in). I always feel I’m working more as a director or a dramaturg at the very beginning – the school of conducting (in Vienna) I trained in was one that was very much based on the idea of simply asking lots of questions as part of the studying process. I basically take the vocal score, and just go it through asking ‘what does this mean? Why is the music like that?’ but on a smaller scale without thinking about the orchestration.


Then I consider how I would coach this with a singer on the basis of purely what they’re singing, before bringing any of the orchestra in. There is so much little detail in the way that the text unfolds, especially in a piece like this where there is a lot of recitative as well. So it’s a layered process – beginning with the text and the drama and then working up to the full score. I make little notes as well. Generally, I’ll go through and translate everything word for word, but sometimes I look at how other people have translated it as well.


So, do you speak Italian yourself?


I do speak Italian. I work in Italy quite a lot but I think speaking Italian (and ordering a few beers) is so different to reading what da Ponte has come up with!


I’ll also go through the score and put in a lot of the IPA (the phonetics of the language). That’s important, especially in recitative – just making sure the vowels are in the right places etc. We have an all-native-English cast so the language is quite important in terms of coaching. Then I’ll make little notes (more as a director actually, than as a conductor) specifically about how I read a particular line or what that tells you about the character. As much as it’s nice to read around a piece like Così, what I think is most important is what the characters are saying and what it tells us about them. And then what does the music tell us about those characters? By the time you’ve really got to know the piece, you have a strong idea of what those characters are, which prepares you for the questions that the singers are going to be asking.


And is there any difference in that process for you when it’s a Mozart opera?


I think what’s specific to Mozart, especially in this context, is that you’re stopping and starting quite a lot. You also have the drama moving forward in ensembles, rather than recitative, particularly in the larger ensembles in Così. In the two finales and the sextet, you have important tempo changes that reflect what’s happening on stage, and important plot developments. So I think a lot of what I’m studying, particularly with Mozart, is pacing, and how the different tempo changes are paced out over the whole act. Many composers have done that for you – if you take a Wagner act, for example, the sense of pacing is there in the way it’s written out. But with Mozart the conductor seems to be responsible for how that actually unfolds.


Right, so how do you work with the transitions between recitatives and arias?


I think, particularly in Mozart, there are times when you can take out the chords that end certain recitatives (i.e. so that you go straight into the next number). Stuart Wild is a very talented repititeur who works with us at Opera Holland Park and he’s playing fortepiano for the production. With Mozart, Rossini or any opera where there is accompanied continuo, the creative aspect of that doesn’t just lie with the conductor. The repetiteur draws on their own experience, it’s very collaborative. Sometimes, for example, when Despina enters it’s nice to play the little theme from her first aria, almost like a leitmotif. Whoever is responsible for playing the continuo can use their creative license in collaboration with everyone else. Many of the creative conversations in our rehearsal room were between director and repetiteur, which totally reflects Olly Platt’s incredibly musical approach to directing.


As the conductor, you’re the one that has to make sure that the orchestra play together at the start of each new number. It shouldn’t feel like everyone’s just going straight through the words and then act like ‘ok now we’re going to sing an aria, let’s go’! There should be a sense of involvement with everything that’s going on as well, which is quite a hard balance.


But it is also a chance to have a very small rest as well.


Yeah, just lean back a bit…


Yeah, exactly.


But there is some accompanied recitative (with the orchestra) as well isn’t there?


Yes that’s right. Accompanied recit for a lot of conductors is like the equivalent to weight lifting for people who go to the gym. In a way it’s the biggest technical test for a conductor because anything can go wrong. It’s all about exact, perfect timing with what’s being sung or what’s happening on the stage. We have to gauge how the orchestra are reacting as well as the characters. But accompanied recits are amazing because I think they give such an importance to something that someone’s saying, which kind of wakes people up.


Yes, it suddenly opens the drama out in a different way doesn’t it? But he only does it a few times.


Yes. The big one’s in the first act, you have both Fiordiligi and Dorabella’s aria, there are the big accompanied recits before going into their arias. There’s another big one in Act II before Ferrando’s aria as well. Then there’s a little one with Don Alfonso: there’s a few with Don Alfonso but there’s one where the strings join suddenly once he realises that he recognizes the two Albanian guys that turn up (and he pretends that they’re his best friends). It’s great because it’s like the strings wake up, and you get the feeling that the orchestra are in on the joke as well. The orchestra is like another character, I think. It is in most operas, but there’s definitely that feeling in Così.


It’s all modern instruments at Opera Holland Park isn’t it?


Yes, that’s right. The orchestra is the City of London Sinfonia.


And what are the numbers, how big is the orchestra?


The string numbers are 6-5-4-3-2.


Right, so it is quite an intimate set-up. Have you conducted there before, do you know the acoustic?


Well I’ve been to see shows there and I know the difficulties, but I’ve never conducted there so that’s quite exciting!


It’s a very wide stage and a very wide pit, which is wooden but has a carpeted floor. From what I hear the singers can all hear it quite well from the stage, which is always a good thing. One of the difficulties is that when singing into the sides, you lose everything in the front of the house. So we’ve got to be quite careful with placing people and who’s singing at certain times, to make sure that things are always heard at the front. Once we get the set in, you start to get the feeling of resonance, and whether or not a set is helping things.


What can you tell me about the staging/costumes etc.?


Olly, the director, has set it in 1790 in Naples (where it was originally set). So he’s not doing anything over the top to it, which is great. I haven’t seen the costumes yet, but he draws on two English characters that lived in the late Eighteenth Century, and did these big European tours. They were very flamboyant and wore all of these mad costumes. The idea for Ferrando and Guglielmo is that they have also have these crazy costumes that they try on, like those English guys. So that’s sort of the basis of the deception of the piece – there are all of these quite over the top costumes!


Ah I see. Because a lot of people don’t buy into the story do they? They find it a bit far fetched.



… and it’s seen as sexist as well.


Yeah, that’s interesting. Many Mozart operas can be read in a sexist way. In Magic Flute there’s that line ‘Ein Weib tut wenig, plaudert viel’ (‘a wife doesn’t do very much and talks a lot’) which is the approximate translation. It’s terrible! But the thing with Così is that when you look at it on paper, of course it’s completely sexist, but I think you have to consider the context and the way that the story is told. It’s similar to how a lot of comedians talk about how you get newspapers printing a joke they told, but you can’t write down how it’s coming across. In Mozart’s operas, particularly in Figaro but also here in Così, his female characters are usually the strongest. If you think about Fiordiligi’s aria ‘come scoglio’, and Despina is also very strong in the same way that Susanna is in Figaro. Actually I think the guys have the potential to look more stupid. As I said, maybe it’s sexist on paper but ultimately they’re the idiots!


Mozart and Da Ponte knew each other very well. They just knew exactly what defined each character. What’s great is that right down to the last note or to the last rhythm, they have a strong idea of who these characters are. So it’s very easy to think of it in black and white terms, but it’s a complicated plot with complicated characters. They’re ordinary people like everybody else.


Yeah, and very young as well, they’re teenagers.


Certainly the sisters are very young – teenagers. It’s not specified exactly how old the guys are, we presume they’re not that much older than the girls. Don Alfonso, we also presume, is an older, cynical character. It’s about life experience in contrast with people who are young and living off their feelings a little bit. It’s a theme of so many operas – La Traviata contrasts generations, with Papa Germont who thinks he knows what’s best and the young Alfredo and Violetta who are just in love and don’t really care about anything else. There’s that generational divide built into Così as well.


Apparently Constanze, his widow, didn’t think that Così would last because it was a weak story. Some writers speculate on the reasons why Mozart was attracted to the plot, mentioning that he initially fell in love with Aloysia, the sister of his wife.[1] So perhaps Così isn’t so far-fetched after all…! I’m sure I’ve seen similar storylines in Eastenders and Neighbours.


(laughs) well it’s definitely a theme isn’t it?!


Yes, it can get very interesting once you think about it in that way. Does the consideration of all this deception and disguise alter the way you interpret the music?


Well, the audience are the only people in the room that know everything that’s going on. First of all, you have to decide who’s singing to whom and who can hear it and who can’t. That’s very, very important. For example, in the Act I quintet (‘Sento, oh Dio, che questo piede’) there are many lines where the guys are delighted as they’re talking to Don Alfonso, but of course they don’t want the girls to hear what they’re talking about. I think it’s really important to agree with the stage director about whether we’re seeing somebody acting or seeing someone that is being honest about themselves.


Ferrando’s aria ‘Un’aura amorosa’ is another particularly good example. Is he taking time out of the plot and singing a beautiful song about Dorabella (his actual lover), or is everybody listening and this is part of his trickery? And is Despina doing all of this just because she wants a bit of money, or does she have a moral lesson that she wants to teach? That is something that director is more responsible for, but it is layered and that can change the way that it’s going to be sung. Part of that process is working out why are they saying this and what’s in it for them. What’s great about the singers in this new production at Opera Holland Park is that they all want to get into that level of detail. They want to understand every word they’re saying, how it’s coming across and how it fits into the staging. Every time I see Così I always feel that I want to get a remote control and press pause, to remind myself who wants what from what’s going on right now. It changes all the time!


So how do you to reflect or compliment those dramatic decisions in the orchestra’s performance?


Well, it’s sort of a continuous work in progress really. A brilliant example is No. 8a ‘Di scrivermi ogni giorno’ – it’s a very small quintet, where the girls are telling the guys to ‘write to me every day, don’t forget me’ etc. The guys sing ‘don’t doubt it, of course we’re going to write to you’. Don Alfonso’s on his own saying something a bit different, how he wants to laugh and thinks it’s all going to be hilarious. The guys have created this cruel situation, and the girls have piangendo written in their parts (they’re crying). But it’s the orchestra that creates the atmosphere that allows the girls to cry, particularly in this quintet. Maybe they don’t have to be aware of it, but they have to play them in a way that is oversentimental, because this is all fake, these emotions, at least for three of the characters.


Oh, it’s really clever isn’t it?


It’s incredible how it works.


In a lot of the books about Mozart’s operas there is attention placed on Fiordiligi and the way she caves in with Ferrando in the duet ‘Fra gli amplessi’.[2] That relationship seems to be more complex than the one between Dorabella and Guglielmo. Is that quite a difficult scene, that seduction?


Yes, it is a difficult scene, but it’s also kind of a love duet as well (again, that’s this layered effect). It’s weird because even if you’re involved with the piece you start to become a bit convinced by the Albanian guys, and that’s what’s really hard. You’re a little bit seduced by this new relationship and think ‘wow, they’re so nice to each other, what a great relationship they’re going to have!’ But it’s not like that.


Yes, you read that and hear that a lot – that’s the couple that people actually think is the good match.


Well, the end of the opera is ambiguous with regard to who ends up with which partner. That’s not specified, and it’s done in different ways in every single piece. But when you look at that duet, for example, you do think they’d probably have quite a good relationship.


So for you, as the conductor, what are the particularly challenging scenes?


I think one of the biggest challenges is that it’s an opera that’s so much more about ensembles than arias. Most of the big numbers have two people singing together, or you have textures of different groups together. You have to make quite a lot of decisions about what you’re going to do in order to make that work. For example, Mozart often writes sotto voce (‘lower the voice’) under the voice parts, so a lot of the time you’re trying to play with the dynamics of the voices and how emphasised the consonants are. And I think there’s the challenge to make sure that it’s not just recitative, aria, recitative, aria in the way that Handel’s music was earlier on in that century. We need to make sure that the drama and how it’s unfolding are being understood, and that’s quite a challenge. It’s very easy to just sing everything and make it all very grand and over the top. I keep finding myself saying to the singers that it’s much more like singing chorally. So finding that different, slightly subtle way of doing things is really important.


So are there any areas where that issue of balance with the voices is particularly pertinent?


Yes, in the sextet in Act I, No. 13.


You’ve got all these musical layers going on at once. It’s almost like you can see the cinematography of the film from the way the music is written. You’ve got Don Alfonso singing something, then the two men follow. Then Despina shows up and gradually they all come together. A good example is around bar 38–9. You have Despina at the top (singing ‘lo non so se son Valacchi o se Turchi son costor’) making fun of the Albanian characters and how they’ve dressed up. But she’s supposed to be laughing, so the best thing is to get a very short articulation so it has that laughing quality, but also that her words and text come through the texture well. I’ve found shortening notes have been very useful, so that the emphasis comes on the speaking/parlando rather than the sound of six people singing over each other (which it can become quite easily). The guys are singing very sotto voce, Ferrando is singing quite high in his register but actually still part of the backing singer group, so it takes a lot of refined work on making sure that all of those tiny details are there.


What about comic timing?


Well, of course it’s really, really important – as a conductor it’s usually a question of how long something should take. In the sextet there’s a very small fermata before the molto allegro (bar 127) – there are moments like that you have to work with. I think comic timing is a difficult one, because once you notice that something’s happening you can lose the comic effect. In that number it needs to feel natural, but in that particular place there’s things going on on stage (the girls are responding to the guys) so I think it’s just about being flexible with how things naturally start to look on stage.


Ah, so it’s something you just have to develop a feel for.


Yeah, and actually it’s about responding to how the singers get a feeling for it as well. The most important thing is that the natural comedy that is clearly on the page is able to translate itself. I think it’s also a question of the way the recitatives are working as well – especially Don Alfonso who’s in charge of the whole thing. You have to watch how long he leaves it to say a line. A good example is the recitative shortly after Don Alfonso’s aria (no. 5) where Don Alfonso informs the girls quite early on in Act I (bar 8 of that recitative)] that their men have gone off to be called to the war. They ask ‘are they dead?’ they want to know what’s going on, what’s up with them. Don Alfonso says ‘morti non son’ (‘they’re not dead’) but it’s a very funny, quite traditional joke. He can say ‘morti’, and then wait a bit before saying ‘non son’. So the girls think they are dead, and panic. It shows that he has the power over them a little bit.


That, of course, isn’t written in the score at all.


So there are no extra comic timing issues that the production is giving you? Nothing like ‘the door has to open at this point’ etc.


No not yet, we’re just experimenting with those kinds of things at the moment. And they will evolve as the singers respond to the audience throughout the course of the run too!


Is there much improvisation by the musicians?


Well, the culture of improvising is still very much in the tradition of playing continuo for these recitatives – improvising around the ground of what’s actually there, the accompanying chords. In a way I think it needs to be improvised in the rehearsal room, especially as we have a young team (including a young director). With this well-timed comedic ensemble piece, the singing actors need to find a way to portray those characters in the right way. They are improvising these lines until they work. When Stuart is accompanying at the continuo, he’s definitely improvising, he’s highlighting aspects of what the words might be. There might be a particular word that’s important or has a percussive effect so he’ll play something more percussive. I think you get to that point by improvising and by developing a sense of what that is – and it would be boring to think that what we do on night one is the same as every night.


Yes. Any cuts?


Yeah, we’re doing most of the normal cuts e.g. the Ferrando aria which is very high and traditionally cut. Quite a lot of recitatives are cut as well.[3] We’re doing the original Guglielmo aria. Mozart decided to put in a shorter aria because he felt the one he’d originally written was too big and took away from the natural energy of how the piece was developing into the Finale of Act I. But we’re doing the original aria. After the first showing of Così in Vienna, he still played around with it – I don’t think it’s ever in its complete state. Cutting things and taking things out is all part of the service of putting on a good show.


So, it’s not about being totally faithful to what’s in the score?


No, I think that’s probably why opera’s so exciting. At the end of the day it’s a form of entertainment, people buy a gin and tonic, they watch the show and then they go home. It’s not a history lesson.


I think cuts are fine; I have no problem with them. What I don’t like is when people of our time question the genius Mozart and Da Ponte in this case. A lot of people like to second guess or say ‘well they didn’t mean this’. They knew exactly what they were doing, and I think our job is to find the balance between bringing out their amazing dramatic instincts and making sure that it comes through in the right way for our time. Otherwise what’s the point? We’re not performing this opera for Eighteenth Century musicologists, we’re performing it for regular people who are interested in going to the theatre. They could have stayed at home and watched Netflix, but they’ve chosen to come to the opera, so it has to be good! So it’s not necessarily about imposing something completely new, but just to make sure it’s communicated effectively. I’ve seen a lot of productions where it’s almost as if they use the score as a starting point for their own thing.


What’s really interesting with this opera is that we look at it very much from now (or the Nineteenth Century) back towards 1790. But at the time it was very much looking forward to how opera was going to develop (particularly with the bel canto composers). I don’t think Così gets as much credit as it should – it’s very mocking of the Eighteenth Century. There’s a sense of parody of Handel occasionally. For example, in ‘come scoglio’, Fiordiligi’s first aria, I don’t know if he’s making fun of the idea of opera, or what Handel did, or what was going on at that time, but there’s definitely a sense that he’s trying to break the mould of how things were (which is of course what Mozart did all the time).


The more I look at the piece, the more I realise how forward looking it is. I think that the way he uses the violas all the way through the piece is revolutionary. In the terzettino, ‘Soave sia il vento’ you have muted first and second violins at the beginning. In this trio they’re wishing the men a good journey on this boat, so this gives it the feeling of the waves. With the thirds going up and down, it’s very much painting the image of the water. But the moment that I love is at the end. The violas (unmuted) suddenly join in for the last four bars, playing what the second violins are playing an octave down. It’s just a very subtle effect, giving it this very dark sound. It looks like something Brahms might do, it’s very ‘Nineteenth Century’ – Mozart is there already. There are little tiny details like that all over the place, he’s definitely looking ahead.


In terms of placing the work in its larger context, do you think of the work as Germanic, as well as Mozartian?


Well, in my head I definitely separate Italian Mozart and German Mozart, because although Magic Flute’s not that far away chronologically, it’s so different. He’s tapping into a different way of doing things, because of the language. But in terms of the style, I suppose it’s more Viennese. At that time Vienna was the centre of everything, it was such a bizarre place. I studied there so I have an affinity with it – you’re at the meeting point of so many different cultures and different worlds. There’s the German, Italian, Hungarian/folk and even Turkish influences as well (which Mozart used in Die Entführung aus dem Serail). They spoke French in the court a lot of the time, so there was a big French influence at the top. Salieri was an Italian composer and he was the Austrian imperial Kapellmeister in Vienna, and Mozart was almost in a minority being from Salzburg. So there are so many different layers, in a way I’d just say it’s European music. I suppose he’s the equivalent of somebody living in New York or London today, there’s certainly that feeling of being very cosmopolitan. But Così is also set in Naples, it’s on the sea, I think that influences the way he writes as well. People talk about the way that he writes for woodwind, that it’s supposed to reflect the feeling of wind from the sea in Naples. So there’s definitely a feeling of location as well.


Salieri actually did an opera that was rather similar, didn’t he?


Yeah I think there was a theory he was going to set this but then abandoned it.


Oh right, what I read is he wrote an opera with a similar plot.[4] But it was more of a fantasy – a magician swaps over the personalities of two sisters. I thought that sounded interesting.


Yeah, the text was criticized a lot, there was talk about the libretto not being as perfect as the music. But I think that’s unfair, there’s something very symmetrical about the piece – this idea of ‘The School of Lovers’ where you have Don Alfonso and Despina at the top and the pairs of the lovers. Despina and Don Alfonso are sometimes saying almost the same words to the two lovers. They’re both saying, ‘why do you think you can believe in being faithful?’ separately to each of their sets of characters. The word fedeltà (faithful) crops up all the time. It’s very economical and satisfying to see how it knits together.


Do you have a preferred ending?


What I want is that they end up back with each other and everyone’s forgiven! I have a theory that part of Despina and Don Alfonso’s motivation is that they were together a long time ago, and had a terrible break up. The reason that they’re so bitter, and why they want to prove that fidelity doesn’t work and it’s all so terrible, is because they both experienced this with each other. I’ve found the way that they are with each other on stage together is sometimes quite awkward, so I’m always convinced that there’s some unspoken sexual tension between them. I love the idea that they also end up together at the end. There’s got to be a reason why Don Alfonso does this, so my theory is that there’s this funny back-story with Despina (although that’s nothing to do with the production we’re doing at Opera Holland Park). In Mozart’s comic operas things always go back to normal at the end. It happens in Shakespeare and it certainly happens in those other Mozart operas. It feels natural that things should get reset.


One of the ideas I’ve become a bit obsessed with is that there are alternative titles each of the Da Ponte operas. Così’s is ‘School for Lovers’, Figaro’s is ‘The Crazy Day’ and then Don Giovanni’s is ‘Il dissoluto punito’ or ‘the punished libertine’. What’s great is that any of those titles can apply to all three Da Ponte operas by Mozart. You could apply the ‘the crazy day’ to Così, as this all seems to happen in one day – by the end of the day they all get married. But I think the important one is ‘the libertine punished’ because there’s a darker aspect to the piece. The guys should be punished – they’ve done a horrible thing (and I think there’s something about Ferrando in particular). So I definitely support the idea of the ending that leaves them on their own. Maybe they’ll become the next Don Alfonso’s and Despina’s, and that’s the end of it. But there’s also a rom-com/Hugh Grant part of me that wants it all to end fantastically.


(laughs) What about the instrumentation, what would be your choice with regards to orchestra size/period instruments etc.?


Well I’m not an expert on period instruments, but if we’re having period costumes on stage then why not? I think certainly it needs an orchestra that’s more along the lines of a chamber orchestra, and one that’s very much in contact with the stage. They need to appreciate that when it’s an accompanied recit, the word accompany doesn’t necessarily mean subordinate to what’s going on. A good opera orchestra is as much a part of what’s going on on stage as anybody else.


So the things like the usual leaner sound, lack of vibrato etc.?


Yes, but I actually think rhythm is the most important thing. Having got to know the Viennese culture, I think people who do jazz are much better with rhythm – it’s not written down. Double dotting and changing rhythms etc. is really important. All of these composers were restricted in how they wrote things down – there’s no question of that.


Oh, to be able to hear what he would have wanted!


Well, we’d probably all be wrong.


I just think if you told him it was 2018 and we were performing Così, he would be completely freaked out. Their theatre culture at the end of the Eighteenth Century was more like how we do musicals now – it was very much that he wrote a piece, then it went up, then it finished, and that was the end. Così wasn’t performed that much. He’d just think ‘well what the hell happened to all your music’?


Bibliography/Recommended Reading


Cairns, D. Mozart and his Operas (Penguin Books Ltd, London, 2006)


Ford, C. Così? Sexual Politics in Mozart’s Operas (Manchester University Press, 1991)


Ford, C. Music, Sexuality and Enlightenment in Mozart’s Figaro, Don Giovanni and Così fan tutte (Ashgate, UK 2012)


Hunter, M. Mozart’s Operas: A Companion (Yale University Press, Cornwall 2008)


Liebner, J. Mozart on the Stage (Calder and Boyars 1972)


Mann, W. The Operas of Mozart (Cassell & Company Ltd, London 1977)


[1] ‘The idea of couple-swapping was, it seems, a standard lazzo in improvised commedia dell‘arte plays; and the notion of disguise to test the chastity of a wife goes back to the myth of Cephalus and Procris in Ovid’s Metamorphoses (copied by Arisoto). Art and life reproduce one another; truth is what matters. Da Ponte accepted the subject, as did Mozart who had fallen in love with Aloysia Weber and then married her sister Constanze on the rebound’ (Mann 1977:522).

[2] For example, Charles Ford suggests that ‘Ferrando presents himself as helpless and miserable in the face of his rejection, but only (perhaps) to stimulate Fiordiligi’s feminine compassion for him. Women, it was assumed, could not exercise sufficient distance between self interest and the interests of others’ (2012:163). He also observes that it is the music, rather than the libretto, that indicate to the audience that the pair are falling in love (164).

[3] Main cuts include the entire No. 7 duettino, substituting “Non siate ritrosi” for No. 15a “Rivolgete a lui”, bars 25-38 of No.21, entire No. 24 “Ah lo veggio”, entire No. 26 “Donne mie”, and bars b. 66-124 of No. 30. There are also a number of small cuts from the recitatives in both Act I and II.

[4] The plot of Così is similar to Salieri’s La Grotta di Trofonio – in which a magician changes the personality of two sisters and similar dramas ensue.