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Così fan tutte


Act I

The worldy-wise Don Alfonso has been saying some pretty harsh things about the fiancées of his friends Guglielmo and Ferrando. He insists that Dorabella and Fiordiligi, two sisters, are capable of being unfaithful (an opinion he holds about all women). Guglielmo and Ferrando contend that their loves are true to them and always will be. The three men decide to settle the matter with a bet. They will put the women to a test. If they are loyal, Guglielmo and Ferrando win; if not, Don Alfonso wins.

Alfonso begins the test by interrupting the swooning sisters and telling them that their men, who are officers in the military, have been called to immediate service on the battlefield. The men arrive, and the couples share an emotional farewell.

The sisters are inconsolable. They angrily reject the advice of their maid Depsina to enjoy this unexpected opportunity to be with other men.

Alfonso bribes Despina into helping him with his plan. He tells her he wishes to make the sisters fall in love with a pair of exotic strangers, but doesn’t mention to Depsina that the strangers will actually be Guglielmo and Ferrando in disguise.

The fake foreigners arrive, flatter Depsina, and fawn over the sisters as soon as they appear. Guglielmo chases Dorabella, Ferrando’s fiancée, and Ferrando chases Fiordiligi. The women order the men out of their home. Guglielmo and Ferrando gloat over the fidelity of their lovers.

Alfonso is not discouraged. He makes the masquerading men pretend to drink poison so that they will get the women’s pity by “dying” at their feet. A “doctor” (Despina in disguise) enters and revives the men, who immediately redouble their courtship. The women react with shock and indignation.

Act II

Despina again urges Fiordiligi and Dorabella to indulge in some innocent flirtation. The idea is starting to grow on them.

Alfonso and Despina arrange another meeting. The new couples pair off, and the men are able to woo the women in private. Each woman eventually gives in to these attentions, and their original lovers are furious to learn that they have been betrayed. Alfonso calms the men and convinces them that they still love their fiancées. When Despina arrives and suggests that the suitors should stage a double wedding with the sisters, the men agree.

The wedding ceremony is nearly completed when soldiers are heard in the distance. The suitors disappear, and Dorabella and Fiordiligi panic as they look for a way to escape punishment for their infidelity. Guglielmo and Ferrando “return” triumphantly from the battle. They discover evidence of a wedding and find a marriage contract signed by the sisters. They leave to find and kill their rivals, only to return dressed half as themselves and half as their own exotic rivals in love.

The plot is revealed to the women, all is forgiven, and everyone agrees that life and love shouldn’t be taken too seriously. As fate twists and turns, the happiest will be those who can laugh and live to love another day.

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