Episode 10: Mozart's Cosi fan tutte: 'Soave sia il vento'

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Thursday, January 29, 2015

Cosi fan tutte K. 588: 'Soave sia il vento'
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Elisabeth Schwarzkopf, soprano; Christa Ludwig, mezzo; Walter Berry, baritone
Philharmonia Orchestra
Karl Bohm, conductor
Available on Arkivmusic.com

Ask opera fans to recommend their favorite slow moments in his stage works, and you might get "Dove sono" from The Marriage of Figaro or "Dies bildnis" from The Magic Flute. Good choices, but sooner or later, and probably sooner, those opera fans are going to bring up "Soave sia il vento," from Cosi fan tutte.

The opera is mostly very polite on its surface, although the theme is anything but: Two men disguising themselves and trying to seduce each others' fiancées to win a bet and prove that "cosi fan tutte" – that all women are like that, meaning fickle and unfaithful. Before they disguise themselves, though, the men pretend to sail off to war. And their fiancées send them off, singing, "Soave sia il vento," – "May the seas be calm and the winds gentle." The sincerity of those wishes is made clear in Mozart’s music. You can practically feel the rolling sea and those gentle winds as the music begins. Here are Elisabeth Schwarzkopf and Christa Ludwig.

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Comments [2]

Roo Bookaroo from NYC

Stephen:

Even your formulation is not correct and misleading.
The bet by Don Alfonso is that as soon as they are no longer around, the promised girls will fall in love with OTHER PEOPLE.
So they are not playing a game against Alfonso's prediction to demonstrate that, even if they try, they will fail in seducing each other's promised bride.
They are demonstrating that OTHER MEN won't be able to do it. In order to introduce OTHER MEN into the play, they will disguise themselves into OTHER MEN, and prove that the girls won't fall for those OTHER MEN.
The original formulation as much as yours gives the impression that they will initiate the effort of seducing each other's girlfriends AS THEMSELVES. Which would be closer to a modern game of girlfriend swapping, when each soldier would openly court his friend's girlfriend. And that is not what the plot is about.

Jan. 30 2015 08:54 PM
Stephen Owades from Cambridge, MA

It's impossible to summarize the plot of Cosí in a single sentence, but this article's summary is misleading. The two men aren't "trying to seduce each other's fiancées to win a bet"—they're trying to prove that they can't seduce each other's fiancées to win that bet with Don Alfonso.

Jan. 30 2015 08:15 AM

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