Look for two inseparable pairs of lovers. Send the men off to war – but not really. Let them return in disguise and try to seduce each other’s sweetheart. What are the odds they succeed? No, this isn’t the trailer for the umpteenth reality show, but the main idea behind Così fan tutte, the last opera on which Mozart worked with Lorenzo Da Ponte.
In this opera buffa, the enlightened philosopher Don Alfonso brings his guinea pigs together like particles in an alchemist’s experiment. His purpose is to prove by experiment that faithfulness in love does not exist. Taking reason as his compass and the liberated Despina as his sidekick, he undermines all the clichés about relationships.
Three years after the acclaimed premiere at the Opéra Garnier in Paris, Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker’s Così fan tutte is coming to Flanders. Her abstract directing might well be the 21st-century key to this ambiguous tragic-comedy. This choreographer conducts her own experiment on an empty, white stage: a study of the chemistry between song and movement. Each vocal soloist is shadowed by a Rosas dancer who embodies the volcanic tension between words and music. After all, Mozart frequently gives his own twist to the libretto. According to De Keersmaeker, his music transforms this seemingly trivial boulevard comedy into a contemplation with an almost cosmic-religious air. Her Così too is a melancholy meditation on desire and death, and the complexity of the human soul.
Image: Tim Coppens