Mozart enters the Roaring ’20s: ‘Così fan tutte’ comes to NAU

Roaring 20's play!

Mozart’s classic Così fan tutte roars to life during Northern Arizona University’s spring opera production April 6, 7 and 8.

The comedic opera pairs the feminist plot and impressive score with a Great Gatsby setting, said Nando Schellen, director of NAU Opera.

“I chose to set this opera in the Great Gatsby time so that the enormous audacity of both Mozart and da Ponte and their feminist thinking would come across,” Schellen said. “I think the ’20s is one of the most erotic periods of the 20th century, yet not as free as the ’60s.”

This is the fifth time Schellen has directed Così fan tutte.

“I consider this opera to be Mozart’s best opera,” Schellen said. “And it is so close to my heart.”

The production is entirely performed by NAU vocal students. Così fan tutte will be performed with the NAU Orchestra, conducted by its director of orchestras, Darko Butorac, and stage directed by Schellen. The cast includes 12 soloists (six soloists will alternate performances), 20 chorus members and 45 orchestra members. Set and costume design is in the hands of theater chair Timothy Bryson, and Manuela Needhammer who designed the costumes and is responsible for makeup. The lighting design is by Janice Gary.

This production of the opera is set in a sport resort hotel in Italy. The serious comedy tells the story of two young men, Guglielmo and Ferrando, and their girlfriends, Fiordiligi and Dorabella. The young men are certain that their girls will always remain faithful, but their older friend, Don Alfonso, persuades them to test this theory for 24 hours.

Alfonso is sure that the girls will be open to other temptations within this time period. He wants to teach the boys a lesson on love and bets on the end result. The boys disguise themselves and attempt to seduce the other’s girlfriend. The audience follows the antics of the two pairs of lovers as the men, after a lot of mishaps, finally succeed in their seduction, become disillusioned and confront their partners in a dramatic ending.

“This opera reminds us that you can never take your relationship for granted,” Schellen said. “You have to fight for each other every day.”

Schellen considers Così fan tutte the first feminist opera because of Don Alfonso, who defends women’s right to change their minds as much and as often as men do.

Così fan tutte o sia La Scuola degli Amanti, meaning “All women act so or The School for Lovers,” premiered in Vienna in 1790. The musical score was written by Mozart and the libretto by Lorenzo da Ponte. Both artists, who had gained world fame by their prior productions, Le Nozze di Figaro andDon Giovanni, worked closely together and made Così their crowning work.

Schellen will offer a 15 minute pre-performance lecture about Mozart, da Ponte and the opera starting 45 minutes before each performance.

Così fan tutte is performed in Italian with English supertitles. Public performances are at 7:30 p.m. April 6 and 7 and 2 p.m. April 8 in Ardrey Auditorium. Tickets are $20 for adults, $17.50 for seniors, $10 for faculty and staff (NAU and Coconino Community College) and $7.50 for students and children. For tickets, call the Ardrey Auditorium box office at (928) 523-5661.