Così fan tutte


Così fan tutte

Arts Centre Melbourne, State Theatre

New production

Laugh at love, old man, for you and I both know that women are all the same. But don’t say your heart isn’t moved when I sing of love...

Mozart’s opera about testing fidelity is an intriguing story set to music of impossible beauty. Two men disguise themselves as Albanians and attempt to seduce each other’s lover in an elaborate ruse to win a bet, at the urging of the cynical old philosopher Don Alfonso.

Absurd? Yes, but Mozart’s luminous music takes the absurd and makes it sublime.

Come along for a merry ride and you’ll see that under that veil of farce is a poignant drama about love, faith, loss and sex.

Acclaimed director Sir David McVicar sets this bittersweet romantic comedy in the early 1900s, just before WWI changed the world forever. Moritz Junge’s ravishing costumes and sun-bathed set designs add to the beauty on stage. Leading maestra Keri-Lynn Wilson makes her Australian debut.

Dine before the opera at Arts Centre Melbourne

A couple dines at Arts Centre Melbourne before the operaLet us make it easy for you with pre-performance dining at Café Vic at Arts Centre Melbourne. You'll be served a themed set menu, including matched wine. View the menu.

Simply add the dining option to your cart after selecting tickets. If you already have tickets, sign in to your account to add dinner to your existing booking or call 03 9685 3700.

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Conductor Keri-Lynn Wilson
Director David McVicar
Revival Director Andy Morton
Set & Costume Designer Moritz Junge
Lighting Designer David Finn
Fiordiligi Jane Ede
Dorabella Anna Dowsley
Despina Taryn Fiebig
Ferrando Pavel Petrov
Guglielmo Samuel Dundas
Don Alfonso Richard Anderson

Opera Australia Chorus

Orchestra Victoria

Running time: approximately 3 hours & 25 minutes, including one interval.

Production Partner

Exxon Mobil logo

The StoryHide

Are all women fickle? Don Alfonso thinks so, but two officers are determined to prove him wrong.

To win their wager, the men pretend to depart for war, only to return in disguise and attempt to woo the other’s fiancée.

The girls aren’t easily tempted, so Don Alfonso gets their maidservant in on the plot.

There’s flirting and fun in store for all of the lovers – but when it comes down to it, who will end up with who?

Not afraid of spoilers? Read the full synopsis.

Synopsis by David McVicar

Act I

In a café, two young officers, Ferrando and Guglielmo, are arguing with their friend, an old philosopher named Don Alfonso. The subject in question is the fidelity of women and Don Alfonso has insulted them by suggesting that their two fiancées, the sisters Dorabella and Fiordiligi, could be unfaithful. Don Alfonso pursues his argument, challenging the two men to a wager on the point. Enraged, they recklessly agree to a test of the girls’ fidelity.

In their garden overlooking the Bay of Naples, the sisters are impatiently waiting for their lovers. Each wears a miniature portrait of her betrothed: Fiordiligi, a picture of Guglielmo, Dorabella, one of Ferrando. But it is Don Alfonso who unexpectedly arrives with bad news. Their lovers have been ordered to leave Naples immediately to go to war. Ferrando and Guglielmo appear and sadly bid the sisters farewell, while Don Alfonso laughs to himself; it is all a trick, the beginning of the sisters’ test. The officers leave and the girls pray for their safety.

The sisters’ maid Despina is in the house preparing breakfast when the broken-hearted girls burst in, Dorabella hysterical with grief. Despina argues that their lovers’ absence should be seen as an opportunity to have some fun. In her opinion, the faithlessness of men should be rewarded in kind. Don Alfonso steals into the house to bribe Despina. He enlists her help in a scheme to introduce two lovesick strangers from Albania to the sisters. The ‘Albanians’ turn out to be Ferrando and Guglielmo in extravagant disguises, but neither Despina nor the girls recognise them when they appear. 

The sisters repulse the strangers’ declarations of love and it seems the wager is as good as won when Fiordiligi declares their fidelity to be as immovable as stone. But Ferrando and Guglielmo are already too deeply embroiled in Don Alfonso’s stratagems to turn back now.

In the next stage of Don Alfonso’s plan, the Albanian suitors rush into the girls’ garden and pretend to take poison before their eyes, driven insane with love. Terrified, the girls cry out for Despina, who runs off with Don Alfonso to fetch a doctor. Left alone with the dying men, the sisters find it impossible not to be moved. The doctor arrives (Despina, in another disguise devised by Don Alfonso) and apparently cures the patients with the latest electro-magnetic therapy. The revived Albanians beg the girls to kiss them to complete the cure. Desperately, they refuse.

Act II

Evening is falling and Despina persuades the sisters to give the suitors another chance. Dorabella confesses her curiosity, Fiordiligi is carried along and a liaison is arranged, each girl choosing the stranger they find the more attractive – in fact, the other’s partner: Dorabella has set her sights on Guglielmo, Fiordiligi on Ferrando. In the moonlit garden the Albanians sing a serenade, but when the sisters enter, the four lovers find themselves tongue-tied and need some prompting from Don Alfonso and Despina. Ferrando and Fiordiligi go for a stroll, leaving Guglielmo alone with Dorabella. She quickly succumbs to his seduction, exchanging her miniature of Ferrando for a little silver heart Guglielmo hangs around her neck. They go into the house together. Fiordiligi rushes in pursued by Ferrando. Tortured by her conscience, she begs him to leave her alone.

The men meet in secret to compare notes. Guglielmo is delighted, Ferrando heartbroken and furious at his friend’s success with Dorabella. Guglielmo blames the whole affair on the fickleness of womankind. Don Alfonso appears and reminds him that the wager is not yet won.

Despina congratulates Dorabella on her exciting new romance but Fiordiligi is appalled. Dorabella tells her sister plainly that she is ready to leave Naples with her new lover that very night. Fiordiligi is determined to stay true to Guglielmo and conceives a desperate plan to follow him, disguised, into war. She is spied on by the three men and Ferrando falls passionately at her feet. Fiordiligi loses the battle and admits that she has fallen in love with her new admirer. Once she has gone, Guglielmo gives vent to his fury and nearly comes to blows with Ferrando. Don Alfonso intervenes; the best revenge, he proposes, would be to take the test to the limit and stage a false wedding with the two girls. Despina confirms that the sisters are willing and the men agree.

Despina organises a hasty wedding feast and the lovers enter and make a toast; let the past be drowned in the wine. Don Alfonso announces the arrival of a Notary with the marriage contracts ready to sign (Despina again). The ink is hardly dry on the paper when a march is heard outside and Don Alfonso tells the terrified girls that their lovers have returned. They bundle the Albanians and the Notary into another room. Guglielmo and Ferrando quickly change back into their uniforms and re-enter to greet their fiancées. The ‘Notary’ is discovered and unmasked, to the sisters’ astonishment, then Don Alfonso drops the signed contracts at the men’s feet. They pretend to search furiously for the girls’ new lovers and the sisters beg for mercy. The whole deception is now revealed. Don Alfonso wins his wager.

Sir David McVicar: "The older I get, the sadder I find Così" - Limelight

The British director reflects on the profound melancholy of Mozart's most lyrical work. I'm beginning to associate Sir David McVicar with winter. The British director is back in Sydney for his third frosty July in a row to complete Opera Australia's Da Ponte trilogy and direct Così fan tutte.

Introduction by David McVicar

"Così fan tutte!" (All women are the same!); so believes the cynical old philosopher Don Alfonso and his reckless young friends, the officers Guglielmo and Ferrando agree to put his theory to the test, participating in an elaborate charade, attempting the seduction of each other's fiancees, the sisters Fiordiligi and Dorabella. The four young people soon discover more about each other, themselves and life itself than any of them have bargained for. 

Mozart's bitter-sweet romantic comedy was his final collaboration with the greatest of his librettists, Lorenzo Da Ponte, following the triumphant successes of The Marriage of Figaro and Don Giovanni. Premiered in 1790, just one year before Mozart's death, it was also a huge hit; but the sudden death of the Austrian Emperor Joseph II curtailed performances and Mozart's own death the following winter put paid to any immediate revivals. It was not until the early 20th century, with notable productions in Vienna under the direction of Gustav Mahler and at Glyndebourne in 1934, that the public began once again to appreciate a work, dismissed in the 19th century as immoral, disgraceful or even worthless. 

The questions the opera poses to an audience are today even greater and possibly more disturbing. Often played in the past as an all-out farce, the subtle mix of sexual politics, heart-break, loss and pain that are inherent in the final masterpiece of Mozart and Da Ponte are more relevant today than ever before. 

The new production sets this most troubling and ambiguous of operatic comedies in the dying days of a Europe about to lose itself in the carnage of the First World War. The ravishing costumes of the early 1900's are bathed in the late summer light of an age of innocence and elegance on the brink of being shattered, as the lives of the four lovers in the comedy ultimately are.

Allow us to make your dinner reservation before evening performances: 5:30pm at Café Vic at Arts Centre Melbourne. You'll be served a themed three-course set menu for just $85, including matched wine.

Simply add dinner to your cart after selecting your tickets.

Homemade duck terrine bruschetta, black truffle, caramelized figs and pistachio
               crumb drizzled with red port.

Homemade duck terrine bruschetta, black truffle, caramelized figs and pistachio crumb drizzled with red port.

+ Valentina Martini

Apple wood smoked ocean trout, pommes duchess, saffron fumet, brussel sprouts.

Apple wood smoked ocean trout, pommes duchess, saffron fumet, brussel sprouts.
+ a glass of Sauvignon Blanc


Vanilla bean milk pudding, berry gel, Persian fairy floss

Vanilla bean milk pudding, berry gel, Persian fairy floss.
tea or filtered coffee. 


Specific dietary requirements can be accommodated, please send us an email after booking.

Published menu is subject to change without notice. Vegetarian and vegan options are available upon request. This menu is only available before performances of Così Fan Tutte.
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