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NEGATING OPERA THROUGH OPERA: COSÌ FAN TUTTE AND THE REVERSE OF THE ENLIGHTENMENT

  • LAURENZ LÜTTEKEN

Abstract

Among the operas on which Mozart and Da Ponte collaborated, Così fan tutte is a special case. In some ways, the libretto is more conventional than those provided for Le nozze di Figaro or Don Giovanni, and Mozart was not the first composer asked to set it. To understand the work best, it is necessary to read the text closely. This article concentrates on a few, highly significant characteristics – in particular, the locations in which the opera takes place. Such details provide the foundations for surprising insights into the opera. First, the libretto deals with central issues in eighteenth-century aesthetics, but the mechanist philosophy that informs the plot (reminiscent of that theorized by Julien Offray de La Mettrie in L'Homme machine) defuses these issues over the course of the action. Secondly, the music that turns the libretto into an opera resonates with specialist issues of eighteenth-century music aesthetics, often to turn them, once again, on their heads. In the last analysis, Così fan tutte is an opera in which both text and music question truth and reliability, and the consequences are serious for the opera, for music and for the very Enlightenment itself.

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1 See Klaus Hortschansky, ‘Gegen Unwahrscheinlichkeit und Frivolität: Die Bearbeitungen im 19. Jahrhundert’, in Così fan tutte: Beiträge zur Wirkungsgeschichte von Mozarts Oper, ed. Susanne Vill (Bayreuth: Mühl, 1978), 54–64; reprinted in Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: Così fan tutte. Texte, Materialien, Kommentare, ed. Attila Csampai and Dietmar Holland (Reinbek: Rowohlt, 1984), 205–224.

2 Recently there have been attempts to reverse this neglect of Da Ponte. See especially Eduardo Rescigno, Da Ponte: poeta e libertino tra Mozart e il Nuovo Mondo, with an Afterword by Giovanni Carli Ballola (Milan: Bompiani, 1989); Paolo Spedicato, La sindroma di Sheherazade: intertestualità e verità in Lorenzo da Ponte (Naples: Edizioni Scientifiche Italiane, 2000); Richard Bletschacher, Mozart und Da Ponte: Chronik einer Begegnung (Salzburg: Residenz, 2004); Lorenzo Da Ponte: Aufbruch in die Neue Welt, ed. Attila Csampai and Dietmar Holland (Ostfildern: Hatje Cantz, 2006); Herbert Lachmayer and Reinhard Eisendle, Lorenzo Da Ponte: Opera and Enlightenment in Late 18th Century Vienna (Kassel: Bärenreiter, 2005); Jürgen von Stackelberg, Figaro, Don Giovanni und Così fan tutte: Da Pontes Libretti und deren Vorlagen. Ein Beitrag zur Literaturgeschichte von Mozarts Opern (Vienna: Praesens, 2008); and Volker Kapp, ‘Wer war Lorenzo da Ponte?’, in Mozarts Lebenswelten: Eine Zürcher Ringvorlesung 2006, ed. Laurenz Lütteken and Hans-Joachim Hinrichsen (Kassel: Bärenreiter, 2008), 176–190.

3 [Lorenzo Da Ponte,] Preface to Hochzeit des Figaro: Ein Schauspiel in Musik in 4. Aufzügen aus dem Französischen herausgezogen. Aufgeführet in dem k. k. Nationaltheater. Im Jahre 1786 (Vienna: Kurzböck, no date [1786])[, ii].

4 On the chronology see Alan Tyson, ‘Notes on the Composition of Mozart's Così fan tutte’, Journal of the American Musicological Society 37/2 (1984), 356–401, and Ian Woodfield, Mozart's ‘Così fan tutte’: A Compositional History (Woodbridge: Boydell, 2008).

5 See John A. Rice, Salieri and Viennese Opera (Chicago: Chicago University Press, 1998), 474–479. The volume contains an edition of the fragments.

6 See the materials preserved in A-Wn Sm. 4531. There are two gatherings, originally separate but later combined, each consisting of two sheets. They contain two numbers in Salieri's hand. The first is the trio ‘È la fede delle femine’, which is fully elaborated but written with different kinds of ink and showing a considerable number of corrections. The introductory recitative appears after the trio in these sketches and is utterly different from Mozart's version. The second number is the first trio ‘La mia Dorabella’, of which only the vocal lines have been sketched. No definite conclusions can be drawn from examining the watermarks. The watermark of the first layer corresponds with Tyson 62, that is, a paper-type that Mozart himself used in Vienna around 1782 in such works as the Symphony No. 35 in D major, k385, ‘Haffner’, and the Rondo for Piano and Orchestra in A major, k388.

7 The textual divergences between the Salieri fragments and the text as it was set by Mozart are so significant that we have to assume that Da Ponte and Mozart made substantial changes to the entire libretto.

8 See, for example, Werner Wunderlich, Mozarts ‘Così fan tutte’: Wahlverwandtschaft und Liebesspiele (Bern: Haupt, 1996), 56–70.

9 Another example of such hermeneutic study is Jessica Waldoff, Recognition in Mozart's Operas (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006). Of secondary importance are overtly politicizing interpretations by scholars such as Constanze Natošević, ‘Così fan tutte’: Mozart, die Liebe und die Revolution von 1789 (Kassel: Bärenreiter, 2003).

10 See Faye Ferguson and Wolfgang Rehm, Preface to Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Così fan tutte ossia La scuola degli amanti, Neue Mozart-Ausgabe, work group 5, volume 18/1 (Kassel: Bärenreiter, 1991), xxii. See also Michael Zywietz, ‘“Meeresstille” und “Glückliche Fahrt”: Das Terzettino “Soave sia il vento” aus Wolfgang Amadeus Mozarts “Così fan tutte”’, Acta Mozartiana 47/3–4 (2000), 72–84.

11 ‘Neapel, Neapolis’, in Grosses vollständiges Universal-Lexicon (Halle: Johann Heinrich Zedler, 1732–1751), volume 23 (1740), columns 1416–1431, especially column 1416. All translations from German and Italian are my own, unless otherwise indicated.

12 ‘Neapel’, Universal-Lexicon, volume 23, columns 1426–1427.

13 ‘Neapel’, Universal-Lexicon, volume 23, column 1416.

14 See Die Erschütterung der vollkommenen Welt: Die Wirkung des Erdbebens von Lissabon im Spiegel europäischer Zeitgenossen, ed. Wolfgang Breidert (Darmstadt: Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, 1994).

15 [Michele Torcia,] Relazione dell'ultima eruzione del Vesuvio accaduta nel mese di Agosto de questo anno 1779. Rélation de la dernière éruption du Vésuve arrivée au mois d'Août de cette année 1779 (Naples: Raimondi, no date [1779]), 24. Michel Torcia, Elogio di Metastasio, poeta cesareo (Naples[: Raimondi], 1771).

16 Anonymous, Phisikalische Briefe über den Vesuv und die Gegend von Neapel (Leipzig: Schönfeld, 1785), 18.

17 Anonymous, Phisikalische Briefe[, 45].

18 Anonymous, Phisikalische Briefe, 97.

19 Anonymous, Phisikalische Briefe, 93.

20 Anonymous, Phisikalische Briefe, 141.

21 Wilhelm Heinse, Ardinghello und die glückseeligen Inseln: Eine italiänische Geschichte aus dem sechszehnten Jahrhundert, fifth edition (Leipzig: Insel, 1961), volume 2, 332.

22 Hans Blumenberg, Schiffbruch mit Zuschauer: Paradigma einer Daseinsmetapher (Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp, 1979). Lucretius's metaphor circulated widely in eighteenth-century discussions of the sublime. The shipwreck (or even its possibility) observed from the secure position of the coast produces a double, mixed sensation: horror, because of the terrible accident, and joy, because of the distance of the spectator, who is in a secure position.

23 See also Carsten Zelle, ‘Angenehmes Grauen’: Literaturhistorische Beiträge zur Ästhetik des Schrecklichen im achtzehnten Jahrhundert (Hamburg: Meiner, 1987), 12–14.

24 Lorenzo Da Ponte, ‘L'uomo non puo vivendo essere intieramente felice, ma solo desiderare di esserlo. Sciolti’, in Saggi poetici (Vienna: Taubstummenanstalt, 1788), volume 2, 17–25, especially 20.

25 Compare, for example, Georg-Heinrich von Berenhorst, Betrachtungen über die Kriegskunst, second expanded and corrected edition (Leipzig: G. Fleischer der Jüngere, 1798–1799).

26 Gilbert Burnet, Durch die Schweitz, Italien, auch einige Oerter Deutschlands und Franckreichs vor wenig Jahren gethane Reise, Vnd derselben Curieuse Beschreibung, Worinn die neuesten Im Geist- und weltlichen Staat entstandene Revolutiones enthalten ([Leipzig:] Gleditsch, 1693), 681.

27 Burnet, Reise, 413.

28 Burnet, Reise, 415.

29 Burnet, Reise, 477.

30 Burnet, Reise, 501.

31 The choice of Ferrara pays homage to the soprano who originally sang the part of Fiordiligi, Adriana Ferraresi del Bene[0], but the significance of the city name goes beyond that of a knowing wink to the original public.

32 See Gerhard Splitt, Mozarts Musiktheater als Ort der Aufklärung: Die Auseinandersetzung des Komponisten mit der Oper im josephinischen Wien (Freiburg im Breisgau: Rombach, 1998), 298–308, and Opera Buffa in Mozart's Vienna, ed. James Webster and Mary Hunter (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997), especially the articles by Paolo Gallarati and Edmund J. Goehring.

33 Burnet, Reise, 468.

34 [Lorenzo Da Ponte,] Bertoldo ein lustiges Singspiel in zwey Aufzügen: Aufgeführt im k. k. Hoftheater (Vienna, 1787), 4.

35 Da Ponte, Bertoldo, 7.

36 Jürgen Habermas, Strukturwandel der Öffentlichkeit: Untersuchungen zu einer Kategorie der bürgerlichen Gesellschaft. Mit einem Vorwort zur Neuauflage 1990, third printing (Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp, 1993).

37 On the coffee house see Ursula Heise, Kaffee und Kaffeehaus: Eine Kulturgeschichte (Hildesheim: Olms, 1987).

38 On the political context see Marina Schneede: ‘“… für Deutschland ein Muster”: Hamburgs alte Kaffeehäuser’, in Rainvilles Fest: Panorama, Promenade, Tafelfreuden. Ein französischer Lustgarten im dänischen Altona, ed. Bärbel Hedinger (Hamburg: Altonaer Museum, 1994), 131–140, and John A. Rice, ‘Music in the Age of Coffee’, Eighteenth-Century Music 4/2 (2007), 301–305.

39 Anonymous, ‘Ursprung des Caffee’, in Der Spion von Wien: Eine Wochenschrift (Vienna: Taubstummenanstalt, 1789), 126–127.

40 Anonymous, ‘Ursprung des Caffee’, 127.

41 Giovanni dalla Bona, Dell'uso e dell'abuso del Caffè: dissertazione storico-fisico-medico. Con aggiunte, massime intorno la Cioccolata, ed il Rosolì, second edition (Verona: Berno, 1760), 29. Lorenzo Da Ponte had access to this treatise in Vienna.

42 See Marina Cristina Leuzzi, ‘Non fan tutte così: Mme du Châtelet e il suo discorso sulla felicità’, in Così fan tutte: 250o anniversario di Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Le donne creative nell' era dei lumi (Rome: Colombo, 2006), 95–101, and Die Frau, der Mann nicht traut: Così fan tutte. Treueprobe und Liebesverwirrung im (Musik-)Theater, ed. Silvia Kronberger and Ulrich Müller (Anif: Mueller-Speiser, 2005).

43 Wöchentliche Wahrheiten für und über die Herren in Wien. Bearbeitet von einer Gesellschaft belesener Frauenzimmer und herausgegeben von Emilie Grünthal (Vienna and Prague: Schönfeld, 1783), issue 5, 79–80.

44 [Gottlieb Stephanie der Jüngere,] Das vermeinte Kammermädchen: Ein Lustspiel in drey Aufzügen. Nach dem französischen des Herrn Mariveaux [sic] (Vienna: Logenmeister, 1783), 19.

45 [Stephanie,] Das vermeinte Kammermädchen, 20.

46 ‘Neapel’, Universal-Lexicon, volume 23, column 1427.

47 On the similarities between Da Ponte and Marivaux, first mentioned by Charles Rosen, see the extended discussion in Splitt, Mozarts Musiktheater, 299–302.

48 On these connections see Dieter Borchmeyer, ‘“Così fan tutte”: Ein erotisches Experiment zwischen Materialismus und Empfindsamkeit’, in Studien zur Musikgeschichte: Eine Festschrift für Ludwig Finscher, ed. Annegrit Laubenthal (Kassel: Bärenreiter, 1995), 353–364; Dieter Borchmeyer, Mozart oder die Entdeckung der Liebe (Frankfurt am Main: Insel, 2005); Manfred Hermann Schmid, Mozarts Opern: Ein musikalischer Werkführer (Munich: Beck, 2009), 98; and Carsten Zelle, ‘Was ist josephinische Aufklärung – in der Literatur?’, in Mozarts Lebenswelten, 132–158.

49 See also Zelle, ‘Angenehmes Grauen’.

50 See Andrew Steptoe, ‘Mozart, Mesmer and “Così fan tutte”’, Music & Letters 67/3 (1981), 281–294; Steptoe, The Mozart-Da Ponte Operas: The Cultural and Musical Background to ‘Le Nozze di Figaro’, ‘Don Giovanni’, and ‘Così fan tutte’ (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1988); Pierpaolo Polzonetti, ‘Mesmerizing Adultery: Così fan tutte and the Kornman Scandal’, Cambridge Opera Journal 14/3 (2003), 263–296; and Lothar Kreimendahl, ‘Mozart und der Streit der Fakultäten: Ein bislang unbeachteter Aspekt von “Così fan tutte”’, Acta Mozartiana 56 (forthcoming).

51 After all, the inventory of Mozart's library contains a hint that he was familiar with such ideas. He owned a (no longer identifiable) edition of the Automathes biography: John Kirkby, The Capacity and Extent of the Human Understanding, Exemplified in the Extraordinary Case of Automathes (London: Printed for R. Manby and H. S. Cox, 1745). In this novel, empirical psychology combines with mechanistic approaches. See Ulrich Konrad and Martin Staehelin, allzeit ein buch: Die Bibliothek Wolfgang Amadeus Mozarts (Weinheim: VCH, Acta humaniora, 1991), 67–68.

52 For these quotations (including the one by Metastasio) see Splitt, Mozarts Musiktheater, 294.

53 After the end of the Josephinian era, it was apparently this kind of re-evaluation that triggered extensive criticism of Da Ponte, as, for example, in the anonymous polemic Anti-da Ponte (Vienna: printed by J. Hraschanzky, 1791).

54 See Laurenz Lütteken, Das Monologische als Denkform in der Musik zwischen 1760 und 1785 (Tübingen: Niemeyer, 1998).

55 See Wilhelm Seidel, ‘Saint-Evremond und der Streit um die Oper in Deutschland’, in Aufklärungen: Studien zur deutsch-französischen Musikgeschichte im 18. Jahrhundert. Einflüsse und Wirkungen, ed. Wolfgang Birtel and Christoph-Hellmut Mahling (Heidelberg: Winter, 1986), 46–54.

56 See the foundational essay by Jürgen Stenzel, ‘“Si vis me flere…” – “Musa iocosa mea”: Zwei poetologische Argumente in der deutschen Diskussion des 17. und 18. Jahrhunderts’, Deutsche Vierteljahrsschrift für Literaturwissenschaft und Geistesgeschichte 48/4 (1974), 650–671.

57 See, for example, John Brown, A Dissertation on the Rise, Union, and Power, the Progressions, Separations, and Corruptions, of Poetry and Music (London: Davis and Reymers, 1763; reprinted New York: Garland, 1971).

58 See Wolfgang Proß, Mozart in Mailand (Winterthur: Amadeus, 2006).

I thank Gernot Gruber for critical discussions and Keith Chapin for his splendid review of the English text.

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NEGATING OPERA THROUGH OPERA: COSÌ FAN TUTTE AND THE REVERSE OF THE ENLIGHTENMENT

  • LAURENZ LÜTTEKEN

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