<i>Così</i>’s Canon Quartet

Stephen Davies

in Musical Understandings and Other Essays on the Philosophy of Music

Published in print August 2011 | ISBN: 9780199608775
Published online January 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780191729669 | DOI:
Così’s Canon Quartet

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In Mozart's opera, Gugliemo breaks off the canon quartet that was taken up in turn by Fiordilgi, Ferrando, and Dorabella. I argue that Mozart uses such moments to highlight the serious morals lessons that his late operas deliver. He creates an underlying musico-dramatic structure that runs counter to the outward form that characterizes the opera buffa, and thereby transcends the surface of stock characters and formulaic plot. In Così, the public display of love, disguise, rejection, deception, defeat, exposure, forgiveness, and reconciliation is matched by a psychological journey through which each learns of the desires, attitudes, capacities, and potential present within themselves as well as others. The opera ends not with protagonists triumphing over antagonists but with the four main characters coming to appreciate their own virtues and vices, as well as those of others. If women are thus – “così fan tutte” – then men are so, and all have been shown wanting but as no less deserving of love for that fact.

Keywords: Mozart; opera buffa; virtue; canon quartet; vice; morality

Chapter.  6160 words. 

Subjects: Aesthetics and Philosophy of Art

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