Friday, October 14, 2011

Cosi fan Tutte

I went to the opera last Sunday. It was Cosi fan Tutte, a Mozart opera about how women are all unfaithful. The two young heroes decide to test the loyalty of their girl friends by pretending to go away, then courting the girls disguised as Albanian soldiers. Of course the girls fall in love with the Albanians, and then the ruse is revealed. The master mind of all this, the cynic Don Alfonso, then says, "Cosi fan Tutte, thus do all woman," and suggests everyone get happily married. A noxious plot. So I wrote this poem:
The two girls married their soldiers
and settled down to be happy,
though their eyes still roved a little.

The baker’s boy had handsome shoulders.
That noble sat on his horse like a centaur.
Every dance was like a banquet table
spread with delicious dishes --
flourishing mustaches, lusterous hair,
bodies like Adonis, angel faces.

Only Don Alfonso seemed ugly.
Cynical and malicious, he was not invited
to either of their houses.


In spite of everything, they remained faithful,
asking only this of their husbands:
to come each night to the marriage bed
in costume:
Albanian soldiers. Turkish merchants,
Russians in furs, Indian sachems,
almost naked with feather crowns.

It cost a fortune.
How Don Alfonso would have laughed,
if he had known.
But the soldiers had learned their lesson
and kept quiet.

Every evening, as the girls dressed for bed
they wondered, who would visit?
A Chinese mandarin?
A prince from Africa?
And English lord, full of ice and manners?

“Cosi fan tutte,” they told their husbands.
“This is the way it is.”


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