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Mozart's 'Cosi fan tutte'

Remember what it was like to be a teenager in love? How it seemed like it could never possibly end? How you and your "steady" were so right together that you couldn't even imagine being apart?

Now think back to what it was like when the object of that love, your perfect soulmate, threw you over for someone else. Painful, right? Almost too painful to bear — or at least that's how it seemed at the time.

When we get older, it's easy to look back on our lovesick youth with amusement. We wonder at how losing that long-ago boyfriend or girlfriend could have seemed so important, and how the loss could have been so devastating. But we still remember how it felt, and age and experience tell us that when grown-up relationships break down, the pain can be even worse. Maybe that's why Mozart's outwardly comical masterpiece, Cosi fan tutte, often leaves audiences feeling more than a little uneasy.

Over time, the mixed emotions Cosi evokes have led to criticism of the opera. Some say the music and the libretto simply don't match — that sentiments the libretto states routinely are heard in music so deeply stirring that the words and the score seem at odds with each other. Maybe, though, that emotional disparity is Mozart's way of making sure this unlikely story hits its mark.

Deep down, Cosi fan tutte provides a sharp reminder of how often the true depth of our feelings is sadly contradicted by clumsy statements and predictable actions. Mozart's opera also does something even more profound: It bluntly reminds us that our most cherished relationships can often be fragile and tenuous, and in doing so it shines a harsh light on the barest of our vulnerabilities.

On this edition of World of Opera, host Lisa Simeone brings us Mozart's Cosi in a production from the Salzburg Festival, held annually in the composer's hometown.

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