After The Marriage of Figaro (1786) and Don Giovanni (1787), Così fan tutte (1790) is the third collaboration between Mozart and the poet Lorenzo da Ponte, his librettist. Themes of infidelity and feminine frivolity make their appearance from the first motif, which reappears at the end of the second act accompanied by the titular words: così fan tutte, "all women are like that." Convinced of the fickleness of women, aging cynical philosopher Don Alfonso plants the seeds of doubt in soldiers Ferrando and Guglielmo, making them mistrust their fiancées, sisters Dorabella and Fiordiligi.
Following in the footsteps of some of history's greatest stage directors—Strehler, Chéreau, and Ponnelle—German master Claus Guth seizes upon the dramma giocoso ("drama with jokes"), casting a psychological focus on the couples' partner swapping to play on the oppositions between Eros and Thanatos, being and appearance, through various mises en abyme. The action begins in a stark, bright villa, as pure and white as the ostensible innocence of the lovers' bonds... But changes of heart are on the cards, and Guth transports the characters with poetic acuity from the villa's immaculate walls into the deep woods, where they must find each other once again—an operatic echo of Shakespeare's Midsummer Night's Dream.