E amore un ladroncello, a setting by Lorenzo Da Ponte, was composed by Mozart in 1789 (Bb Major) and premiered the year after. This aria is part of Act II of Cosi fan Tutte.
Mozart collaborated with Lorenzo da Ponte for the first time in 1986 with Le Nozze di Figaro after Da Ponte quarreled with his previous collaborator, Antonio Salieri, imperial court composer. They renewed their collaboration on Don Giovanni and finally, on Cosi fan Tutte, commissioned by the emperor Joseph II in 1789 and premiered in 1790. The plot seems to have been created by Da Ponte himself. It appears, at first, cruelly misogynic (the whole thesis of the libretto being that women are unfaithful creatures by nature), but Mozart succeeds in counterbalancing this idea. The women, especially Fiordiligi, are shown as sincere, loveable, moral characters when the men are full of preposterous self-righteousness and incapable of personal growth. Nonetheless, the libretto appears, for some, as a tribute to the misogyny of its time.
Act I opens on Don Alfonso, Guglielmo and Ferrando quarrelling over the faithfulness of Dorebella, fiancée to Ferrando and Fiordiligi, fiancée to Guglielmo. Don Alfonso convinces them to bet over the fidelity of their future brides. They must pretend to have been called to war, return to them disguised and attempt to seduce the other’s beloved. They accept and leave Don Alfonso alone.
The scene shifts to the two sisters dreaming about their beloved. Don Alfonso arrives and enounces the departure to war of their men. Desperate, they have no choice but to bid them farewell and are left alone and distressed.
In scene 2, Despina, their maid, tries to console them by reminding them, that they will be other men! They reject her way of seeing things with disgust. Don Alfonso arrives and introduces the two disguised men as foreign Albanians to the two sisters. The men immediately declare their “love” to them both. Fiordiligi, in shock, asks them to leave and pledges to always remain faithful to the man she loves (aria: Come scoglio). The sisters remain unstirred by the men’s plea and they leave at last.
Scene 3 opens on the sisters, alone again in the garden. Despina has taken control over the scheme and is helping the men seduce the women. The men enter again and threaten to drink deadly poison if the sisters don’t hear them out. They eventually drink it and pretend to be dying. Soon after Despina arrives, disguised as a doctor and “revises” the two men. They pretext hallucinations to obtain kisses but the sisters resist their prayers once again.
In Act II Despina tries to convince the women to succumb. Dorabella starts to falter and the two sisters agree that flirting is not been unfaithful. In Scene 2 the four lovers meet again. Guglielmo, left alone attempts, once again, to seduce Dorabella and finally succeeds (she hands him over her precious medallion). Ferrando, however, is unsuccessful with Fiordiligi and is outraged to learn Dorabella, on the other side, has succumbed to Guglielmo. Guglielmo at first empathized with Ferrando in his aria: Donne mie la fate a tanti but later gloats over the fact his beloved is faithful.
Ferrando, left alone, is thorn between his love and his resentment towards Dorabella.
In the next scene, Dorabella, alone with her sister, Fiordiligi, admits she has succumbed to her suitor, in her aria: E amore un ladroncello.