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This is the first full-length, scholarly study of what is widely regarded as Mozart's most enigmatic opera and Lorenzo Da Ponte's most erudite text. Against the long-standing judgment that the opera uses a misguided confidence in reason to traduce feeling, Goehring's study shows how Cosl affirms comedy's regenerative powers and its capacity to grant access to modes of sympathy and understanding that are otherwise inaccessible. In making this argument, the book surveys a rich literary, operatic, and intellectual territory. It offers a new perspective on the relationships between text and tone in the opera, on the tension between comedy and philosophy and its representation in stage works, and on the pastoral mode, which the opera uses in especially subtle ways. Throughout, Goehring's argument is sustained by close readings of primary sources, many of them little known, and is richly illustrated with musical examples.