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True love put to test in 'Cosi Fan Tutte'

10:18:43 AM CDT - Thursday, April 22, 2004

By Shannon Littlejohn

Cynics have forever fought the notion of true love and faithfulness. It's the stuff of both life and the literary and performing arts.

In "Cosi Fan Tutte ("They All Do It)," on campus the weekend of April 29, that notion is explored by two musical and literary giants of the 18th century — W.A. Mozart and L. Da Ponte.

The result is a witty and sophisticated comic opera, subtitled "The School for Lovers" and presented in Italian with English titles, about two couples who are challenged by a cynical friend and enabled by a scheming maid to test whether theirs is a lasting love.

With only six characters, it's a demanding opera for performers, says Marie Allyn King, director of WSU opera and musical theater.

"They're all main characters, actually," she says. "It's a real ensemble work."

That means the singers will virtually be on stage all the time in the two-and-a-half hour production, King says.

The story, set in 18th century Naples, starts with a wager between two young soldiers, Ferrando and Guglielmo, and Don Alphonso, an older friend, that their sweethearts will always be faithful — even if the soldiers are called to war. As a test, Ferrando and Guglielmo fake a departure; when they return, they are disguised as "Albanians." Their plan is to court the women, sisters Fiordiligi and Dorabella, who reject them at first but finally agree to a date after being goaded by their impertinent maid, Despina. As confusion takes over, the love themes abound, including jealousy, reconciliation and, finally, wisdom.

Two sets of singers are cast in the six roles and will alternate performances: Fiordiligi (Dea Lunsford/Kristen Armstrong); Dorabella (Amy Batt/Carrie Cooley); Despina (Donna Pimental/Cara Fish); Ferrando (Joseph Clegg/Adam Sattley); Guglielmo (Kris Barber/Nathan DePoint); Don Alfonso (Todd Staerkel/Chet Carpenter, WSU alum 2000).

Robert Glasmann, associate professor, will conduct a student chamber orchestra for the production. Scenery is by Ray Clithero, lights by Sean Roberson and costumes by Christy Railsback.

The guest stage director, at King's invitation, is Chia Patiño, a native of Quito, Ecuador whose directing credits include the Aspen Festival, Boston Lyric Opera, Opera Theatre of St. Louis, and Opera Theatre of Lucca, Italy. Her previous production of "Cosi Fan Tutte," directed for the College Conservatory of Music in Cincinnati, was presented in the United Arab Emirates and Egypt. Patiño is finishing a doctorate in composition at Indiana University. She will spend this summer at the Santa Fe Opera.

King calls "Cosi Fan Tutte" Mozart's most densely written opera. She'll give an informal opera talk before each performance.

"It starts with a series of trios and builds from there to duets," she says. "Most of the writing is for many voices — quartets and sextets, too. It's really quite neat in that way, but it does put a greater demand on the singers."

"Cosi Fan Tutte" ("They All Do It") will start at 7:30 p.m. Thursday-Saturday, April 29-May 1, and 3 p.m. Sunday, May 2, in Miller Concert Hall. Call the Fine Arts Box Office at 978-3233 for ticket information. Ticket holders are invited to join Marie King one-half hour prior to each performance for an informal and entertaining talk about the production, composer and librettist.



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