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“Così Fan Tutte”: romance, deception, and double casts

Mitch Gage (‘19) performs as Don Alfonso in both performances of “Così Fan Tutte.”

Mitch Gage (‘19) performs as Don Alfonso in both performances of “Così Fan Tutte.”

Kristen Wuerl (‘18) | Chips

Kristen Wuerl (‘18) | Chips

Mitch Gage (‘19) performs as Don Alfonso in both performances of “Così Fan Tutte.”

Kristen Wuerl, Staff Writer

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The Luther College Music Department presented Mozart’s “Così Fan Tutte” in the Center for Faith and Life main hall on Friday, May 11 and Saturday, May 12.

Composed in 1789-1790 and set in late 18th century Naples, “Così Fan Tutte” is a two-act Italian opera with music by Mozart and libretto by Lorenzo da Ponte. The cast consists of six principle roles and a chorus, as well as orchestral accompaniment.

The story is one of deception — two young officers, Ferrando and Guglielmo, disguise themselves as Albanians at the suggestion of mischievous philosopher Don Alfonso to test their fiancées’ faithfulness. Their fiancées Fiordiligi and Dorabella remain faithful for much of the production, but eventually both sisters fall for these “Albanian” men. In the finale, the women learn that Don Alfonso, Ferrando, and Guglielmo duped them. The two couples presumably reunite, but their reunion is never specifically stated.

At Luther, principle opera roles are double cast because operas are vocally demanding, especially for college-aged singers. According to Associate Professor of Music, Coordinator of Opera, and Opera Stage Director Andrew Whitfield, the opera is also double cast because Luther has the resources available for two casts and music faculty want to give students as many opportunities as possible.

“There is something particularly special that happens during tech week [with a double cast],” Whitfield said. “When off-night principles watch what unfolds [on stage] without doing it actively, they are learning from one another and can help one another. We have that richness of talent [at Luther].”

Kristen Wuerl (‘18) | Chips
Members of Chamber Orchestra Samantha Rabang (‘18), Elisabeth Hartmark (‘18), and Briana
McGrane (‘20) play in the pit orchestra for “Così Fan Tutte.”

Emily Dirks (‘18) and Natalie Nelson (‘19) played Fiordiligi, Aidan Spencer (‘18) and Natalie Rumer (‘18) played Dorabella, and Marie Sauze (‘18) and Brenna Sherman (‘19) played Despina, Fiordiligi’s and Dorabella’s maid.

Nathan Baldwin (‘19) and Mason Montuoro (‘18) played Ferrando and Josh Vidervol (‘18) and Isaiah Cammon (‘18) played Guglielmo. Mitchell Gage (‘19) played the role of Don Alfonso at both performances.

“I love to be very acting-driven and theatrical in any role [I play],” Gage said. “I like to keep things fresh and stay creative. I’m constantly thinking about how I’m reacting to other characters, and I’m very grateful for the opportunity to perform.”

There is also difficulty that comes with performing with two casts, according to Dirks.

“A double cast means you don’t sing as much, which makes performing really challenging,” Dirks said. “But it’s also awesome because more people get experience performing. Watching [the other cast] on off-nights during tech week is a blast.”

During tech week, each cast alternates a full run-through with the Chamber Orchestra, an ensemble of 30 musicians conducted by Professor of Music Daniel Baldwin.

Kristen Wuerl (‘18) | Chips
Natalie Rumer (‘18) plays Dorabella on Saturday night’s
performance of “Così Fan Tutte.”

“Playing in the pit is challenging and fun,” Chamber Orchestra violinist Mari Rathke (‘18) said. “You constantly have to be listening to give the best performance because the Chamber Orchestra is significantly smaller than the [Luther College] Symphony Orchestra, so everything is more exposed. But having the opportunity to play the music is a great learning experience. I love playing in the pit because I love playing music with my friends, hearing the audience laugh, and enjoying the production.”

At the start of tech week the cast members and orchestra members participated in a sitzprobe, a “sitting rehearsal,” in which singers sang through their music with the orchestra. However, this was not the first time the singers and orchestra rehearsed together, as the principles and orchestra collaborated twice a week leading up to tech week.

Attendee Anneliese Braaten (‘18) recognized performers’ hard work, theatricality, creativity, and musicality when she attended the Friday evening performance.

“‘Così Fan Tutte’ was hilarious,” Braaten said. “It showcased a lovely collaborative effort between the singers and orchestra. It was so fun to see all the hard work and talent of my classmates on display.”

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