Bob Jones University presented its first opera featuring a cast and crew entirely made up of BJU students, a production of Mozart’s Cosi Fan Tutti, on March 13.
Originally planned as a production for two nights, Cosi Fan Tutte was performed just once. This change came last minute when BJU announced that classes were canceled next week and would begin online only on March 30 because of the current outbreak of the coronavirus.
The play brought a light-hearted atmosphere to campus despite the nostalgia many students felt because of leaving campus so soon.
In this comedic romance, an older gentleman named Don Alfonso attempts to convince his young friends to swap girlfriends.
While the University typically features faculty or guest artists in operatic productions, this production exclusively places students in the roles of all the main characters, supporting characters, chorus, understudies and crew members.
Megan King, a junior theatre major and director of the production, said this production provides a special opportunity for students as well as a unique experience for those who will come to see it.
“I think this production is unique in the fact that we’re finally getting to see student talent in a whole new way,” King said.
A student-focused production like this provides students from a variety of disciplines to creatively express themselves and gain experience in areas that would not otherwise be available to them.
Johnathan Swaffer, a freshman Bible major, plays the part of Don Alfonso. Swaffer said he deeply appreciates how musical theatre and opera provide ways to emotionally and colorfully convey a variety of messages in a way other mediums cannot.
“Being involved in this is something I’ve always wanted to do,” Swaffer said. “It gives me an opportunity to make an impact on people that I wouldn’t have in other ways.”
David Ritschard, a sophomore vocal performance major, plays one of the young lovers. Ritschard said that this production gives him a chance to exercise his skills in vocal performance with a level of audience interaction not available in private practice. “Performing is one of my biggest passions,” Ritschard said. “I love being able to connect with the audience.”
Cosi Fan Tutti resonates thematically with Don Giovanni, as both operas poke fun at the gender roles and stereotypes associated with women and men.
Jeffrey Stegal, director of the production, said he slightly reframed the original story to make it more palatable for a modern BJU audience.
In this version of the production, Alphonso’s two younger friends Ferrando and Guglielmo are dating Dorabella and Fiodilligi respectively, a pair of sisters.
Alphonso thinks the men are mismatched, believing that Guglielmo and Dorabella and Ferrando and Fiodilligi would make better couples. Alphonso makes a bet that he can get one friend to woo the other sister. Meanwhile, Alphonso becomes smitten with the sisters’ maid, Despina, creating a five-direction romantic comedy.
Mozart wrote Cosi Fan Tutti in Italian, which presents a challenge for the cast as they must memorize both the Italian words and the English translation of them to ensure their onstage actions match up with what they sing. For this production, the bits of dialogue between songs were translated into English, and English subtitles for the songs will be projected on a screen during the performance.
This production translates an 18th century romantic comedy to a 1950s setting through the use of props and costumes. “The design for the show is a much more modern look with a couple of nods to both the present and Mozart’s day to give it sort of a ‘full circle’ feel,” King said.