College of Visual and Performing Arts Stories

JMU Opera Features Experienced Voices, Professional Talent

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October 26, 2017 - JMU Opera Theater students are getting the opportunity to work with professionals in their field, elevating the level of singing for the fall production of Così fan tutte (The School for Lovers), which takes place in the Mainstage Theatre of the Forbes Center for the Performing Arts at James Madison University on Friday and Saturday, Nov. 10 and 11, at 8 p.m. and Sunday, Nov. 12, at 2 p.m.

The ensemble features guest tenor Jian Chao Guo of the Beijing Opera and Dance Theatre and three doctoral students including soprano Susan Gouthro who recently played Donna Anna in Mozart’s Don Giovanni at Theater Kiel (Germany) and Violetta in Verdi’s La traviata at Aalto Theatre in Essen, Germany. Rounding out the cast is a master’s student, seven undergraduates, and the award-winning mezzo-soprano Cynthia Wohlschlager, who is serving as vocal coach. According to opera director Dr. Don Rierson, these experienced singers have coached the undergraduates and “enabled me to engage in a more professional approach to preparation.”

One of Mozart’s most elegant and beloved operas, Così fan tutte features “stunningly beautiful music,” including the show-stopping aria, “Come scoglio.” Set in Naples in the 18th century, the Italian comedic classic centers around a game of seduction and trickery between two couples. Officers Ferrando and Guglielmo are engaged to two sisters, Dorabella and Fiordiligi. The officers believe their fiancées will be forever faithful to them, but Don Alfonso has doubts. Alfonso wagers a bet with the men, claiming he can prove that the sisters will be disloyal.

The devious plan has Ferrando and Guglielmo pretending to go off to war, but returning to woo the other’s fiancée. The JMU Opera Theater provides main stage and workshop opportunities for performance majors enrolled in B.M., M.M. and D.M.A. programs at the university. The program has attracted outstanding graduates and undergraduates from prominent national and international arts high schools, universities and conservatories. 

In recent years, JMU Opera Theater has presented critically acclaimed productions of La Bohème, The Barber of Seville and The Magic Flute. In Spring 2009, they presented Jeremy Beck and Patricia Marx’s Review at the National Arts Club in Manhattan under the tutelage of the Center for Contemporary Opera. The singers perform regularly in international venues in Germany, Italy, Wales and England, and have been quite successful in university Concerto-Aria, National Association of Teachers of Singing and other national competitions. Rierson received the prestigious Alumni Legacy Award from the JMU Emeriti Association in 2002. JMU annually hosts the first round of the Classical Singer competition and maintains an active and enthusiastic Opera Guild. 

Così fan tutte Cast

Ferrando - Jian Chao Guo, David Bogaev

Fiordiligi - Susan Gouthro, Yvette Rodriguez

Guglielmo - Kyle Knappenberger, Joel Clemens

Don Alfonso - Peter Barber, Raiquan Thomas

Despina - Melissa McCann, Amanda Mason

Dorabella - Darby Clinard, Leah Shewmaker

Vocal coach - Cynthia Wohlschager

Published: Thursday, October 5, 2017

Last Updated: Thursday, October 26, 2017

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