Petite Opera’s “Cosi fan tutte”: the making of a Chicago premiere (parts 3-5)

With only two more performances remaining in the run of Petite Opera’s new Chicago premiere, we continue our series on the Making of a Chicago Premiere.

In our last post, we noted that creating a Chicago Premiere involves some careful selection to make certain the “recipe” is just right, and discussed selecting the right version.  Now, we’ll look into Steps 3 through 5.
STEP 3:  Select the correct location…

The setting of Chicago is no accident.  Toscas himself hails form the Chicago area, and selected Chicago to help establish the character of the opera. Audiences can expect to see local references and scenes, which should make their experience even more appealing.  Opera newcomers should feel at home watching the action “in their backyard”.

Al Fonzarello, Randall and Elmer ride the El train to
their advertising agency office in Chicago’s
Palmolive (now, “Playboy”) Building.

STEP 4:  Select
your visionary Stage Director and Creative Team

“We approached Cathy
Dunn, a long-time performer at the Chicago Lyric Opera, to be our Stage
Director.  We’re very impressed with her tremendous character insight and passion
for bringing out the humor in every work.  She makes outstanding use of the
talents of emerging professional performers, as witnessed in our previous production at Petite Opera, including The
 Cinderella (Massenet), and Hansel and Gretel,” says Susan Baushke, Executive Director.
Toscas, who directed the
world premiere, thought it would be fabulous to see the level of dimension and
comedy that a female stage director brings to the characters in this version,
since the women turn the tables on the guys.
Malia Ropp as Flora and Sara Litchfield as Dora attract
the guys’ attention from the secretarial pool office.
Mary Lutz Govertsen as Flora tells the tale of her
faithfulness against Carmona’s set, including aluminum
frame walls with bold, geometric colors and shapes.

“The creative team
for this production has been tremendous to work with,” says Cathy Dunn,
Petite Opera Stage Director for Cosi fan tutte.  “I really
wanted a feel of the bold colors, geometric shapes and graphics of the times,
as well as to accommodate numerous set changes to fit our petite stage. Our set
designer, Dave Carmona, has created elegant pieces that transition from the El
trains to the 
office setting, and office sections that divide the eye, yet not
the action.  Likewise, our scenic backdrop designers, Kim Guzniczak and
Christina Kakavas, have come up with a whimsical and comical period cityscape
with a unique height perspective, taking you up to the higher floors of the
advertising agency setting.  It’s miraculous the way this team has just

Guzniczak and Kakavas’ whimsical Chicago skyline.

Steve Arvanites, Director
of Production, agrees.  “This creative team just clicks. Every element has combined to bring Cathy’s ultimate vision to life, and is executed with the utmost creativity.”

STEP 5: 
Then, you
select the perfect cast

Petite Opera’s Cosi fan tutte begins with a
1950’s-style tableau that introduces each
of the characters using a TV announcer

Cosi is
a true ensemble show, which makes it one of the most difficult to cast. All of
the characters interact and change pairings during the course of the show, so
how they look together, interact comically, blend musically… all of that has
to be taking into consideration,” explained Baushke. “The talent that
auditioned for this show was tremendous. 

Needless to say, we had a very difficult time casting the show, but we’re certain audiences will be delighted with all of our choices”.  

Two casts will perform on alternating
nights, so audiences can see the show multiple times, and enjoy different takes on
the characters and comic delivery.

Ms. Desi disguises herself as a
crazy doctor to administer an
antedote to the guys.
Elmer and Randall return disguised
as beatniks.  Al Fonzarello enlists
Ms. Desi’s help to pull off the bet.


Petite Opera
Cosi fan tutte (Everyone Is Just the Same) November
8-23, 2013 at Mary Wilson House Beyer Auditorium, part of St. Mary’s Episcopal
Church campus, 306 S Prospect Ave at Crescent Ave (enter on Crescent Ave), Park
Ridge, IL.  Call 847-553-4442 to reserve tickets,
purchase tickets online via credit card (convenience
charges apply to credit card orders). 

Petite Opera is a
professional 501c3 opera company