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Celebration of Scholarship and Creative Activity 2022

“Così fan tutte’s Despina”

Elsa Zank

Senior, Music Performance


During the summer of 2021, I completed a full examination of the character of Despina from Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s 1790 opera, Così fan tutte. I undertook the musical preparation of Despina’s two operatic arias and several related recitatives. This allowed me to study and practice the two main styles of singing found in traditional opera: the melodic, dynamic style of the classical aria and the speechlike, varied recitative style. In addition, it gave me an opportunity to cultivate an in-depth physical and emotional character and practice acting while singing. This project built further upon my studies as a music performance major without the time limitations created by typical college semesters where requirements often focus on breadth rather than depth. It utilized skills I have gained from past courses in opera theatre, voice pedagogy, and voice diction. Opera theatre provided insight into staging and characterization. Voice pedagogy helped supply me with the proper vocal technique to sing this rigorous music. And voice diction gave me the necessary background to translate the Italian texts and use proper Italian pronunciation in my singing. In order to deepen my understanding of Despina’s character and her historical and dramatic context, I also used research skills gained in my academic coursework to undertake a literature review of musicological studies and analyses pertaining to one of Mozart’s most well-known, beloved characters. I was then able to apply this knowledge of the character to my own portrayal of Despina.

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