Forget Figaro

Operas about an obsessed baker and famous car maker take Fort Worth stage

Operas about obsessed baker and famous car maker take Fort Worth stage

Rachel Peters, composer-librettist, Fort Worth Opera, Frontiers
Rachel Peters is the composer-librettist of the new opera Companionship. Photo courtesy of Fort Worth Opera

Fort Worth Opera this spring will showcase snippets of six new works by contemporary writers taking on decidedly modern plots. They range from a baker obsessed with making the perfect baguette to a woman chasing utopia in the American Southwest to the family drama of Henry Ford, founder of Ford Motor Company.

(And opera used to be about boy-meets-girl-and-someone-dies. Boring.)

The opera scenes will be shown as part of FWO's 2018 Frontiers series, now in its sixth year, taking place May 2-3 at Bass Hall. Twenty-minute excerpts of each new, unpublished piece will be sung by artists from the FWO Festival with piano accompaniment. The public can attend for $10 per showcase, and the featured composer-librettist teams will get feedback from a panel of opera professionals.

There's no guarantee the works will ever see the stage, but if they do, audience members can say they were part of the journey.

Here's a closer look at the operas in this year's Frontiers, as described by Fort Worth Opera:

Companionship: Recovering from a nervous breakdown, aspiring baker Leslie Sinclair finally reaches the end of her obsessive quest to bake the perfect baguette when the 207,345th one suddenly comes to life. Companionship, by composer-librettist Rachel Peters, mirrors our contemporary world, where what we consume becomes all-consuming. Adapted from the short story by Arthur Phillips.

Fordlandia: This work, by composer William Susman and librettist Stuart Rojstaczer, is a family drama about the struggle between Henry Ford and his son, Edsel, over the leadership and future of Ford Motor Company. Henry’s inability to relinquish the control of his company to a son he loves dearly destroys Edsel emotionally and physically. The tragedy between father and son is only mitigated by the strength and actions of their wives.

Mabel’s Call: After Mabel abandons her life in 1910’s New York as an international icon of the avant-garde, she reinvents herself in the remote desert village of Taos, New Mexico. Inspired by the life of Mabel Dodge Luhan, Mabel’s Call, by Brooklyn-based composer-librettist Nell Shaw Cohen, follows a fiercely unconventional woman chasing utopia and romance in the Southwest.

Savitri & Sam: Composer John Mills Cockell and librettist Ken Gass’ opera Savitri & Sam was inspired by the true story of Savitri, a 17-year-old high school student living in a remote Punjabi community of northern British Columbia. After her secret relationship with Sam, an 18-year old aboriginal boy of Haisla heritage, is exposed, she is tragically stabbed to death by her father. The story is all the more poignant because of the intense idyllic love of the young couple, who seemed so ideally suited for one another, despite their different cultural heritages.

Hagar and Ishmael: In William David Cooper’s grand Biblical opera Hagar and Ishmael, Egyptian handmaid Hagar encounters an angel after she flees Abraham’s camp, who tells her an incredible prophecy about her son Ishmael. Sixteen years later, Ishmael learns that newborn Isaac will be Abraham’s successor, and tries to kill him. Exiled and desperate in the desert, Hagar and Ishmael find faith, freedom, and a marvelous destiny.

Domestic: This opera, by composer-librettist Ben Stevenson, is a set of two one-act operas exploring the ways that people interact when no one is watching. Act One — An Enigma — is about how people end a relationship, while Act Two — percs. — is about the hope that others can offer when things seem hopeless.

Frontiers comes in the midst of the Fort Worth Opera Festival, which will stage Don Pasquale, Maria de Buenos Aires, and Brief Encounters, April 27-May 6, at Bass Hall.