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Fort Worth Opera unmasks new season of beloved classics and intriguing world premiere

FW Opera unmasks new season of beloved classics and world premiere

La Boheme at Fort Worth Opera Festival
Fort Worth Opera last staged La Bohème in 2013. Photo by Ellen Appel

A sword-wielding vigilante, doomed lovers, and smart people behaving foolishly will take over the stage during the Fort Worth Opera's 2020 festival.

Puccini's tragic love story La Bohème, Johann Strauss II’s rollicking romp Die Fledermaus, and a world premiere of Hector Armienta’s exhilarating Zorro will make up next year's festival, the company announced April 24. The festival will run April 17-May 3, 2020 and will include two productions at Bass Hall and one in a smaller theater new to Fort Worth Opera audiences.

"Our 2020 season includes traditional favorites and a world premiere," says FWO Artistic Director Joe Illick in a release.

Here's a closer look at all three works:

La Bohème, Giacomo Puccini’s heartbreaking tale of lovers living on borrowed time, returns to Bass Hall after last being performed in 2013. The production stars international soprano Talise Trevigne (Hamlet, JFK) as the fragile seamstress Mimì, and prize-winning Italian tenor Giordano Lucà as impassioned poet Rodolfo. Canadian soprano Tracy Cantin portrays the feisty Musetta, and baritone Zachary Nelson plays the spirited painter Marcello.

"La Bohème is one of the most romantic stories ever sung," Illick says. "We can all identify with Puccini’s powerful tale that has inspired works from Love Story and Broadway’s Rent to Baz Luhrmann’s film Moulin Rouge."

La Bohème will be performed April 17 and 19 at Bass Hall, in Italian with Spanish and English supertitles.

Zorro, by composer-librettist Hector Armienta, gets a world premiere in downtown Fort Worth, at the 900-seat auditorium of I.M. Terrell Academy for STEM and Visual Performing Arts. Based on the pulp fiction novels of writer Johnston McCulley, the new opera encompasses romance, danger, and suspense. The opera describes the plot thusly: "A scholarly student named Diego (Mexican-born tenor César Delgado) returns to the place of his birth in Alta, California, to find his destiny. There he encounters the beguiling Suzanna (soprano Gabriella Enríquez), the villainous Moncada (Mexican baritone Óscar Velázquez), and a grave evil like none he has faced before. Donning a black mask to conceal his true identity, Zorro is born, and he wields his sharp sword to fight for the oppressed."

"Justice is spelled with a “Z” in the world premiere of Zorro," Illick says. "Diego trains to become a master swordsman and a skilled marksman, then puts on his mask to become Zorro, defender of the poor, and avenger of injustice. The opera will thrill viewers and listeners of all ages.”

It runs April 26, 28, and 30 at I.M. Terrell Academy, in both Spanish and English with Spanish and English supertitles.

Die Fledermaus pours the bubbly on the finale of the festival. Not seen by local audiences since the company’s 1984-1985 season, Johann Strauss II’s side-splitting operetta is directed by Fort Worth audience favorite David Gately (The Barber of Seville, Cinderella). Acclaimed soprano and Fort Worth native Vanessa Becerra (With Blood, With Ink) returns to perform the role of the cunning chambermaid Adele. She is joined by some of opera and theater’s hottest young stars, including 2018 McCammon winner Abigail Levis as Prince Orlofsky, Broadway’s Curt Olds as Gabriel von Eisenstein, and acclaimed soprano Devon Guthrie as his clever wife, Rosalinde.

The Fort Worth production is inspired by Downton Abbey in the roaring '20s. "Featuring a magnificent masked ball and soaring orchestral waltzes, this riotous tale of mistaken identities and mischievous mayhem proves that revenge is a delicious dish best served with a glass of champagne," the company says in its release.

Adds Illick: "Johann Strauss wrote his sparkling operetta Die Fledermaus (German for 'The Bat') about smart people behaving foolishly — something we can all identify with. With its scintillating music and the effervescence of champagne, everyone’s questionable behavior is swept away by morning with the magic of Strauss waltzes."

It will be staged May 1 and 3 at Bass Hall, in English with English and Spanish supertitles.

The announcement comes before the curtain goes up on the 2019 Fort Worth Opera Festival, which runs April 26-May 12. For more information about the upcoming season and tickets, visit fwopera.org.