Beyond being a "mere" 75th birthday party, the Fort Worth Opera's Diamond Anniversary Celebration on April 22 was also a long-awaited toast to the return of opera at Bass Hall.
After two years of pandemic pivots to virtual presentations, recitals, and productions at smaller venues, FWO fans got to settle into the plushy chairs at the city's premier performing arts venue and enjoy La Traviata, FWO's first fully staged opera since 2019.
The work paid homage to the company's roots: La Traviata was the very first opera presented by FWO, to a sold-out house at Will Rogers Memorial Auditorium on November 25, 1946. More than 75 years later, Verdi’s grand romantic masterpiece was presented in a modern-day, streamlined, 90-minute chamber version, courtesy of director John de los Santos, scenic designer Liliana Duque Piñeiro, costume designer Ashley Soliman, and their team.
FWO general director Afton Battle welcomed patrons from the stage, then handed the hall over to FWO artistic director and conductor Joe Illick and the powerhouse cast of 10, including Elaine Alvarez and Nathan Granner as stars Violetta and Alfredo. (The entire talented cast and crew is listed here.)
After several curtain calls and a standing ovation, passionate patrons headed across the street to McDavid Studio. The intimate space was awash in pink uplighting, making the colorful, glittery table cloths sparkle underneath pretty pink and white floral arrangements.
Guests were greeted with an impressive hors d'oeuvres spread prepared by Proper Catering — an entire table of chilled caviar and iced seafood; gourmet cheese and charcuterie; and an Asian taco station. Champagne, wine, and cocktail glasses were kept full at an open bar.
For some ardent FWO supporters, this was not the second or even the third, but the fourth event of the night, counting the opera itself. A group of about 50 major donors, board members, and guests had assembled for a private, pre-show dinner at Steinway Hall. The elegant three-course dinner honored esteemed board members Jill Fischer and David Bucher. A group of about 50 corporate sponsors also toasted in the Bass Hall Green Room before curtain.
Noteworthy attendees included Jenna Wright, Christie Howard, Marshall B. Moore, Mr. and Mrs. Tom Busher, Lori Hartman, Jon Hartman, Thomas Ragozzino, Nelson Claytor, Kyle Jordan, Keon Anderson, Arlene Barnett, John Barnett, Rita O'Farrell, Joe McCreary, Mary Pencis, Dan Bartow, Adelaide Griffin, Susan Bucher, David Bucher, Katie Briggs, and Jacob Briggs.
The McDavid Studio celebration became a full-throttle party when the Georgia Bridgwater Orchestra cranked up the live music and got people on the dance floor. The high-energy party lasted until after midnight.
Surely, then, event chair Nicolette Duvall and her committee members Barbara Jordan, Ryan Krause, Ashley LaCamp, Guy Manning, Mike Martinez, Lauren Phillips, and Katherine Polenz must have kicked off their shoes and enjoyed a private toast to a sparkling diamond of a night.