Opera news

Fort Worth Opera unveils daring new direction for landmark 75th anniversary season

Fort Worth Opera unveils bold new direction in 75th anniversary season

Fort Worth Opera General Director Afton Battle
New Fort Worth Opera general director Afton Battle is leading the company in a new direction. Photo courtesy of Fort Worth Opera
Karen Slack
Karen Slack will co-curate and star in "A Night of Black Excellence." Photo courtesy of Karen Slack
Houston Grand Opera La Traviata, Albina Shagimuratova, Thomas Glass, HGO Chorus
FWO will present La Traviata, but the modern, streamlined version probably won't look much like this. Photo by Lynn Lane
Zorro: The Legend Lives!
You know Zorro from the big screen; he'll premiere on the opera stage this season, too. Photo courtesy of Pocket Sandwich Theatre
Fort Worth Opera General Director Afton Battle
Karen Slack
Houston Grand Opera La Traviata, Albina Shagimuratova, Thomas Glass, HGO Chorus
Zorro: The Legend Lives!

It’s out with the old and in with a new vision for Fort Worth Opera’s historic 75th anniversary season.

Unveiled Tuesday, July 13, FWO’s calendar of events for 2021-22 looks, at first glance, to be filled with many things that are not actually opera. That’s because the eyes must adjust to the dramatic shift away from FWO’s routine from the past 14 years:

There’s no opera festival.

Instead of staging a few operas over a few weeks in spring and calling it a season — a format that worked well in 2007 when critics could fly in and review all the operas at once (now: what critics?) — the company will present recitals, concerts, children’s programs, and yes, a couple of operas, too, at various venues throughout the city, throughout the year.

“Fort Worth Opera will return this upcoming season as ‘The People's Company,’ focusing more on concerts and performances in the community and building strong relationships with other arts and civic organizations,” says general director Afton Battle in a release. 

The schedule will include celebrations of Hispanic Heritage Month in October and Black History Month in February. Performance venues will include Whiskey Ranch, Fort Worth Botanic Garden, Fort Worth libraries, Rose Marine Theater, I.M. Terrell Academy, and Will Rogers Memorial Auditorium.

The one opera staged at Bass Hall (of which FWO is a resident company), will pay 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, La Traviata will be presented as a modern-day, streamlined, 90-minute chamber version of Verdi’s grand romantic masterpiece. Two performances in April 2022 will be accompanied by the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra.

“For the 75th, I wanted to honor the women (Eloise MacDonald Snyder, Betty Berry Spain, and Jeanne Axtell Walker) who started FWO 75 years ago,” Battle says.

Of the three 2020 festival operas canceled amid the pandemic, one — Zorro — will be reprogrammed next year. (La Boheme and Die Fledermaus will not.) Zorro will finally get its big world premiere in January 2022, and will include a special collaboration with the Fort Worth Stock Show and Rodeo.

One event longtime FWO patrons won’t see on the schedule is the annual Frontiers showcase of new works. It has not been forgotten.

In this year of post-COVID recovery, Battle says, reining in the number and scale of FWO’s commitments — like Frontiers — will position the company better for continued success.

“Coming out of this extended pause, it’s important that FWO focus on what we have become known for over the past 10 months — building community through our civic activities and engagement, and building a fiscally responsible and sustainable company post-COVID,” she says. “Producing three full length and mid-large scale operas is not honoring that commitment to being fiscally responsible and sustainable. (And) we have to bring our beloved programming, like Frontiers, back slowly.”

The schedule also does not include The Last Dream of Frida and Diego, which FWO announced in 2017 it had co-commissioned with San Diego Opera, the College of Fine Arts at The University of Texas at Austin, and DePauw University. Written by Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Nilo Cruz and Latin Grammy winner and composer Gabriela Lena Frank, the work was originally set to premiere in 2020.

“This piece continues to be developed by the composer and the librettist, and Fort Worth Opera looks forward to continuing to follow its development,” Battle says.

Here’s the Fort Worth Opera’s 2021-22 season at a glance:

Entre Amigos: A Concert in Celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month
October 9, 2021 at Rose Marine Theater
A live concert of arias, art songs, and folk music as part of FWO’s fall Noches de Ópera community programming.

Fort Worth Opera’s Children’s Opera Theatre Presents: Frida Kahlo and the Bravest Girl in the World
Music by Joe Illick; Libretto by Mark Campbell
October 9 & 10, 2021 at Botanical Research Institute of Texas (BRIT)
October 16, 2021 at Reby Cary Youth Library

Fort Worth Opera’s Children’s Opera Theatre Presents: Stone Soup
Music by Joe Illick; Libretto by Mark Campbell
November 20, 2021 at Northwest Branch of the Fort Worth Public Library

75th Anniversary Fall Preview
November 6, 2021 at Firestone & Robertson Distilling Co.'s Whiskey Ranch
Star-studded concert featuring live performances, an open bar with craft cocktails, and catered hors d’oeuvres courtesy of Chef Juan Rodriguez.

Holiday in the Garden
December 2021 (Date & Time TBD) at Fort Worth Botanic Garden Parking Lot
Free concert of arias, duets, Christmas songs, and holiday classics.

Zorro (World Premiere)
Music and libretto by Héctor Armienta
January 26, 28, 2022 at Rose Marine Theater
January 30, 2022 at Will Rogers Memorial Auditorium (Note: A Fort Worth Stock Show Experience Package, including the FWSSR PRORODEO Tournament, family dinner at Reata at the Backstage Club, and final performance of Zorro will go on sale in September.)

A Night of Black Excellence
February 20, 2022, at I.M. Terrell Academy for STEM and VPA
Co-curated by American soprano Karen Slack and FWO General Director Afton Battle

Fort Worth Opera Spring Gala
April 9, 2022 at City Club of Fort Worth
Starring Elaine Alvarez, Nathan Granner, & Kenneth Overton and Joe Illick, piano

La Traviata
Music by Giuseppe Verdi; libretto by Francesco Maria Piave
April 22 and 24, 2022 at Bass Performance Hall
Featuring the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra

FWO Lesley Resident Artist Recital
Featuring Brandon Bell, Gabrielle Gilliam, and Megan Koch
May 2022Location TBD

For more information and tickets, visit www.fwopera.org.