A year of new directions for the Fort Worth Opera took patrons to Whiskey Ranch for a Fall Preview Concert that included arias, yes, but also strong cocktails, cheffed-up cuisine, and a DJ dropping danceable beats. As the November 6 soiree proved, this is not your grandma's opera from 75 years ago.
On a picture-perfect fall evening, VIP guests arrived at the home of Firestone & Robertson TX Whiskey in time to catch the most breathtaking sunset-views in the city. To keep things COVID-safe, everyone showed their vaccination card or recent negative test result, then masked up indoors as an extra precautionary measure.
First stop was the bar for a generous pour of a Texas beverage — Rahr & Sons beer; Brennan Vineyards wine; or one of two signature cocktails, the autumn-inspired Maple Whiskey Cider (TX Whiskey, fresh apple cider, and maple) and the kicked-up Boot Stitch (TX Whiskey, grapefruit, lime, agave nectar, and jalapeño). Guests sipped and noshed on a charcuterie spread before heading inside for the main event, the concert.
FWO general director Afton Battle welcomed the audience and thanked them for supporting the company's 75th "diamond anniversary" season, then turned the stage over to FWO artistic director Joe Illick. Serving as host and accompanist for the concert, he and special guest singers Elaine Alvarez (soprano), Russell Thomas (tenor), and Spencer Reichman (baritone) joined FWO's Lesley resident and studio artists Brandon Bell, Gabrielle Gilliam, Lwazi Hlati, Megan Koch, and Kayla Nanto for performances of favorite pieces from beloved operas. Among them: Carmen, Otello, Don Giovanni, Pagliacci, Die Fledermaus, and Il Trovotore.
The main "preview" part of the Fall Preview Concert came in the way of a grand introduction of an all-new production of Verdi's La Traviata, which FWO will stage at Bass Hall in April 2022. After a rousing performance of Traviata's famous drinking song "Brindisi," the creative team behind the new production — director John de los Santos, set designer Liliana Duque Piñeiro, and costume designer Ashley Soliman — gave a behind-the-scenes look at the show's evolution. (Among the creative twists: It'll be set in 1989 — 200 years after the French Revolution — the set will feature a chandelier made of champagne flutes, and some costumes will be hip-hop inspired.)
After the concert, the party kicked into high gear. Guests refueled at the bar and noshed on gourmet hors d'oeuvres — including Mini Beef Wellingtons, Bacon Wrapped Quail Breast, Mini Lump Crab Cake, and Butternut Squash Empanadas — provided by award-winning Fort Worth Chef Juan Rodriguez. Of course, dessert included Whiskey Pecan Pie.
Dallas DJ Blake Ward crossed county lines to keep things upbeat. Some folks showed off their moves on the dance floor, while others relaxed by the big fireplace on the porch.
Spotted in the diverse crowd of 140 guests, enjoying the sparkling evening, were Marshall B. Moore, Ashley Lacamp, Deborah Ferguson, Tamara Albury, Adrian Burciaga, Mariajose Cervantes, Giną Browning, Jasmine Hart, Johnica Rivers, Lauren Phillips, Airin J. Barnett, Laura K. Wise, Cynthia Rodriguez Sturns, Robert Sturns, Michael Medina, Sandy Martinez, Estella Martinez-Stuart, Nicolette Duvall, and Brian J. Smith.