Photo by Ellen Appel

Fort Worth Opera is moving in a new-new direction for its 2023-24 season, and landing somewhere between the hefty "festival years" of the 2010s and the leaner, post-COVID seasons of the early 2020s. No, the Fort Worth Opera Festival is not coming back, but fans will be glad to know a performance of a beloved work in Bass Hall (where FWO has remained a resident company) is back on the new season.

This is the first full season under the direction of new FWO general and artistic director Angela Turner Wilson, who says in a June 8 release that the 2023-24 slate "embodies both the legacy and future of this beloved art form."

Puccini's La Bohème will be the first FWO performance in Bass Hall since 2022's semi-staged La Traviata. The classic tale of love and tragedy (voted No. 2 on BBC's list of Greatest Operas of All Time) will be a semi-staged performance directed by Chuck Hudson and will feature the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra under the direction of former music conductor Miguel Harth-Bedoya. FWO last programmed La Bohème in 2013 to great critical and audience acclaim (note: this writer saw it twice). It had been scheduled as part of FWO's 2020 Festival, which got canceled due to COVID. Cast includes lyric soprano Elizabeth Caballero as Mimi, tenor Alok Kumar as Rodolfo, and bass Kofi Hayford as Colline.
Date: April 5 & 7, 2024
Tickets: $22-$195

The rest of the season consists of:

Dinner with the Stars, a fundraising dinner of musical performances, hosted by Joe Illick, FWO music director emeritus, and featuring soprano Vanessa Becerra, mezzo-soprano Siphokazi Molteno, tenor Alok Kumar, and bass Kofi Hayford. The special event kicks off the season in the fall.
Date & location: September 22, 2023 at Fort Worth Club
Tickets: TBA (not included with season packages)

La Médium, a one-act opera by Gian Carlo Menotti, a Spanish language production making its national premiere, FWO says (the work previously premiered in Spanish in Puerto Rico in 1989). Timed to Halloween, the work explores a woman's descent into madness and "delves into themes of sanity and the supernatural," FSO says. Directed by Malena Dayen, the production stars Janara Kellerman and Cristina María Castro.
Date & location: October 20-23, 2023 at Rose Marine Theater
Tickets: Start at $50

Amahl and The Night Visitors, a holiday favorite and FWO tradition, is the one-act opera composed by Gian Carlo Menotti that tells the story of a young boy named Amahl and his mother, who are visited by three kings to see the newborn baby Jesus. The performances will star the FWO's Hattie Mae Lesley Resident and Studio Artists.
Date & location: December 8-10, 2023 at Botanical Research Institute of Texas (BRIT)
Tickets: TBA (not included with season packages)

Wintersong: A Musical Holiday Celebration & Sing-a-long, a community concert featuring "Christmas songs, timeless carols, holiday favorites, opera classics, and more performed by Fort Worth Opera's Hattie Mae Lesley Resident and Studio Artists," FWO says.
Date & location: December 16, location TBA
Tickets: Free

dwb (Driving While Black), being presented in collaboration with the Kimbell Art Museum and Texas Christian University during Black History Month, this modern work makes its regional premiere in Fort Worth. Composed by Susan Kander and librettist Roberta Gumbel, it is described as a "deeply affecting ...montage of poetic and haunting moments examining the trials and triumphs Black mothers experience as their children come of age in a society plagued by racism and inequality." An accompanying symposium on February 17 will examine the themes in the opera.
Date & location: February 16-17, 2024 at Van Cliburn Concert Hall at TCU and February 24, 2024 at the Kimbell Art Museum
Tickets: $20-$55

An Evening with Morris Robinson, a one-man show performed by All-American college football player and 2022 Grammy Award-winning bass Morris Robinson, which will feature "works from the classic cannon and as well as traditional Black spirituals in honor of Juneteenth," FWO says.
Date & location: June 18, 2024, location TBD
Tickets: $50

Season subscription renewals are on sale as of June 8, and individual tickets will be available in mid-July; for more information and subscriptions, see the FWO website.

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'Yellowstone' stars to greet fans at Fort Worth Stock Show & Rodeo

Yellowstone news

Yellowstone fans, get your comfy shoes ready - there'll be a long line for this one. Cole Hauser a.k.a. "Rip Wheeler" on Yellowstone, and Taylor Sheridan, the show's co-creator, executive producer, and director of the series, will meet fans and sign autographs at the Fort Worth Stock Show & Rodeo.

The event will take place from 4:30-6:30 pm only on Friday, February 3. Location is the 6666 Ranch booth near the south end of Aisle 700 in the Amon G. Carter, Jr. Exhibits Hall.

According to a February 2 announcement from FWSSR, "fans will have the opportunity to snag an autograph as well as purchase some distinctive Yellowstone and 6666 Ranch merchandise while also enjoying all the features the Stock Show offers."

The event is free to attend (with paid Stock Show admission) and open to the public.

It's the second year in a row for Hauser to appear at FWSSR; in 2022, he and fellow cast mates drew huge crowds.

Sheridan, a Paschal High School graduate, is no stranger to Fort Worth; he lives in a ranch near Weatherford and filmed 1883, the prequel to Yellowstone, in and around Fort Worth. Currently, another spinoff, 1883: The Bass Reeves Story, is filming in North Texas.

The Fort Worth Stock Show & Rodeo is winding up its 2023 run on Saturday, February 4.

Mr Gatti's Pizza returns to home turf Fort Worth with Camp Bowie location

Pizza News

A Fort Worth-based pizzeria concept has opened a location in Fort Worth: Mr Gatti's Pizza has opened a restaurant off Camp Bowie at 2812 Horne St. #100, a space previously occupied by Helen's Hot Chicken, where they're open with pizza, pizza rolls, and their signature ranch dressing.

The location is a franchise owned by Kirk Jefferies, who also owns and operates franchises of Jason’s Deli and Chicken Express. This is his first Mr Gatti’s, but he has more locations planned.

“When people talk about Mr Gatti's Pizza, you can see a spark in their eyes. We love being able to bring that 'excitement' and combine it with our passion for pizza,” Jefferies says in a release. “Mr Gatti's Pizza has been satisfying cravings for over 50 years. It truly is an honor to be a part of this legacy brand that people cherish."

Menu favorites from about a dozen pizza options include The Sampler, The Deluxe with sausage, pepperoni, & smoked provolone, and BBQ chicken. A basic 12-inch cheese pizza with one topping is $12.

There are lunch specials from 10:30 am-3 pm including pepperoni rolls and salad for $10; 8 wings and salad for $13; and a medium pizza with 2 salads for $15.

The chain was first founded in Stephenville, Texas as The Pizza Place, in September 1964. In 1969, founder James Eure moved to Austin and opened the first Mr Gatti’s Pizza, named for his wife's maiden name.

They have a major presence in South Texas but only two in the DFW area: Plano and Allen.

There was a location that opened in Fort Worth in 2016, at 3280 W. Seventh St. in Museum Place, which at the time, was the first to use the Mr. Gatti’s name; the chain had been going by "Gatti's." So many name changes! It closed in 2018. There was also a location in North Richland Hills which opened in 2016 and closed in early 2019; and a location in Richardson that closed in 2018.

Back in the day they had a big buffet as well as a big game room, two features for which many longtime fans are nostalgic. But this location is just about the pizza.

There are now more than 70 locations in states across the Southeast, including Alabama, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Ohio, Oklahoma, and Tennessee.

Surprising Fort Worth suburb named No. 5 most family-friendly U.S. city

a great place to live

If Fort Worth-area residents are looking for the perfect new place to buy a home and raise a family, they should steer their interest toward Watauga. The northeast Fort Worth suburb, impressively, has been named the fifth most family-friendly city in the U.S. by real estate marketplace Opendoor.

Opendoor's second annual "Family-Friendly Cities" list focuses on local communities that offer plenty of recreational outdoor activities that are suitable for families of any age. Watauga was the only city in Dallas-Fort Worth to make the new list and the only Texas city to make the top 10. (Bellaire, near Houston, ranks No. 12.)

Cities were identified using the average number of family-friendly activity tags found on OpenStreetMap that are used for addresses in a city where the marketplace operates. Factors that were considered include cities with community centers, gardens, museums, parks, playgrounds, swimming pools, and more.

Watauga - which is bordered by Fort Worth to the west, Keller to the north, Haltom City to the southwest, and North Richland Hills to the south and east - has plenty of family-friendly attractions. Yet it often gets overshadowed by bigger, busier, more affluent Northeast Tarrant cities like Grapevine and Southlake.

There are seven different parks around Watauga, including the popular 37-acre Capp Smith Park, with its four pavilions, two playgrounds, amphitheater, and several acres dedicated to open space and stunning views.

The City of Watauga calls the park the heart of the city's recreational activities.

"[Capp Smith Park] features a lighted one mile walking trail that surrounds a spring fed one acre pond fully stocked with several species of aquatic wildlife," the city's website says. "In addition, the park is home to several other forms of wildlife which have also taken up residence in the park."

The park is also the host of Watauga Fest, an annual family-friendly festival that brings in carnival rides, food trucks, vendors, and much more for all residents to enjoy.

In addition, Watauga residents can make use of a thriving public library, visit the city's 9/11 Memorial and Veterans Memorial, Foster Village Park, a splash pad, and more. The city is also adjacent to the expansive Arcadia Park, with its many trails, playgrounds, tennis courts, and disc golf course.

According to recent reports, the average home price in Watauga is $283,845 - significantly less than the average home value in Fort Worth proper, $307,939. It's become an attractive place for new restaurants and retailers in recent years.

Opendoor's 15 best family friendly cities in 2023 are:

  • No. 1 – Somerville, Massachusetts
  • No. 2 – Berkeley, California
  • No. 3 – Cliffside Park, New Jersey
  • No. 4 – Arlington, Virginia
  • No. 5 – Watauga, Texas
  • No. 6 – Chandler, Arizona
  • No. 7 – Denver, Colorado
  • No. 8 – Portland, Oregon
  • No. 9 – Valley Stream, New York
  • No. 10 – Garden Grove, California
  • No. 11 – Coral Gables, Florida
  • No. 12 – Bellaire, Texas
  • No. 13 – Ann Arbor, Michigan
  • No. 14 – Mission, Kansas
  • No. 15 – Avondale Estates, Georgia
The full report can be found on opendoor.com.