Fort Worth Opera’s Fifth Festival Season – Epic to Edgy

Fort Worth, TX – Most opera buffs would claim that Houston Grand Opera or Dallas Opera are the oldest opera companies in Texas, right? Well, they are wrong. Fort Worth Opera is the oldest producing opera company in Texas and, as of the past few years, they have been catching a great deal of national and international attention.

The Fort Worth Opera celebrates its fifth annual season as a festival company – season runs May 14th to June 5th – with a range of epic to edgy productions. Spanning 266 years, the 2011 season includes Handel’s magnificent Julius Caesarthe company’s first Baroque-era opera – the gritty 1990 chamber work Hydrogen Jukebox, a collaboration between composer Philip Glass and Beat Poet Allen Ginsberg, and rounds out with Verdi’s larger-than-life Il Trovatore and a new production of Gilbert and Sullivan’s comic farce The Mikado. Ten principal singers make their debuts with Fort Worth Opera’s 2011 season.

The season opens with the light-hearted, witty Mikado in a new production set in modern-day Japan. Soprano Jessica Cates (Yum-Yum), mezzo-soprano Meaghan Deiter (Katisha), and tenor Logan Rucker (Nanki-Poo) make their company debuts in this new take on a favorite classic directed by John de los Santos and conducted by Joe Illick.

Il Trovatore, the ―grand opera‖ of the 2011 season, is also the largest production ever programmed on the Festival. Featuring Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions and McCammon winner soprano Marjorie Owens (Leonora), Victoria Livengood (Azucena), Dongwon Shin (Manrico), and Malcolm MacKenzie (Count di Luna) in his company debut, the production includes traditional costumes and sets new to Fort Worth. David Lefkowich directs and Joe Illick conducts.

The first Glass opera staged by FWO, Hydrogen Jukebox is performed not in the internationally renowned Bass Performance Hall as is the rest of the FWO 2011 Festival, but in the intimate Hardy and Betty Sanders Theatre in the Fort Worth Community Arts Center. The company has built new seating, so that audience members will face each other across the stage, creating an immersive, experiential night in the theater. The 99-seat black box theater offers a visceral audience experience of this gritty, complex, modern work. The nine-performance production’s cast features sopranos Rosa Betancourt and Corrie Donovan, mezzo-soprano Amanda Robie, and baritone Dan Kempson in their company debuts, with tenor Jonathan Blalock and bass Justin Hopkins returning. Hydrogen Jukebox is directed by Lawrence Edelson and conducted by Steven R. Osgood, both in their FWO debuts.

Already well-known for its commitment to new works, new technology, and growing new audiences, Fort Worth Opera’s fourth production of the season, Handel’s Julius Caesar, underscores the company’s commitment to the full operatic canon. It is the first fully-staged Baroque opera produced by FWO. The cast features the first countertenors to perform at FWO – Randall Scotting, Michael Maniaci, and José Álvarez. Contralto Meredith Arwady is also makes her company debut, and Texas native Ava Pine returns to sing her first Cleopatra.

Tickets can be purchased by phone or in person at Bass Performance Hall or at the Fort Worth Community Arts Center. Season subscriptions range from $29 to $327 while single tickets range from $14 to $159. Student and Military ticket prices start at $7 on the day of the show. For more information or tickets, visit www.fwopera.org or call 817.731.0726 or 1.877.396.7372.

Photo Credit: Ellen Appel