Fort Worth Opera's 2015 Festival Opens with Strong Line-up This Weekend

Dog Days premieres at the FW Opera Festival.
Dog Days premieres at the FW Opera Festival.
Beth Morison Projects

Spring is festival season in Texas and before it gets too hot head over to Cowtown for this years' Fort Worth Opera festival. Since the Fort Worth Opera shifted from a traditional season to a festival format in 2007, fans look forward to this opportunity to spend a weekend focused on opera.This years festival is complete with pre-show lectures, a few opportunities to get up-close and personal with artists and maybe even a trip back stage. The big attractions, though, are the performances and this years lineup includes three diverse offerings.

Dog Days FW Opera is committed to bring challenging works to their festival and the surreal Dog Days certainly fits the bill. Composer David T. Little and librettist Royce Vavrek turn a short story by Judy Budnitz into a performance piece that combines musical theater and rock opera. Dog Days, part black comedy and part philosophical commentary, depicts a family's struggle to survive in a post apocalyptic world amidst starvation and war. One day a dog appears begging for food. He quickly becomes a pet to their youngest child, Lisa, while the reactions of the other family members are not as welcoming. This thought-provoking opera with its haunting melodies asks difficult questions about humanity and man's instinct to survive.

The original set, orchestra and cast from the 2012 premier come to Fort Worth complete with Tony nominated Austin, Texas native Lauren Worsham as Lisa. The role of Prince, the dog, or man dressed as dog is played by performance artist, John Kelly.

Hamlet In 1868, French composer Ambroise Thomas took an adaptation of Shakespeare's Hamlet by Alexandre Dumas and turned it into a five act grand opera with a libretto by Michel Carre and Jules Barbier. Hamlet has many elements we would expect from an opera based on Shakespeare's play including a duet between Hamlet and Ophelia and a terrific mad scene with Ophelia. But this rarely performed opera also includes several twists, including setting it in a dark Soviet style city rather than Denmark and eliminating familiar characters such as Rosencrantz and Guildenstern while occasionally (not always) allowing a happy ending for the haunted Hamlet and mad Ophelia.

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Singing the demanding role of Ophelia is Talise Trevigne who wowed North Texas in Dallas Opera's production of Moby Dick and baritone Wes Mason who returns to Fort Worth Opera as Prince Hamlet.

La Traviata The festival's traditional offering is Verdi's timeless and tragic love story, La Traviata. Complete with lavish period costumes, a frail and consumptive female and Verdi's soaring melodies, such as the aria "Sempre liberia," La Traviata never fails to disappoint opera lovers. Verdi's masterpiece, like Hamlet, is based on a story that predates the opera, again by Alexandre Dumas. Set in Paris in the 1850's, La Traviata recounts the tragic story of the doomed relationship of young Alfredo and the courtesan, Violetta, a fallen woman who earns redemption through sacrifice. Don't come expecting a happy ending.

FWOpera continues the conventional elements we expect from a performance of LaTraviata and adds freshness by bringing in voices new to North Texas audiences including rising Australian star Rachelle Durkin who will sing the role of Violetta. FWOpera's own Joe Illick conducts the Fort Worth Orchestra and David Gately directs this traditionally staged production.   The FW Opera festival begins on April 24 and continues through May 10 with an opportunity to catch all three shows on the weekend of May 1.


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