Some say opera is a dead or dying art form. On its way out, it fills old spaces with almost-dead people to hear old music by way-dead composers.
Don't tell that to the Fort Worth Opera, though, which announced yesterday an enormous plan to keep the genre not just alive, but relevant, contemporary and local.
"Opera of the Americas" is a "ten-year vision of thought-provoking premiers by composers of the Americas," the company announced. Beginning in 2014, the program will bring new American operas to Fort Worth and support the commission of new operas from contemporary north and south American composers.
This plan is exciting because it's more than just a gesture, more than just a token modern work tossed in the mix of traditional Puccinis, Verdis and Mozarts. Opera, at its core, is about story-telling. With this initiative the Fort Worth opera is making a serious commitment to bringing modern stories to a modern audience. The new productions they've announced so far are:
2014: With Blood, With Ink (Professional World Premier) Composer Daniel Crozier and Librettist Peter M. Krask's opera is based on the true-life story of Juana Ines de la Cruz, a fascinating 17th-century Mexican nun embroiled in the Inquisition. Fashion designer Austin Scarlett of Project Runway fame is designing costumes.
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Silent Night (Regional Premier) This opera by composer Kevin Puts and librettist Mark Campbell won a Pulitzer-Prize in 2012. A co-production with the Minnesota, Cincinnati and Philadelphia Operas, the work is based on a 2005 French film (Joyeux Noel) about the now famous 1914 Christmas Eve cease-fire/truce between French, German and Scottish troops.
2015: A Wrinkle In Time (World Premier) Based on Madeleine L'Engle's award-winning 1962 novel of the same name, composer Libby Larsen and librettist Bradley Greenwald bring the story to the stage in this full-length mainstage opera.
2016: JFK (Working Title) This world premier will coincide with Fort Worth Opera's 70th anniversary season and will follow the President's last day, which began in Fort Worth. The work was commissioned by the Fort Worth Opera and will be composed by David T. Little with Libretto by Royce Vavrek.
2015 or 2016: Dog Days (Regional Premier) Also a product of collaboration between Little and Vavrek, this apocalyptic tale of one family struggling during war and famine received much critical acclaim since it's premier in New Jersey in September 2012.