Arts & Culture News

Fort Worth Opera’s New Season Offers Classics, Courtroom Dramas and a Story of Immigration

Carmen returns to the Fort Worth Opera for the first time since 2009.
The Fort Worth Opera is set to open their 2017 season with a daring lineup that includes the regional premiere of a bizarre courtroom drama and a straight-from-the-headlines mariachi opera about the effects of immigration on families.

It seems to be business as usual even though just two months ago the Fort Worth Opera parted ways with longtime general director Darren Woods. At the time, Mike Martinez, chairman of the opera’s board of trustees, cited a “need to focus more on business aspects such as cash flow, management, fundraising [and] contract negotiation” as a reason for the split.

The Fort Worth Opera Festival begins April 15 with the traditional gala and concert featuring performances by two Texas natives, and runs through May 7. Soprano Ava Pine, who is exiting the opera stage, will perform arias, duets and Broadway hits along with baritone Michael Mayes. They will be accompanied by the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra conducted by maestro Joe Illick.

Voir Dire, the much-anticipated complete staging of the 2014 winner of the FWOpera Frontiers Showcase will make its regional premiere on Sunday, April 23, at the McDavid Theater. Former crime reporter turned librettist Jason Zenka transformed legal stories into an opera set in a courtroom, with music composed by Matthew Peterson. The opera is structured as a series of vignettes.

“The opera’s overarching narrative follows the trial of a brutal matricide committed by a 16-year-old boy, Jeffrey, who beats his mother to near death with objects around the house before setting her on fire,” Zenka says.

The second contemporary opera of the season is Cruzar la Cara de la Luna, a story that mingles past and present in a dramatic exploration of the impact of immigration on one particular Mexican family. Mariachi Vargas de Tecalitlan will perform traditional folk music alongside opera to tell this multi-generational story.

Cruzar is the first opera presented as part of the FWOpera’s Latino outreach, Noches de Opera. Director of development Mark Saville says the outreach program followed a survey conducted by the FWOpera last year that, “showed us a lot about our audience — predominantly how similar everyone was.”

Noches de Opera is a four-year commitment that will involve year-round programming, including the free Fiesta Fort Worth on April 29 in Sundance Square. That event will feature ballet folklorico, mariachi performances by local groups and a simulcast of Cruzar. Next year, FWOpera will present Astor Piazzolla and Horacio Ferrer’s Spanish language tango opera María de Buenos Aires.

Bizet’s Carmen returns to the festival stage for the first time since 2009, starring mezzo-soprano Audrey Babcock. Babcock has performed the role of the seductive gypsy over 100 times and opera fans will surely be pleased with this production's elaborate sets.

Now in its fifth season, FWOpera Frontiers Showcase will feature eight operatic works presented and critiqued by an experienced jury panel. The lineup this year includes operas based on the search for Colombia’s most notorious cocaine trafficker, Pablo Escobar; a comic opera about the difficulties of romance in our modern era of over-connectivity; and a Sherlock Holmes-ish detective story.

For those who enjoyed the Edgar Allan Poe-inspired Embedded at the 2016 festival, another work in this year’s showcase is based on a Poe short story. At the two showcase events, May 3 and May 4, artists from the 2017 FWOpera Festival will sing 20-minute excerpts of selected pieces, accompanied by piano. Tickets are $10.

For more information about production times and pricing, visit