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Two World Premieres for Fort Worth Opera

by Jerome Weeks 31 May 2012 7:19 AM

In 2014, FWOpera will present two world premieres — one based on an iconic sci-fi fantasy, the other based on an iconic female author. How many icons you want in one season?


The Fort Worth Opera will present two world premieres in its 2014 season, including the adaptation of a famous young-adult novel. KERA’s Jerome Weeks has the story.

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The novel is A Wrinkle in Time. Author Madeleine L’Engle’s classic, sci-fi story is about misfit kids who travel across space and time to save their father who disappeared during a top-secret government experiment. The novel won the Newbery Medal for best children’s book in 1963 — and in the 50 years since, it has never gone out of print.

Darren Woods, general director of Fort Worth Opera, fell in love with A Wrinkle in Time when he was a teenager.

Woods: “It really resonated with a kid in Texas being raised as a musician in a town of people playing football. It was something where the misfits save the world and not the athletes. And so it was just something that I always kept with me.”

Woods knew that in 1991, composer Libby Larsen (left) and librettist Bradley Greenwald had adapted A Wrinkle in Time as a one-act children’s opera, commissioned by Opera Delaware. A few years ago, he met Larsen when they both were judging the Lynam Vocal Competition. Woods immediately asked if she would re-work Wrinkle as a full, mainstage opera for Bass Hall. Larsen has composed more than 400 works, including a dozen operas, but had never returned to an earlier piece. She eventually agreed.

The other premiere is a chamber opera to be staged at McDavid Studio.

With Blood, With Ink is about Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz, the 17th century Mexican nun. A child prodigy, she became a scholar, a poet and a defender of women’s rights in the face of the Inquisition.  She is esteemed as one of Mexico’s greatest Baroque literary figures. (The opera’s title comes from the fact that Sor Juana was eventually forced to renounce her life’s work, signing the document in blood.)

Composer Daniel Crozier created With Blood, With Ink in 1993 with librettist Peter Krask at the Peabody Conservatory in Baltimore; it has been workshopped at the New York City Opera lab (its VOX program) and given university stagings. Fort Worth Opera will give With Blood, With Ink its first full, professional production.

For an opera company, a world premiere is a risky and costly venture. Presenting one is unusual. Presenting two in a season is extremely rare.

Woods: “It represents a huge commitment to new work. And it’s our way of saying that we don’t want to be curators of the past but we want to be creators of the future.”

Woods says that because of the popularity of A Wrinkle in Time and its sci-fi elements, it will be an ambitious production. Meanwhile, With Blood, With Ink will be intimate and intense. Both world premieres will be presented in April through May, 2014.

The full press release follows:

Fort Worth Opera Reveals Two World Premieres Slated for 2014 Festival: A Wrinkle in Time and With Blood, With Ink

Company Continues Trend of Championing New Works and Contemporary Composers

FORT WORTH, Texas – Fort Worth Opera (FWOpera) General Director Darren K. Woods today revealed that the company will stage two world premieres as part of its 2014 Festival season, April 19–May 11, 2014.  The company will mount the full-length adaptation of A Wrinkle in Time by composer Libby Larsen and librettist Bradley Greenwald, based on the popular, award-winning science fiction novel by Madeleine L’Engle, as well as the professional world premiere of the award-winning opera With Blood, With Ink, by composer Daniel Crozier and librettist Peter M. Krask, based on the true story of 17th-century Mexican nun Sor (Sister) Juana Inés de la Cruz, a renowned intellectual, poet, nun, and champion of women’s rights who was forced by the Inquisition to sign an oath in blood renouncing her life’s work. The two operas are the company’s third and fourth mainstage world premieres.

“These two premieres reaffirm Fort Worth Opera’s commitment to new works, contemporary composers, and to growing new audiences,” said Mr. Woods. “I am honored to be staging both these operas: A Wrinkle in Time had an indelible impact on me as a child and it provided the perfect opportunity to collaborate with the distinguished composer Libby Larsen.  In the book, the children travel to different worlds and meet fantastical beings, and we’ll be utilizing state-of-the-art technology to create the magical landscapes and characters inside Bass Hall, which will be a magnificent home for this production.  And I’m equally overjoyed that our first world premiere on our newly-named Opera Unbound alternative-venue series will be With Blood, With Ink, a heartbreaking, historical gem of an opera which has been awaiting a mainstage premiere for nearly 20 years.  Whereas Wrinkle will allow us to stretch the bounds of stage technology and effects, With Blood, With Ink is an incredibly intimate opera about Sor Juana’s very human struggle, and I can’t wait to bring it life in the McDavid Studio, our chamber theater.”

A Wrinkle in Time will be a full-length, mainstage opera which has loose roots in Larsen’s original one-act children’s opera commissioned by Opera Delaware in 1991 for elementary school groups. The 1962 Madeleine L’Engle novel of the same name is about a teenage girl, her younger brother, and their search for their father, a government scientist who went missing while working on a top-secret project. The work illuminates the eternal battle of good vs. evil and the struggle of conformity vs. non-conformity.  A landmark book, winning the 1963 Newbery Award among other awards, it has been internationally hailed anew this year on the occasion of its 50th anniversary.

Composer Libby Larsen, one of America’s most prolific and popular living composers, whom the press has praised for her ability “to make contemporary opera both musically current and accessible to the average audience,” spoke about the origins of the opera’s new version.

“Darren and I were judges together for the Lynam Vocal Competition a few years ago,” Ms. Larsen stated. “He looked up as I walked into the room and just beamed. ‘I’ve got to talk to you,’ he said. ‘If you ever want to adapt A Wrinkle in Time as a mainstage opera, I want to produce it.’ The thought had never entered my mind, but I immediately loved the idea because Darren’s a world-class impresario and I knew he would bring the best artist together to bring this piece to life. And he loves this book as much as I do. We have the best situation for our opera to thrive and we’re having a whee of a time doing it.”

With Blood, With Ink will receive its mainstage world premiere as part of the company’s Opera Unbound series.  Since the one-act opera’s creation in 1993, it has been produced at several universities (Manhattan School of Music, Boston Conservatory, and Peabody Conservatory, among others) and was featured at New York City Opera’s VOX program. The New York Times has called it a “harmonically lush, lyrically driven score.” With Blood, With Ink chronicles the extraordinary life of an impoverished, illegitimate child in colonial Mexico who rose to become the first great literary figure in America, known as the Phoenix of America, and who went on to create the largest library in the Americas of the time. Sor (Sister) Juana has long been revered in Mexico but is only now being discovered in the U.S. The opera examines the irony of Sor Juana’s unparalleled genius, which was the key to her success as well as the cause of her destruction.

“After a long time searching, it is tremendously gratifying to know that our opera has finally found its right home in Fort Worth—an adventurous, welcoming, and spirited American home,” said Mr. Crozier. “We could not be more thrilled or more honored to join this community of enthusiastic and gifted artists.”

For the first time, Fort Worth Opera has hired a celebrity from the fashion world to serve as costume designer, for the mainstage premiere production of With Blood, With Ink—American designer Austin Scarlett, celebrated for his collaborations with artists such as Shein Wei and Parson’s Dance Company, as well as known for his appearances on the fashion design competition reality TV show Project Runway.

The full cast and creative team for both operas, as well as performance dates, will be announced at a later time.  Biographies and additional information on the creative teams, will be available on the FWOpera website as they are announced.

A Wrinkle in Time

Libby Larsen (Composer) is one of America’s most performed living composers. She has created a catalogue of over 400 works spanning virtually every genre from intimate vocal and chamber music to massive orchestral works and over twelve operas. Grammy Award winning and widely recorded, including over fifty CD’s of her work, she is constantly sought after for commissions and premieres by major artists, ensembles, and orchestras around the world, and has established a permanent place for her works in the concert repertory. As a vigorous, articulate advocate for the music and musicians of our time, in 1973, Larsen co-founded the Minnesota Composers Forum, now the American Composer’s Forum, which has become an invaluable aid for composers in a transitional time for American arts. A former holder of the Papamarkou Chair at John W. Kluge Center of the Library of Congress, Larsen has also held residencies with the Minnesota Orchestra, the Charlotte Symphony, and the Colorado Symphony.

Bradley Greenwald (Librettist) grew up in Minnesota where he began his opera career with a tour of Madame Butterfly through the Minnesota Opera. There he met Libby Larsen when he was cast as Clerval in her Frankenstein; or the Modern Prometheus in 1990. In 1991, she asked him to adapt A Wrinkle in Time for her original version of the opera, commissioned by Opera Delaware, which he did under the name of Walter Green. Since then, Greenwald has performed opera, theater, musical theater, concerts, and recitals with several organizations based in the Twin Cities, including Theatre de la Jeune Lune, Guthrie Theater, Children’s Theatre Company, Jungle Theater, 10,000 Things Theater, Nautilus Music-Theater, Minnesota Dance Theatre, VocalEssence, Frank Theater, Minnesota Orchestra, Lyra Baroque Orchestra, A Prairie Home Companion, Skylark Opera, and Ballet of the Dolls. Among his career achievements, he received a Minnesota State Arts Board Fellowship in Music, the McKnight Fellowship for Theater Artists, and a 2006 Ivey Award for I Am My Own Wife.

With Blood, With Ink

Works by Daniel Crozier (Composer) have been recorded or performed by the Seattle Symphony Orchestra, the New York City Opera, the Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra, the Bach Festival Society of Winter Park, Songfest 2004, and saxophonist Branford Marsalis with the Walden Chamber Players.  They have been recorded for release on the Albany, ACA Digital, PARMA, and MARK labels.  His awards include a fellowship from the State of Florida’s Division of Cultural Affairs (2007), first prize in Fresh Ink 2004, the Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra’s commissioning competition for Florida Composers, ASCAP Special Awards annually since 1996, two nominations for awards from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, an ASCAP Foundation Morton Gould Young Composers Grant for his first opera, The Reunion, and first prize in the National Opera Association Chamber Opera competition for his second, With Blood, With Ink.  In May, 2010 Anthony Tommasini’s review in The New York Times praised the opera as “Driven by Mr. Crozier’s harmonically lush and lyrically soaring score.” Daniel Crozier serves as Associate Professor of Theory and Composition at Rollins College.

Peter M. Krask is the librettist of With Blood, With Ink which has been twice featured on New York City Opera’s VOX festival and has been performed in universities around the country. Other works include The Language of Birds (composer John Kennedy), commissioned by Sarasota Opera, Rendezvous of Light premiered in a production he also directed and designed, and an adaptation of Calvino’s Invisible Cities (composer Christopher Cerrone).  His non-fiction essay, The Question I Asked Him, was chosen to lead to the anthology The Man I Might Become and his memoir, The Way the Stars Come Home was included in the anthology Wrestling with the Angel. He has written features and criticism for The Baltimore Sun, The City Paper, The Boston Phoenix, and The New York Blade. Mr. Krask holds a Master’s Degree in Criticism from the Peabody Institute of the Johns Hopkins University.  He lives in New York City.

Austin Scarlett (Costume Designer) is a designer whose work spans the realms of fashion, theatre, and pop culture. His designs have been described as “magic” (The New York Times) and “worthy of a goddess” (Elle). Originally from Oregon, Austin moved to New York as a teenager to pursue his education at The Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) and Art Students League of New York. Scarlett first gained recognition for his designs on the original season of the hit TV show Project Runway, and he later became one of the youngest designers in history to be named Creative Director of a luxury gown collection. In 2010, Scarlett developed, hosted, and designed his critically acclaimed television program, On the Road with Austin and Santino, traveling across the country creating original fashions for once-in-a-lifetime occasions. This season, he again captured America’s attention as a finalist on Project Runway All Stars. This fall, he will debut his signature line of couture eveningwear and wedding dresses. Scarlett has collaborated on the international stage with artists such as David Parson’s Dance as seen on PBS, Aspen Santa Fe Ballet, Greenwich Music Festival, and Shen Wei Dance Arts at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Fort Worth Opera’s 2012 Festival (the company’s 66th season and 6th Festival) finishes this weekend. The four Festival productions have been critically acclaimed and have included sold-out performances. The remaining performances include Jake Heggie’s Three Decembers (a regional premiere) on Thursday, May 31 and Saturday, June 2 (matinee); Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro on Friday, June 1; Puccini’s Tosca on Saturday, June 2; and Mark Adamo’s Lysistrata (a regional premiere) on Sunday, June 3 (matinee).

Fort Worth Opera’s upcoming 2013 Festival (the company’s 67th season and seventh Festival), begins in its new time, one month earlier than previous Festival seasons, and will run April 20 through May 12, 2013. The company presents three operas at its main stage home, Bass Hall: a period production of Puccini’s tragic drama, La Bohème; Donizetti’s spirited switched-at-birth romantic comedy, The Daughter of the Regiment; and its inaugural production of Strauss’ entertaining and comedic opera-within-an-opera, Ariadne auf Naxos.  FWOpera’s popular alternative venue series receives a facelift, with a new name and a new location for the 2013 season. Previously unnamed, the newly-titled Opera Unbound series will feature the regional premiere of American composer Tom Cipullo’s Glory Denied. Based on the bestselling book by journalist Tom Philpott, the emotion-packed, landmark work tells the tragic, true story of America’s longest-serving prisoner of war, Col. Jim Thompson. Also part of the 2013 Festival is the inauguration of Frontiers, Fort Worth Opera’s new works showcase featuring excerpts from 6-8 unpublished contemporary operatic works by composers from the Americas. The program offers the public free access to the performances, as well as post-performance discussions with the composers.

ABOUT FORT WORTH OPERA: Founded in 1946, Fort Worth Opera is the oldest continually performing opera company in Texas, and one of the 14 oldest opera companies in the United States. Under the leadership of General Director Darren K. Woods since 2001, the organization has gained national attention from critics and audiences alike for its artistic quality and willingness to take risks. Known throughout the operatic world as a champion of new and rarely-performed works, the company has taken a leadership role in producing contemporary operas. In 2007, when the company changed its fall/winter schedule to a condensed one-month long Festival in the spring, FWOpera staged its first world premiere, Frau Margot; and followed up the next season with Angels in America (which resulted in More Life: the Art and Science of AIDS, a community-wide collaboration amongst organizations in the performing and visual arts, children’s education, medicine, and social services), Dead Man Walking in 2009, the world premiere of Before Night Falls in 2010, and Hydrogen Jukebox

in 2011.  The 2012 Festival stages the regional premieres of Mark Adamo’s Lysistrata and Jake Heggie’s Three Decembers, the first time the two composers’ works have been co-programmed.  The company’s CD recordings of Frau Margot and Before Night Falls are available on the Albany label.

Established in 2002, the Fort Worth Opera Studio is a year-round training program for emerging young artists who are cast from annual national auditions. In addition to receiving professional training while in Fort Worth, the singers also perform in the Children’s Opera Theatre, the company’s educational program that tours fully costumed, portable operas to elementary schools. COT performances span the whole state of Texas and reach as many as 50,000 children a year, many of whom have no other access to arts education. Since 2007, attendance of Festival performances by out-of-town audiences has grown almost 5%. The local economy has also benefitted, with over 1,900 hotel rooms booked for the last Festival alone. The company has balanced its budget for the seventh consecutive year.