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Nearly $500,000 Goes to FWOpera for New Works Initiative

by Jerome Weeks 28 Jun 2013 2:46 PM

When FWOpera announced its focus on new works from North and South American composers, general director Darren Wood said it was just making official what the company had already been doing. That public statement has now paid off big.


Silent Night Minnesota Opera wideFrom Minnesota Opera’s production of Silent Night

When the Opera of the Americas program was announced earlier this year, Fort Worth opera general director Darren Woods explained that this ten-year commitment to new works and to pioneering composers was really just making public and official what had been the company’s practice for several seasons already.

But, Woods said at the time, they’d “never said to the national foundations, to our own public, ‘This is a long-term thing.’ “

Now that public declaration has paid off. The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation has awarded Fort Worth Opera a three-year, $490,000 grant to support Phase One of Opera of the Americas. That phase will see Fort Worth Opera present three world premieres, two regional premieres and a national co-production. This all leads up to the company’s 70th anniversary in 2016.

The premieres include the full-length adaptation of the sci-fi classic, A Wrinkle in Time to be staged in 2014, as well as the apocalyptic Dog Days, which had been staged in New Jersey to great acclaim but will arrive in Fort Worth in 2015.

Another one of FWOpera’s regional premieres — scheduled for 2014 — is composer Kevin Putts’ Pulitzer Prize-winner,  Silent Night. The opera is based on the French film Joyeux Noel, which in turn was inspired by the so-called Christmas Truce during World War I. On Christmas Eve, 1914, on their own, German, French and Scottish soldiers of the British Army put down their weapons. They went into No Man’s Land to exchange food and sing carols.

Woods says Silent Night has some of the most beautiful choral writing he’s ever heard. Below is the video for the gorgeous chorus number, “Sleep,” followed by the Fort Worth Opera’s full press release.

Fort Worth Opera Awarded 4-Year, $490,000 Grant for Creation, Development and Production of New American Opera



FORT WORTH, TX – Fort Worth Opera (FWOpera), one of the oldest continuously operating opera companies in the United States and a leader among the nation’s foremost champions and producers of contemporary opera, has been awarded a 38-month, $490,000 grant beginning July 1, 2013 from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. The grant will support Phase One of Opera of the Americas, a bold initiative and ten-year multi-phase artistic commitment by Fort Worth Opera to ensure the creation, development, and production of new operas by composers of the Americas.


Nationally renowned for its high level of artistic quality, FWOpera has established a reputation for its willingness to take risks and for seeking out pioneering composers, performers, and works. The company also believes that is has a responsibility as a steward of the operatic art form to not just curate what already exists, but to expand upon the artistic foundations that have been laid. With the Opera of the Americas initiative, the company strives to present personal stories that have a global impact through which to contribute to the cultural, educational, and social enrichment of communities on the local, national, and international levels, thereby positively contributing to the continuing development and expansion of opera.


In announcing the grant from the Mellon Foundation, Fort Worth Opera General Director Darren K. Woods stated, “I am so excited and humbled by this wonderful gift from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. Their financial support to ensure our Opera of the America’s vision and programming succeeds, tells me they believe Fort Worth Opera is producing art that has resonance with our national community and around the globe. This is an exciting time in the creation of new opera and the Mellon Foundation is the heart of many company’s ability to produce it. This is a great honor and a badge of excellence that we will wear proudly. With this gift, we will be able to give so much more to our community and to our world.”


The first phase of Opera of the Americas will feature three world premieres and one national co-production leading up to the company’s 70th anniversary in 2016. These productions reinforce FWOpera’s dedication to introducing new works and championing North and South American contemporary composers, as well as underscoring its vision of the art.


In 2014, FWOpera will present the professional world premiere of 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, the opera tells the tale of this renowned intellectual, poet, theologian, and champion of women’s rights who was forced by the Inquisition to sign an oath in blood renouncing her life’s work. Veteran director Dona D. Vaughn makes her company debut with sets by renowned designer Erhard Rom. With Blood, With Ink will feature costume designs by American celebrity fashion designer Austin Scarlett, acclaimed for his collaborations with artists such as Shein Wei and Parson’s Dance Company, who is also known for his appearances on the fashion design competition reality TV show Project Runway.


The 2014 Festival will also feature the regional premiere of composer Kevin Puts and librettist Mark Campbell’s 2012 Pulitzer Prize-winning opera, Silent Night, in co-production with Minnesota Opera, Cincinnati Opera, and Opera Philadelphia. The piece is based on the 2005 French film Joyeux Noel, about the legendary World War I Christmas Eve cease-fire/truce in 1914, between French, German, and Scottish forces. The dramatic opera illustrates the global character of conflict and the innate nature of humankind in exceptional circumstances.


The 2015 season will feature the world premiere of A Wrinkle in Time by composer Libby Larsen and librettist Bradley Greenwald. A Wrinkle in Time is a full-length mainstage opera based on the enormously popular 1962 Madeleine L’Engle landmark, award-winning novel of the same name. The story 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 Wrinkle in Time has loose roots in Larsen’s original one-act children’s opera commissioned by Opera Delaware in 1991 for elementary school groups.


Also in 2015, the company offers the regional premiere of Dog Days by composer David T. Little and librettist Royce Vavrek. Dog Days is the heart wrenching tale of an apocalyptic wartime world and a family facing starvation trapped inside this new reality. The opera is based on a short story of the same name by Judy Budnitz, and is a co-presentation with Beth Morrison Productions, reprising the 2012 critically-praised premiere in Montclair, New Jersey.


Frontiers, the company’s newly launched annual showcase for new works will run parallel to the company’s mainstage productions during the Festival. Eight selected composers and librettists will be in residence at the Festival during the last week when their works will be presented in 20 minute performances sung by young festival artists in the 2014, 2015, and 2016 FWOpera Festivals. Each composition team will attend the showcase and participate in post-performance discussions. The teams will also receive feedback on their work through private meetings with the Frontiers jury panel. In addition, the workshops will be recorded so that the team can subsequently study the recording to assist in the completion of the compositional process. Final performances will be offered in two separate showcases of four works each.



The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation supports scholarship and work in the humanities and the arts through grants to charitable institutions, including colleges and universities, performing arts organizations, museums, and libraries. Our grantmaking philosophy is to build, strengthen, and sustain institutions and their core capacities, rather than be a source for narrowly defined projects. As such, we develop thoughtful, long-term collaborations with grant recipients and invest sufficient funds for an extended period to accomplish the purpose at hand and achieve meaningful results.



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 staged 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 2013 season featured the inaugural season of its new works showcase, Frontiers, featuring works by eight composers from the Americas. The 2014 season, the first year of the three-year Phase One of the company’s Opera of the Americas 10-year initiative, and the company’s 68th season, includes the return of The Pearl Fishers and Così fan tutte to the FWOpera stage after a decades-long absence, the regional premiere of the Pultizer Prize-winning opera Silent Night, and the professional world premiere of With Blood, With Ink, along with debuts of new works by American composers in second season of new works showcase Frontiers. Fort Worth Opera’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 five percent. The local economy has also benefitted, with over 1,900 hotel rooms booked for the 2012 Festival alone. The company has balanced its budget for the eighth consecutive year.