Fort Worth Opera announces 2016 season; JFK set for world premiere

🕐 6 min read

On the eve of its 2015 festival, Fort Worth Opera has announced the lineup for its 2016 FWOpera Festival, set for April 23, 2016 to May 8, 2016.

Main stage productions include the anticipated world premiere of the company’s commissioned opera JFK by David T. Little and Royce Vavrek. Other main stage productions will be Rossini’s comedic The Barber of Seville in its first FWOpera production since the 2002-2003 season. The company’s Opera Unbound selection includes two brand-new, compelling one-act works Buried Alive | Embedded by the creative teams of Jeff Myers and Quincy Long and Patrick Soluri and Deborah Brevoort. Rounding out the Festival, will be the fourth annual installment of FWOpera’s critically-acclaimed new works showcase, Frontiers.

The 2016 FWOpera Festival will be celebrating the company’s 70th anniversary as well as the 10th anniversary of the festival concept.

“Looking back, even just the10 years since we launched the Festival, it’s amazing to see how much North Texas, Fort Worth Opera, and opera in general has changed,” said Darren K. Woods, general director. “When we started planning the 2016 Festival years ago, I had hoped that premiering JFK as the culmination of our Operas of the Americas initiative would send a message that new, American opera deserves a permanent home in the opera world. Standing here now, we have witnessed success beyond what we imagined possible with this initiative, with the added benefit of having many other opera companies across the U.S. join us in embracing American opera. It has re-affirmed that Fort Worth Opera is now, and will continue to be, a catalyst for rejuvenating opera in our community and beyond.”

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JFK offers an intimate portrait of President John F. Kennedy and First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy on the eve of the President’s fateful trip to Dallas. Set in downtown Fort Worth’s historic Hotel Texas, the opera recounts moments from the couples’ personal and political lives and features a cast of FWOpera favorites including baritone Matthew Worth as President John F. Kennedy (Three Decembers), Talise Trevigne in the role of hotel maid Clara Harris (Hamlet), Sean Panikkar as secret serviceman Henry Rathbone (La Bohème, The Pearl Fishers), and Daniel Okulitch (Little Women, Frau Margot, Dead Man Walking) as Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson. Mezzo soprano Daniela Mack will make her FWOpera debut in the poignant role of Jacqueline Kennedy, with additional debuts from Cree Carrico as Rosemary Kennedy and Katharine Goeldner as Jackie Onassis.

Thaddeus Strassberger (Hamlet) will return as director and set designer, while conductor Steven Osgood (Hydrogen Jukebox) will conduct the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra through Little’s colorful score.

Speaking at the Downtown Fort Worth Rotary Club on April 19, Woods said previews of the JFK opera in New York and Philadelphia had been overwhelmingly positive.

The libretto for the work is by Vavrek, who also collaborated with Little on the 2012 opera “Dog Days,” based on the post-apocalyptic story by Judy Budnitz.

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Two additional Opera of the Americas productions, Buried Alive | Embedded, will make their regional premieres as part of FWOpera’s alternative venue series, Opera Unbound. Commissioned as part of American Lyric Theater’s Poe Project and created under the concept of what Edgar Allen Poe would write if he were alive today, Buried Alive | Embedded are one-act psychological thrillers presented back-to-back.

Buried Alive, by Jeff Myers and Quincy Long, borrows from Poe’s The Premature Burial and tells the story of Victor, a painter whose nightmares of death begin to become real. With Christopher Burchett (Silent Night) as Victor and FWOpera Studio Artist Maren Weinberger as Elena his wife, alternating realities are juxtaposed and culminate in a final gruesome ending. The ensemble cast includes performances by Nathan Stark as the Gravedigger, Caroline Worra (Glory Denied) as an Undertaker’s Assistant, as well as FWOpera Studio Artists Anna Laurenzo as the Undertaker, and Brian Wallin as an Undertaker Assistant. Director Lawrence Edelson (Hydrogen Jukebox) returns to direct with Tyson Deaton (Glory Denied) conducting.

The second opera, Embedded, by Patrick Soluri and Deborah Brevoort, is taken from Poe’s The Cask of Amontillado, and was featured during FWOpera’s first annual Frontiers showcase in 2013. Embedded revolves around Sylvia Malow, an aging American news anchor sung by Caroline Worra, who finds herself on the wrong side of the headlines. Desperate to prove her value while being pushed out of her job by Victoria Reilly, a young rival sung by Maren Weinberger, Sylvia is tricked by the notorious terrorist Montressor—portrayed by Nathan Stark—into traveling to see him for an exclusive interview. The opera takes an unexpected twist and ends with a moment of triumph in face of death. Rounding out the cast is Christopher Burchett as the Producer, Brian Wallin as Rory, and Anna Laurenzo as the GPS. Sam Helfrich will make his FWOpera directorial debut and Tyson Deaton will once again conduct.

The 2016 Fort Worth Opera Festival

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April 23—May 8, 2015


Music by David T. Little; libretto by Royce Vavrek

Co-commissioned by American Lyric Theater

April 23, May 1m, May 7, 2016 (m=matinee)

World Premiere; part of Opera of the Americas initiative

Bass Performance Hall, downtown Fort Worth

Sung in English with supertitles in English and Spanish


Matthew Worth (John F. Kennedy)

Daniela Mack * (Jacqueline Kennedy)

Talise Trevigne (Clara Harris)

Sean Panikkar (Henry Rathbone)

Daniel Okulitch (Lyndon B. Johnson)

Cree Carrico * (Rosemary Kennedy)

Katharine Goeldner * (Jacqueline Onassis)


Steven Osgood, conductor

Thaddeus Strassberger, director and scenic design

Mattie Ulrich, costume design *

Chad Jung, lighting design

*denotes Fort Worth Opera debut season

The Barber of Seville

Music by Gioachino Rossini; libretto by Cesare Sterbini.

April 30, May 6, 8m, 2016 (m=matinee)

Bass Performance Hall, downtown Fort Worth

In Italian with supertitles in English and Spanish

First performance by FWOpera since the 2002-2003 season.


Joo Wan Kang * (Figaro)

Andrew Stenson * (Count Almaviva)

Megan Marino * (Rosina)

Tyler Simpson (Don Basilio)

Kyle Albertson * (Dr. Bartolo)


Joe Illick, conductor

David Gately, director

John Stoddart, set design *

Chad Jung, lighting design

* denotes Fort Worth Opera debut season

Buried Alive | Embedded

Buried Alive music by Jeff Myers; libretto by Quincy Long.

Embedded music by Patrick Soluri; libretto by Deborah Brevoort.

April 24m, 26, 29, 30m, May 3, 7m, 2016 (m=matinee)

Scott Theatre (inside the Fort Worth Community Arts Center)

Sung in English without supertitles

Regional premiere


Christopher Burchett (Victor)

Maren Weinberger (Elena)

Nathan Stark * (Gravedigger)

Anna Laurenzo * (Undertaker)

Caroline Worra (Undertaker’s Assistant)

Brian Wallin (Undertaker’s Assistant)


Tyson Deaton, conductor

Lawrence Edelson, director

Zane Philstrom, set and costume design *

Katy Tucker, video design *

Josh Epstein, lighting design *


Caroline Worra (Sylvia Malow)

Nathan Stark (Montressor)

Maren Weinberger (Victoria Reilly)

Christopher Burchett (Producer)

Brian Wallin (Rory)

Anna Laurenzo * (GPS)


Tyson Deaton, conductor

Sam Helfrich *, director

Zane Philstrom, set and costume design *

Katy Tucker, video design *

Josh Epstein, lighting design *

* denotes Fort Worth Opera debut season


Two separate showcases of four works each on Wednesday, May 4, 2016 at 6:00 pm and Thursday, May 5, 2016, at 6:00 pm

Schedule of 2016 Festival Performances

Saturday, April 23 7:30pm Scott Theatre JFK

Sunday, April 24 2:00 pm Scott Theatre Buried Alive | Embedded

Tuesday, April 26 7:30 pm Scott Theatre Buried Alive | Embedded

Friday, April 29 7:30 pm Scott Theatre Buried Alive | Embedded

Saturday, April 30 2:00 pm Scott Theatre Buried Alive | Embedded

Saturday, April 30 7:30 pm Bass Hall The Barber of Seville

Sunday, May 1 2:00 pm Bass Hall JFK

Tuesday, May 3 7:30 pm Scott Theatre Buried Alive | Embedded

Friday, May 6 7:30 pm Bass Hall The Barber of Seville

Saturday, May 7 2:00 pm Scott Theatre Buried Alive | Embedded

Saturday, May 7 7:30 pm Bass Hall JFK

Sunday, May 8 2:00 pm Bass Hall The Barber of Seville


Robert is a Fort Worth native and longtime editor of the Fort Worth Business Press. He is a former president of the local Society of Professional Journalists and was a freelancer for a variety of newspapers, weeklies and magazines, including American Way, BrandWeek and InformatonWeek. A graduate of TCU, Robert has held a variety of writing and editing positions at publications such as the Grand Prairie Daily News and InfoWorld. He is also a musician and playwright.

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