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Fort Worth Opera to present lecture on ‘Porgy and Bess’ to open 2019 festival

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Pulitzer Prize-winning cultural critic Margo Jefferson will deliver a keynote lecture on The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess at Bass Performance Hall on as part of the opening weekend of the 2019 Fort Worth Opera Festival.

Other works scheduled in the current season are Hansel and Gretel, El Pasado Nunca se Termina (The Past is Never Finished), The Last Dream of Frida and Diego, and the world premiere of Companionship.

Porgy and Bess, considered by many as the greatest 20th century American opera, opened at the Alvin Theatre in New York on Oct. 10, 1935. Among its legendary songs are I Got Plenty O’ Nuttin’ and Summertime.

“I grew up with Porgy and Bess,” Jefferson said in a news release by the opera. “I’ve been watching and listening to some form of it since 1959 when the movie came out. I know it as a musical; I know it as an opera. I’ve charted its course as a much-debated racial and cultural document. I’m excited about the coming Fort Worth production. Porgy and Bess demands that we, its American audience, live with its contradictions and live up to its complexities. When we do that, it rewards us with its musical glories.”

Porgy and Bess, by George Gershwin, Dubose Heyward, Dorothy Heyward and Ira Gershwin, is schedule for performance April 26, 28 and 30 at Bass Performance Hall.

Jefferson won the 1995 Pulitzer Prize in Criticism for her work at The New York Times. She will speak at Bass Hall April 27.

But opera fans don’t have to wait until next year.

Fort Worth Opera is staging Engelbert Humperdinck’s Hansel and Gretel late in 2018.

The opera is based upon the beloved Brothers Grimm story, and explores the perils of growing up and reminds children of all ages to beware the witchy woods and never judge a book by its candy-coated cover.

Fort Worth Opera says that the presentation has “cleverly reimagined for 21st-century audiences.”

Performance locations and dates for a fully staged, 60-minute, pop-up production are: The Marq in Southlake, Nov. 11; Arlington Music Hall, Nov. 16; and the Fort Worth Botanic Garden Lecture Hall Auditorium, Nov. 17.

The 2019 festival will also include the world premiere of composer-librettist Rachel J. Peters’s “delightfully

wicked opera,” Companionship. The opera is adapted from a short story by internationally bestselling author Arthur Phillips, according a news release, is a “deliciously dark comedy about an obsession with dough, mirrors our modern world, where what we consume becomes all-consuming.”

Companionship was selected as a winner of the 2018 Fort Worth Opera Frontiers showcase and will be presented at the Fort Worth Botanic Garden as part of the opera’s alternative venue series, Opera Unbound.

“This project began on a whim in 2011 with scenes for a concert featuring Brooklyn Book Festival authors, and I just couldn’t let it go. I felt as if Arthur had written this story specially for me; it was already so full of music and crying out for adaptation,” the Brooklyn-based Peters said in an opera news release.

“The opera has been developed in fits and starts over the years by American Opera Projects, Manhattan School of Music, and the John Duffy Institute for New Opera. I’m thrilled to finally bring the entire piece to life at Fort Worth Opera,” Peters said.

It is the first opera written by a woman to be produced by Fort Worth Opera in its 73-year-history.

Companionship will be presented May 1, 3 and 5 at the Fort Worth Botanic Garden, Lecture Hall Auditorium.

On May 10, the company will present the world’s second mariachi opera, El Pasado Nunca se Termina (The Past is

Never Finished).The bilingual family drama is set on the eve of the Mexican Revolution in 1910, as race, class, and economic conflicts between peasants and the descendants of the Spanish conquistadors boil to the surface.

Performances are May 10, 11 and 12 at Bass Performance Hall.

The Last Dream of Frida and Diego will be presented May 31 at a venue yet to be determined.

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Paul Harral
Paul is a lifelong journalist with experience in wire service, newspaper, magazine, local and network television and digital media. He was vice president and editor of the editorial page of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram and editor of Fort Worth, Texas magazine before joining the Business Press. What he likes best is writing about people in detail and introducing them to others in the community. Specific areas of passion are homelessness, human trafficking, health care and aerospace.

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