Don't Miss Fort Worth Opera's 2014 Festival, Opening This Weekend

Ellen Appel
The cast of Fort Worth Opera's upcoming production of Mozart's Cosi fan tutte (Kathryn Leemhuis, Scott Quinn, Paul Scholten and Jan Cornelius)

The 2014 Fort Worth Opera Festival starts this weekend and you know what that means: time to head to Cowtown and binge-watch opera.

Instead of spreading productions out across several months, the Fort Worth Opera presents their entire season in just three, short, drama-packed weeks (April 19 through May 11). This year the schedule even makes it possible to catch performances of all four productions over the course of just one weekend (May 2-4), giving audiences the option to gorge themselves on operas Netflix-style.

This year's festival offerings include comedy and tragedy, large-scale, grandiose productions and an intimate chamber opera as well as the fascinating juxtaposition of old and new music. In addition to familiar works by Mozart (Cosi fan tutte) and Bizet (The Pearl Fishers), the FWO has taken on the exciting challenge of presenting audiences with two modern operas by contemporary American composers (Kevin Puts' Silent Night and Daniel Crozier's With Blood, With Ink). Whether you plan to attend them all or pick and choose your own operatic adventure, the preview below will give you a good idea of what to expect. Here's the rundown:

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Dress rehearsal for the Fort Worth Opera's production of The Pearl Fishers

The Pearl Fishers
Two guys. One girl. What could go wrong? This classic triangular tale of friendship and love is less ubiquitous than Carmen, composer George Bizet's more famous masterpiece, but it shares many of the qualities that make that work a consistent hit. Set on the coast of Sri Lanka, a 19th-century fascination with exoticism infuses this romantic work with an aura of mystique. The dramatic tale provides plenty of romantic fodder for soaring, tuneful melodies, including the opera's most famous excerpt, a duet for tenor and baritone that has been sung by nearly every famous male opera star.

The FWO production stars Hailey Clark as Leila, the object of both Nadir's (Sean Panikkar) and Zurga's (Lee Poulis) affection. Bizet's The Pearl Fishers opens this year's festival at Bass Hall on Saturday, April 19, with repeat performances April 27 and May 2.

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Naomi Vaughan
Costume designer Austin Scarlett of Project Runway fame makes adjustments to singer Vanessa Becerra's costume

With Blood, With Ink
In 1993, composer Daniel Crazier and librettist Peter M. Krask were both graduate students at the prestigious Peabody Conservatory in Baltimore when Krask read a biography about an obscure 17th-century Mexican child prodigy turned feminist scholar, poet-playwright and nun named Sor (Sister) Juana Ines de la Cruz. Krask became fascinated by Sor Juana and he and Crazier set her heartbreaking story as an opera, premiering it at Peabody. Although it has since been workshopped in New York and elsewhere, this production marks the work's professional premiere. Sung in English and performed at the intimate McDavid Studio (across the street from Bass Hall), this 20th-century chamber opera is a must-see. With Blood, With Ink opens Sunday, April 20, with repeat performances April 25, 26, 27, 29 and May 3, 4, 6, 9 and 10.


Cosi fan tutte
When Mozart does rom-com it's always fun, so a good production of Cosi is not to be missed. The title of this classic opera can be loosely translated as "All Women Are Like That." Just ignore the rampant and less than subtle 18th-century sexism here and enjoy this hugely entertaining tale of love, deception, seduction and lies, all accompanied by Mozart's perfectly crisp, witty music. Scott Quinn and Paul Scholten star opposite Jan Cornelius and Kathryn Leemhuis as the mix-matched lovers. The opera opens April 26 with repeat performances on May 3 and 11.


Silent Night
In 2012, composer Kevin Puts won a Pulitzer Prize for this groundbreaking 21st-century opera. Based on the screenplay for Joyeux Novel, a French movie from 2005, it tells the now famous story of the 1914 Christmas Eve truce between European soldiers on the front lines of battle during World War II. The multilingual tale is sung in English, French, German, Italian and Latin (all with English subtitles). Soprano Ava Pine stars as Anna Sørenson alongside a strong cast of male leads. This FWO Festival production marks the regional premier of this much-talked-about modern masterwork. Performances of Silent Night run on May 4 and 10.

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