Fort Worth Opera Announces Two World Premieres For The 2019-2020 Season

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Fort Worth Opera (FWO) is thrilled to announce two exciting world premiere productions for the company's 2019-2020 season. On November 16, 2019, FWO will present composer Joe Illick and Pulitzer Prize-winning librettist Mark Campbell's inspirational one-act children's opera, Frida Kahlo and the Bravest Girl in the World, at the historic Rose Marine Theater. On April 26, 2020, the company will unveil composer-librettist Héctor Armienta's exhilarating Zorro at the legendary Ridglea Theater, a swashbuckling adventure for the whole family, featuring one of pop culture's most iconic, sword-wielding vigilantes.

Directed by visionary stage director Octavio Cardenas, both Zorro and Frida Kahlo and the Bravest Girl in the World are part of the company's ongoing, community-driven program, Noches de Ópera, a celebration of Latino(a) culture, heritage, and artistry.

"The idea for Frida Kahlo and the Bravest Girl in the World came from General Director Tuomas Hiltunen," says Joe Illick, who also serves as FWO's Artistic Director. "He suggested this acclaimed children's book as a basis for a family opera, and when Mark and I saw that the story was about the universal reach of art and empowering young women, we were thrilled to bring it to life."

Based upon the highly-acclaimed book by award-winning English author and illustrator Laurence Anholt, the opera follows the true-life story of Marianna Morillo Safa and her friendship with famed painter Frida Kahlo. Featuring the talented singers from Fort Worth Opera's Lesley Resident and Studio programs, this delightful tale teaches children about art, bravery, and the power of friendship.

"Frida Kahlo and the Bravest Girl in the World is the third opera I've written with a story that involves a visual artist, but the first children's opera that focuses on one," says Mark Campbell. "The narrative angle Laurence Anholt cleverly provided in his eponymous book-through Mariana Morillo Safa, a young girl who was the subject of one of Kahlo's most famous portraits-allowed Joe and me to not only explore the workings of an artist at her height, but also the power of sororal friendships."

The opera follows Marianna, a young girl living in the heart of Mexico City, whose home is full of beautiful artwork by Frida Kahlo. She is encouraged by her family to visit Kahlo and have her portrait painted by the renowned artist, but is terrified at the thought. There are rumors that Frida keeps skeletons above her bed and exotic pets in her Blue House -- people have even said that she is a witch. As Kahlo begins to paint Marianna in her studio, this fear quickly disappears, and a friendship blooms between the two. Marianna meets Frida's husband, Diego Rivera, and learns of the horrible accident that almost killed her new friend. Through the magic of opera, Frida's parrot, dog, and monkey all sing, and the audience is invited to join in on the fun as well.

Fort Worth Opera's 2020 Festival kicks off on April 17 with Puccini's romantic masterpiece La Bohème and concludes on May 3 with Revenge of the Bat (Die Fledermaus), Strauss II's sparkling operetta, updated to the Roaring Twenties. Nestled between these two productions, the company will present the world premiere of Zorro on April 26, 28, and 30. This will be the first time since the Ridglea Theater opened in 1950, that FWO has ever performed at this historic venue in the Camp Bowie District of Fort Worth.

"As a Mexican American opera composer, I've devoted my life to creating work that draws on our history and our stories," says composer-librettist Héctor Armienta. "The opera Zorro gives me the perfect opportunity to tell a great story while setting it within a historical, cultural context.

Though the character of Zorro is fictional, I've incorporated the political unrest that occurred in Spain, México, and Alta California during the early 19th century as a direct result of Napoleon's war in Europe. Musically, audiences will hear a variety of styles, including Mariachi, Mexican corridos, a Flamenco bulería, but within a neo-romantic operatic style. Finally, my goal is to create work that serves a cultural bridge between communities and excites new audiences to the power of opera."

Zorro's action begins in Spain within the Mountain Fortress of the Order of Zarzueta. A scholarly student named Diego (stunning Mexican-born tenor César Delgado) trains to become a master swordsman and a skilled marksman. One fateful day, his enlightened master carves a letter "Z" into his upper arm and sends him back to the place of his birth in Alta California. There it is said he will find his destiny and give the Order a new life. Once he arrives in the New Spain, he encounters an old flame, the beguiling Carlotta (mezzo-soprano Guadalupe Paz), the passionate Ana Maria (soprano Gabriella Enríquez), the villainous Moncada (acclaimed Mexican baritone Óscar Velázquez), and a grave evil like none he has faced before. Donning a black mask to conceal his true identity, Zorro is born, and he wields his sharp sword to fight for the oppressed.

Frida Kahlo and the Bravest Girl in the World and Zorro mark Fort Worth Opera's seventh and eighth world premieres since 2007, and its first foray into newly commissioned works for children and their families. Tickets for the 2020 FWO Festival and the company's entire season can be purchased online at or by calling the box office at 817.731.0726.

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