The Fort Worth Opera’s first multi-week festival continues in earnest this weekend with performances of Verdi’s Falstaff, Rossini’s Petite Messe Solennelle, and Puccini’s Madame Butterfly at Bass Performance Hall.
The festival opened with a single performance of Butterfly last Saturday and will fill the next three weekends with repeats of these operas in addition to the premiere of a new one, Frau Margot, by American composer Thomas Pasatieri. FWO General director Darren Woods expects the new format, already used by several small American companies, to resolve some of his increasingly thorny scheduling problems: namely, coordinating Bass Hall’s, the Symphony’s, and the solo vocalists’ schedules, and at the same time avoiding Dallas Opera dates. Overall, it’s not a bad idea. The festival occurs between the end of the Symphony’s subDELETEion series and its first appearance at Concerts in the Garden. Many singers are between winter and summer engagements, and the Dallas Opera is through for the season. Woods also sees pluses for the public. The festival format, he said, allows more performances of each opera, and it doesn’t restrict viewing to one weekend. The arrangement also makes it easier to market new works. Woods has an ongoing commitment to producing contemporary opera, and nestled among traditional works, his choices may not seem so threatening.
Friday night’s Falstaff is also a premiere of sorts. Of all the operas that the company has performed in its 60-year history, Verdi’s popular comic-opera based on Shakespeare’s The Merry Wives of Windsor isn’t one. Baritone Kim Josephson will make his Fort Worth debut singing the title role. Rossini’s Petite Messe Solennelle, or “Little Solemn Mass,” is neither solemn nor little. The score calls for two pianos and a harmonium, four solo vocalists, and a choir of 16, and it’s filled with Rossini’s good humor and operatic vocal tricks. A joint effort of the Opera and the Van Cliburn Foundation’s Cliburn at the Bass series, the performance will feature Symphony staff pianist Shields-Collins Bray and 1997 Cliburn Competition winner Jon Nakamatsu, both led by TCU choral director Ronald Shirey. Rounding out the weekend on Sunday afternoon will be a repeat of Puccini’s Madame Butterfly. Check Calendar listings for dates and times. Tickets are $15-142. 817-731-0726.-Leonard Eureka