As the Fort Worth Opera preaches to the unwashed, former Arlington actor/director Frank Mosley and Fort Worth singer-songwriter/composer Clint Niosi reach for glory via a multimedia extravaganza, and we announce the winners in our Rahr Visionary Brew label finalists. –– Anthony Mariani
Have a Shot … of Opera
Opera singers have a knack for seamlessly blending humor with spellbinding technique, an all-too-rare trait among classical musicians. At a recent Fort Worth Opera brew-fueled event called Opera Shots at The Foundry in Dallas, tenor Scott Quinn, who’s set to star in the Fort Worth Opera Festival as Ferrando in Mozart’s Così fan tutte, made his way to the stage for an impromptu operatic performance, or so we concertgoers thought.
He started by belting out “All My Ex’s Live in Texas” in perfect Texas twang. When the laughter and hooting subsided, Quinn offered a brief apology and dived into a passionate rendition of “Dein ist mein ganzes Herz” by Franz Lehár. The tongue-in-cheek humor captured the Opera Shots ethos: to program world-class music that’s attractive to those of us still under 60.
Since its inception in 2010, FWO’s Opera Shots has become a regular feature in the Fort Worth classical music scene. The formula is simple enough — pick a trendy gastropub, mix in several FWO singers and a keyboard, and perform selections from opera’s Top 100 hits. (You’ll rarely not hear Rossini or Puccini performed at least once.) Past locations have included The Ginger Man, The Live Oak Music Hall & Lounge, and Times Ten Cellar.
Sean Panikkar and Lee Poulis gave us a sneak peek at the upcoming festival with their tranquil performance of “Au fond du temple saint” from Bizet’s The Pearl Fishers. Not on the festival roster but a delightful addition to the evening was “Je veux vivre” from Gounod’s Romeo and Juliet sung by Hailey Clark, who made her professional debut two years ago in the Festival’s Lysistrata. Baritone Justin Hopkins offered a whimsical rendering of “Ol’ Man River” from Showboat. I’m not sure that qualifies as standard repertory, but the crowds loved it.
FWO spokesperson Christina Kucan said the Oak Cliff location wasn’t chosen to lure Dallas operaphiles away from the AT&T Performing Arts Center or to show the Big D what edgy opera actually looks like. Apparently, FWO fans are as ubiquitous as waffle houses and can be found far outside the 817. Kucan said those fans are vocal about what they want and where. “The Opera Shots programs are regularly attracting crowds near 300,” she said.
The truth of that last statistic became all too apparent when I found myself waiting in line nearly half an hour for my first expletive-deleted! beer. At least I had a good view of the stage. As I contemplated my choice, the sweet sounds of Bizet’s Carmen filled the room. Soprano Kathryn Leemhuis’ rendition of “The Seguidilla” was every bit as fiery and sultry as the free-spirited gypsy she embodied, and pianist Stephen Carey’s accompaniment was anything but passive. As with each singer, he followed her with thunderous crescendos and voluminous tremolos.
On Monday, April 7, Opera Shots will make its last foray of the season into the hearts and stomachs of music lovers, this time at The Ginger Man in Southlake. Then FWO singers and staff will buckle down for the annual festival beginning later this month and running through mid-May. FWO general director Darren Woods has chosen a piquant blend of classic and contemporary pieces: Bizet’s The Pearl Fishers, Mozart’s Così fan tutte, Daniel Crozier and Peter Krask’s With Blood, With Ink (a professional world premiere), and Kevin Puts and Mark Campbell’s Pulitzer Prize-winning Silent Night. –– Edward Brown
Her Wilderness Arrives
Frank Mosley, the Dallasite-via-Arlington actor/director and 2013 Visionary Award winner, and Fort Worth singer-songwriter/composer Clint Niosi are about to release one of the most ambitious multimedia experiences North Texas has ever seen. Her Wilderness will have multiple components, including live performance (called Hot/Cold), a looped installation triptych for galleries and museums (The Fairest of All), and a feature film, Her Wilderness. Mosley is shopping the movie around to festivals now.
The movie, a companion piece stylistically to his first feature, 2010’s Hold, is “a lot more operatic, wild, and epic but still has that intimacy of character relationships,” he told us last year. The score, composed entirely by Niosi at his home studio in the Fort, is truly minimalist and bleak a la Philip Glass, and we mean that in the best way. Also featuring ambient audio and dialogue from the movie recorded and edited by Roy Bennett, the moody but gorgeous soundtrack was mastered by Fort Worth’s Britt Robisheaux (The Theater Fire, Drug Mountain) and will be available on National Record Store Day (Saturday, Apr. 19) as a limited edition on CD (150 copies) and digitally on iTunes and Spotify through Fort Worth-based Orange Otter Records. “The soundtrack is in a way like a radio drama at times or a concept album in the vein of Pink Floyd,” Mosley said. “Though there are separate tracks, the whole thing weaves together.”
Listen to a snippet at Soundcloud.com/orangeotterrecords/dead-animal. — A.M.
Rahr Visionary Brew Label Finalists Announced
As part of our annual Visionary Awards, Rahr & Sons Brewing Company crafts a special brew for us. Since the awards are all about celebrating the arts, we hold a contest to design the label that will go on every bottle of this year’s Visionary Brew. Below are the names of this year’s finalists, whose work will be displayed at the Visionary Awards party 6-9 p.m. Thursday, April 17, downtown at Artspace 111 (111 Hampton St., 817-877-4920). Rahr founder and chairman Fritz Rahr will select the winning design at the event.
The ceremony will be anchored by our presentation of three $500 checks to three outstanding emerging Fort Worth artists: director Adam Adolfo, conceptual artist Bradly Brown, and the art collective HOMECOMING! Committee. But there’s more: Son of Stan, the nom de rawk of Grammy-winning Angeleno-via-Fort Worth Jordan Richardson, will perform solo. The cost of admission –– $20 per person or $30 per couple –– includes noshes from Reata and beer, wine, and liquor. (We’ve done the math, and there’s no better party deal in town.)
The finalists are Leti Andrade, Joshua Ellis, Scott Farris, Brian Forosisky, Tyler Graver, Marlon Huezo and Jimmie Martinez, Neal Langham, Cathy Lincoln, Joe Melgoza, Pussyhouse Propaganda, Chelsea Vinson.
Congrats to all the finalists, and thanks to the dozens of artists who submitted work. See ya on April 17. — A.M.