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Photo by Ellen Appel.

Bravo to Darren Woods. The Fort Worth Opera general director was fired last week after a nearly 14-year run, and we’re going to miss him. Among his many achievements are the current three-week-long festival concept, a shift toward edgy, modern operas, and an embrace of public concerts at breweries and bars. In short, he took what was largely seen as a stuffy artform and gave it mass appeal.

The opera company, now in its 71st year, appeared to be thriving under his leadership. Last summer, the group’s development director raised $1 million during a normally sluggish time of year. Months before that, the world premiere of JFK, commissioned by the company, received critical acclaim across the globe.

The nonprofit’s board of directors saw things differently, though. In a recent press release, the directors stated that “new economic times” presented challenges that required a “fresh perspective.”

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Woods thought big when it came to productions, and his projects often came with an equally large price tag. In an email, Woods struck a conciliatory tone.

“I greatly enjoyed my tenure there with the help of staff, donors, and the community,” he said. “We accomplished much.”

He acknowledged that the opera had struggled to raise enough funds to cover “growing expenses,” but in what could be interpreted as parting advice, Woods advised against relying on budget cuts to keep the venerable opera company afloat and relevant.

“Raising money is never easy,” he said. “The simple fallback answer is to just cut costs, but that only works to a point. When quality is compromised, you lose the very thing that makes opera unique and worthy of preserving: its ability to help individuals and our communities transcend the ordinary.”

In the world of high opera, Woods will be a tough act to follow.

2 COMMENTS

  1. I am one not “into’ edgy new operas but I’ve got to say that Daren Woods performed miracles for FWO. There was noticeable brilliance less bloat than at Winspear in Dallas and a YOUNGER crowd at the FW opera. I am sorry to see Daren go. My all time favorites were the Mikado and the Pearl Fishers. Adieu Daren, I hope some good progressive company will avail itself of your many talents.

  2. Daren Woods performed miracles at FWO. He created an appealing Opera Festival and brought YOUNG people into the hall for the first time since the post 9/11 arts decline. I am not a big fan of so called new or “edgy” opera offerings but most of Darren’s were interesting from a historical perspective and created a useful buzz for the new season. He was also innovative the Mikado was terrific, although not usually seen in the classical repertoire. For some reason the “Pearl Fishers” with it’s sublime duets is ignored by most major companies. The FWO was my destination of choice over the somewhat bloated and windy Winspear opera in Dallas. I hope that Darren finds a position in a milieu which appreciates his talents.

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