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.”
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.