The next new work to be presented by Fort Worth Opera, “The Last Dream of Frida & Diego,” will be partially unveiled in a roll-out ceremony in Mexico City later this month, the opera has announced. .
The event, described by newly appointed FWO artistic director Joe Illick as a bilingual “press conference, celebration and announcement,” takes place at the Palacio de Bellas Artes, a concert hall and culture arts center in the Mexican capital, on Aug. 24. The opera itself, which FWO has co-commissioned with another opera company and two universities, will have its world premiere here in the opera’s spring 2020 festival.
In attendance will be the opera’s composer, Gabriela Lena Frank, and librettist, Nilo Cruz, several FWO staff and board members and other guests (perhaps including a famous opera star). Mexican actors will offer readings of the opera’s text by Cruz, a Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright. But the only music performed will be works previously done by Frank and Cruz. Since the opera is still three years away and the libretto is not completely set, Frank is in the very early stages of composing the music.
Joining FWO in commissioning the opera are San Diego Opera, the College of Fine Arts at the University of Texas at Austin and DePauw University.
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“And I think that number (of co-commissioners) is going to grow,” says Illick.
The opera is part of the company’s “Noches de Opera” initiative — a series of Spanish-language works such as the mariachi-driven “Cruzar la Cara de la Luna,” which was presented in FWO’s 2017 festival.
“We don’t want opera to be the province of one ethnic group or even one intellectual group, just because it has been that way for several decades,” says Illick, the longtime musical director at the opera who was elevated to artistic director just weeks ago. “So what we are trying to do is create a broader audience. And that is done by presenting works that are relevant and speak to the passions of that audience.”
The plot of the new opera sounds like a twist on the old Orpheus in hell story. It envisions the artist and muralist Diego Rivera nearing the end of his life in 1957. He wants to see his deceased lover, artist Frida Kahlo, one last time to say goodbye. Kahlo is allowed to leave her eternal resting place, with the only catch being that she cannot touch Rivera because the dead should never touch the living.
“For only 24 hours, Frieda and Diego will relive their tumultuous love through their paintings, embracing the passion they shared and the pain they inflicted on one another,” explains the press release announcing the event.
Mexico City is a logical choice as a site for this announcement, given that Rivera and Kahlo were two of Mexico’s greatest artists. But there was more than geographic logic in making the choice.
Among those who might also attend the event is famed tenor Placido Domingo, who was recently named as head of an FWO advisory board.
But, noting that Domingo is “one of the busiest men in the world,” Illick says that, “at this point, all we can say is that it is being considered.”
Finally, Illick feels there is another reason that Mexico City is an appropriate choice for the announcement.
“I also think that Fort Worth has become one of the country’s leaders in the nurturing of new operas. And so to have a more international stage to remind people that we are continuing to do that is very important.”