Our grandma always used to tell us, “Why the hell would I ever go to an opera when Hee Haw brings the same quality music right to my living room?” It was hard to argue with her because we loved her (and she always sat in her La-Z-Boy with a sawed-off shotgun).
Thankfully, we knew better (and quite frankly, Hee Haw frightened us more than the threat of death from our trigger-happy granny). Our high-school journalism teacher played opera while we put the newspaper together each week and there was something so beautiful, something so intensely moving about the music that we knew we had a deep connection to this art form, even if we couldn’t speak the language in which the operas were written.
Today, fortunately, opera companies project English translations directly above or below the stage, so nobody can use the old language-barrier excuse. (As a result, we can now sing, “You just killed my mother!” in seven dialects.)
From our travels to Santa Fe, New York and even Paris, we’ve always loved the more old-school operas, but as we’ve been exposed to what many call “new opera,” we’re discovering an invigoration of this powerful storytelling medium.
And we’re so lucky that one of the most ambitious opera companies in the world is right here in the States. Each year, the Fort Worth Opera throws a wild-card title into its season, just to mix things up. In 2008, they presented Angels in America. Last year, it was Dead Man Walking. And this year, we’ve already dusted off our opera glasses and long, white satin gloves for Before Night Falls.
If you haven’t read the book (it’s fantastic) or seen the Javier Bardem/Johnny Depp film (also great), you should try to fit one or both of them into your reading/viewing repertoire before the end of May when BNF has its world premiere.
The story focuses on Reinaldo Arenas, a man living in Cuba when Fidel Castro takes power of the island nation. Arenas is a counter-revolutionary, and also gay, two crimes that lead to his imprisonment and torture until he’s able to escape to America. Soon, he succumbs to AIDS, but before he dies he writes a harrowing memoir of his time in Cuba and his new life in the United States.
Composed by Jorge Martín (also born in Cuba) and starring baritone Wes Mason as Reinaldo Arenas, the music is haunting and gorgeously produced, and the transition from memoir to opera seems a most natural fit.
Tickets are on-sale now, but we suggest making an entire opera weekend out of your trip to Fort Worth this May. The FWO produces their season a little differently, putting on three operas over one weekend. So book a hotel room, make a couple dinner reservations and catch Martín’s Before Night Falls, Mozart’s Don Giovanni and Donizetti’s The Elixir of Love all in three days.
It’s like carb-loading, only with culture.
“Before Night Falls”
World Premiere, Friday, May 29, 2010, 8:00 p.m.
Additional Matinee Performance, June 6, 2010, 2:00 p.m.
Bass Performance Hall, Fort Worth
Weekend Packages start at $33 – $394
Individual Tickets, $17 – $149
(817) 731-0726 or (877) 396-7372