Fort Worth Opera Announces Digital-Debut Performances & 2020-21 Resident Artists

By Chris Ruel

Fort Worth Opera has announced additional details about its fall virtual season under a new online initiative, FWO Green Room.

The company has two performances planned beginning on Tuesday, September 20 with the digital debut of the Fort Worth Opera Chorus singing Moses Hogan’s “His Light Still Shines.” FWO Greenroom will also premiere composer and FWO Artistic Director, Joe Illick’s “Stone Soup” with libretto by Pulitzer Prize winner, Mark Campbell.

Hogan’s epic choral work, “His Light Still Shines,” originally commissioned by Choral Arts Society of Washington to honor Dr. Martin Luther King, premiered in 2002 at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. The work takes on a renewed sense of relevancy after a summer rocked by social unrest amid the demand for social justice following the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Aubrey, and many others.

Under the direction of FWO’s Chorus Master Alfrelynn Roberts, the 15-minute choral medley features 39 singers and eight speakers. The work includes three spirituals; “Done Made My Vow,” “Nobody Knows the Trouble I’ve Seen,” and “Hold Out Your Light” interspersed with two original pieces by Hogan, “His Light Still Shines” and “A Song of Reflection.” Spoken word passages, further actualize the composer’s vision.

Illick and Campbell’s family opera, “Stone Soup” follows the success of the 2019 FWO premiere of the composer and librettist’s “Frida Kahlo and the Bravest Girl in the World.” “Stone Soup’s” message of kindness and the value of sharing and collaboration. FWO slated the new opera for the stage this fall before the pandemic wreaked havoc across the opera world. The company’s Manager of Education Sheran Goodspeed Keyton served as the virtual project producer, while the Head of Music Charlene Lotz acted as music producer. Producer Charles W. Bush of Appointed Productions served as film producer.

he imaginative work, filmed entirely using green screens, features five performers filmed individually and then edited together. Theatre Arlington’s Executive Producer Steven D. Morris brought in Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions District Winner soprano Flora Wall to sing the role of the hero Sally. Australian bass-baritone plays Max, and mezzo-soprano Kayla Nanto sings the part of Edna. FWO’s Lesley Resident Artists Darius Thomas and Megan Koch play Stan and Delia, respectively.

“Stone Soup” will be available for booking to view after October 1. In keeping with FWO’s Arts in Place educational programming, a detailed study guide accompanies the performance piece. The company will also conduct a virtual story time and distribute the book “Stone Soup” to title I kindergarteners in Fort Worth. “Stone Soup” kicks off Fort Worth Opera’s 75th anniversary season.

The company also announced its 2020-2021 Lesley Resident Artists, soprano Megan Koch and tenor Darius Thomas.

Thomas and Koch are known quantities within the FWO organization. Koch was part of the FWO Studio Artist Program, during which she created the role of Marianna and Grandmother in Illick/Campbell’s “Frida Kahlo and the Bravest Girl in the World.” Koch debuted the roles of Donna Elvira in “Don Giovanni” and Zan in “Regina,” both with the University of North Texas (UNT) Opera. The soprano is working toward her Graduate Artist Certificate in Opera, studying with Carol Wilson at UNT.

Thomas previous seasons include a partial role debut as Romeo in Knoxville Opera’s touring production of “Romeo and Juliet.” Thomas was also the resident tenor for the Mary Ragland Emerging Artists program with Nashville Opera. While with the Tennessee company, he sang the role of Dauber in “The Cradle Will Rock” and Nathanael/Cochenille in “Tales of Hoffmann.”