Fort Worth — Darren K. Woods, General Director of the Fort Worth Opera for 16 years, has been terminated from his position according to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. Soon after the story was posted online, the board of directors released a statement.
"On behalf of the Board of Directors, we are grateful for his 16 years of dedicated service. He has left his mark not just on the art of opera itself, but in the hearts and souls of our community," the statement reads. (Read the full statement below.)
In the Star-Telegram story, board chairman Mike Martinez said "FWO terminated Woods’ position with the company and is seeking to hire a new general director immediately."
Woods was a few years ahead of the trend happening with opera companies across the country, of commissioning new works, when he programmed the world premiere of Thomas Pastieri’s Frau Margot in the company’s inaugural year as a Festival in 2007. Since then, the Fort Worth Opera has had three other world premieres: Jorge Martín’s Before Night Falls (2010), Daniel Crozier and Peter M. Krask’s With Blood, With Ink (2014) and David T. Little and Royce Vavrek’s critically lauded JFK (2016).
Under this guidance, the Fort Worth Opera Festival also had regional premieres of edgy work like Angels in America, Dog Days and Glory Denied, beautiful large-scale regional premieres of Dead Man Walking and Silent Night, and the first Fort Worth productions of Benjamin Britten's The Turn of the Screw and Philip Glass' Hydrogen Jukebox. He also started the innovative Frontiers program, showcasing 20 minutes of new works in progress. Some of those have resulted in full productions around the country and in Fort Worth, such as Embedded in 2016, and the upcoming Voir Dire. The 2017 Frontiers works were just announced. The 2017 season also features the area premiere of a mariachi opera, Cruzar la Cara de la Luna.
Woods remains artistic director of the Seagle Music Colony in central New York, where he is also the new music specialist. In the Star-Telegram story, he said: “I think it’s best I go a different direction with my life. I have wanted to go into a little bit different direction where I am dealing more with new music, librettists, singers ...”
After the 2016 opera festival, which included JFK, the Fort Worth Opera had a large budget shortfall and began a campaign to raise $1 million in a matching grant, which it achieved.
On Woods' Facebook page, he wrote: "I have been told not to post on social media but I just want to say thank you to all of you for the love you have given me. I am so blessed."
We'll keep following this story.
Below is the full statement from the Board of Directors:
Fort Worth has had the enviable opportunity to reinvigorate the genre of opera thanks to the energy and artistic vision of Darren K. Woods. Borrowing a line from Puccini’s Tosca, Darren’s passion has taught us to live for art and to live for love.
On behalf of the Board of Directors, we are grateful for his 16 years of dedicated service. He has left his mark not just on the art of opera itself, but in the hearts and souls of our community.
The new economic times within which we find ourselves, present unique challenges that call for a fresh perspective and an innovative approach to an aging business model. After months of discussion, the Board of Directors has decided the best thing for all parties is to build on the artistic foundation we have forged together while allowing each of us to grow and meet new challenges.
A national search process will start shortly to find a new General Director who can build on Darren’s artistic vision while bringing new models to create sustainable financial support for the arts.
“As Georgia O’Keefe once said, ‘To create one’s world in any of the arts takes courage,” noted Nelson E. Claytor, Ph.D., President of the Fort Worth Opera’s Board of Directors. “We have a better world and a better community because of Darren’s courage in bringing Angels in America and Silent Night to Fort Worth, and in creating JFK in Fort Worth. Rest assured that Fort Worth Opera will move forward courageously with a commitment to this magnificent art form that is as passionate as ever.”
Jill Fischer, Chairman Emeritus, added, “Fort Worth and Darren K. Woods were made for each other — they both combine a love for the arts with a determination to do things their own way. I thank Darren for the passion and energy he brought to the Fort Worth Opera for the past 16 years. We both may be turning a page, but our stories will be forever intertwined. Thank you, Darren.”