Fort Worth — Since the hiring of new General Director Tuomas Hiltunen and Artistic Director Joe Illick this year, the Fort Worth Opera has made some staff cuts and changes, and has been looking for more ways to reduce spending in the wake of its expensive 2016 world premiere JFK. They've just announced a big one: Das Rheingold, the first of Wagner's four-opera Ring Cycle, will not be performed in the 2018 festival as previously announced. It will be replaced with Brief Encounters, a trio of short operas by Mark Adamo, Jake Heggie and Illick (and not to be confused with Andre Previn's opera of the Noel Coward play) that was performed at the Santa Fe Opera in 2017.
The other two operas announced on the 2018 season will remain: Piazzolla's Maria de Buenos Aires and Donizetti's Don Pasquale. The sixth edition of Frontiers will return, too.
Below is the news release from the Fort Worth Opera:
Fort Worth Opera (FWOpera) announced today that the organization is cancelling all planned performances of Das Rheingold scheduled for the 2018 Festival season due to high production costs. Opera and the arts are an integral part of Fort Worth’s cultural identity, and as the company embarks upon its 72nd season, it is crucial that it operate in a responsible manner out of respect for its devoted patrons and supporters. Fort Worth Opera has looked at every possible option to present Richard Wagner’s epic fantasy next spring, but in order to preserve the company’s financial integrity and continue to grow, it is unable to take on a production of this size at this time.
“The decision to remove Das Rheingold from the 2018 Festival was difficult, but the Board of Trustees, Maestro Illick and I have listened to our donors and community partners regarding fiscal accountability and prudence,” said FWOpera’s General Director Tuomas Hiltunen. “While it is unfortunate that we had to cancel this fine production next season, we want our patrons to know that going forward our efforts will be attuned to the community’s needs as we rebuild the company into a vital cultural force that is sustainable here in North Texas.”
Fort Worth Opera’s previously scheduled three-opera season will remain next spring with the addition of Brief Encounters. This trio of fifteen-minute operas about life, love, and marriage is written by Mark Adamo (Avow), Jake Heggie (Again), and Joe Illick (Feel The Tango). In addition to the recent appointment of Tuomas Hiltunen as General Director, Joe Illick as the company’s Artistic Director, and the newly formed National Artistic Council, the organization is shifting its focus towards expanding educational outreach, fostering collaborative partnerships, strengthening its diverse programming in the years ahead, and bringing opera to more of Tarrant County and areas outside of downtown Fort Worth.
Artistic Director Joe Illick is optimistic about Fort Worth Opera's decision: “Due to the costly production value of Das Rheingold, the opera is being removed from the 2018 schedule to ensure that we are in a strong financial position. Meanwhile, we will offer our Festival audiences a sensual and passionate production of Maria de Buenos Aires, and Donizetti’s hilarious bel canto gem Don Pasquale, both with show-stopping casts. Additionally, we are thrilled to continue showcasing new operas with two nights of Frontiers and the Texas premiere of Brief Encounters - a whole new genre of short and lively operas, and a wonderful theatrical experience.”