Fort Worth Opera (Fort Worth, TX)

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    The angel descending to Prior's bed

Prior (David Adam Moore) receives a visit from an angel (Ava Pine) in Fort Worth Opera’s 2008 production of Angels in America. Photo by Ellen Appel

Fort Worth Opera announced that it would stage Angels in America in 2008. The opera by Hungarian composer Peter Eötvös is based on Tony Kushner’s groundbreaking 1991 play about living with AIDS during Reagan-era America. A year before the production opened, Darren Keith Woods, artistic director of the opera, held a city-wide brainstorming session. From that initial gathering grew More Life, a calendar of 50- plus events organized by the opera, AIDS Outreach Center, Samaritan House, and the Tarrant County AIDS Interfaith Network.

The More Life schedule included everything from town hall meetings to readings to a mini-film festival. And of course, there were seven performances of Angels in America at the W.E. Scott Theatre in downtown Fort Worth. The opera company received an NEA Access to Artistic Excellence grant of $20,000 to support the production.

The scoring of the opera calls for fewer than 20 instruments, including two keyboards and an electric guitar. Woods said he was able to put together “a dream cast.” Dallas Morning News music critic Scott Cantrell agreed. "My hat's off to Fort Worth Opera for programming a work as challenging sociologically and musically as Angels in America, and for doing it superbly," Cantrell said.

Several of the seven performances sold out. Woods knows some of these people came more for the message than the music, and hopes all audiences left intrigued. "We are trying to do what art purports to do," Woods said. "If art doesn't provoke you, and make you think about something again in a different way, then we’re not really doing our job."

Although Fort Worth Opera long has maintained a reputation as a top regional company -- it was founded in 1938 -- under Woods’ leadership, the company has undertaken several groundbreaking productions. Staging the second American production of Angels in America followed in that groundbreaking vein.

(From the NEA 2007 Annual Report)