“ANGELS IN AMERICA” AT FORT WORTH OPERA
By Ken Shimamoto
Fort Worth’s very own opera company – one of the 14 oldest in the United States -- was started over coffee one morning in 1946 by three “ladies who lunch,” two of whom happened to be ex-opera singers. Legendary diva Lily Pons gave her farewell performance in Fort Worth’s 1962 production of Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor, which also provided Placido Domingo with his first major operatic role in America.
This year’s spring festival, which runs from May 16th to June 8th, includes a revival of Lucia (May 25th and 30th and June 7th) alongside Puccini’s Turandot, (May 24th and June 1st and 6th) and two modern works: the American Carlisle Floyd’s Of Mice and Men (May 31st and June 8th), based on John Steinbeck’s classic Depression-era novel, and Hungarian composer Peter Eotvos’ Angels In America (May 16th, 18th, 24th, 28th, and 31st, and June 4th and 7th), adapted from Tony Kushner’s Pulitzer Prize-winning play depicting the impact of AIDS on a diverse group of New Yorkers during the Reagan ‘80s.
Angels In America is being presented in conjunction with More Life: The Art and Science of AIDS, a collaboration of more than 45 arts, science and educational organizations (including the Opera and the Fort’s three AIDS service agencies) to increase AIDS knowledge awareness in our community between May 10th and June 8th. The group takes its name from a declaration by Angels In America’s protagonist in the opera’s climactic scene.
The composer and his librettist, Mari Mezel, condensed the original seven-hour, two-part play down to two and a half hours, focusing less on the political and social ramifications of the crisis and more on the struggles of its characters: the infected Prior and his boyfriend Louis, who leaves him; closeted Joe, his Valium-addicted wife, Harper, and his Mormon mother, Hannah; McCarthy-era figure Roy Cohn (who has AID but denies it, saying he has cancer) and his nurse, Belize. The music features the use of six synthesizers, played by two keyboardists, and the singers wear microphones to allow their voices to blend with the electronic sounds. This is only the second American performance of the opera, and the first by a major professional company.
Angels In America will be presented at the Scott Theatre in the Fort Worth Community Arts Center. Single tickets start at $17, with half-price seats available for students and military members with ID. Student rush pricing for Angels is $5 for any available seat, starting 30 minutes before curtain. Call 817-731-0726 or visit www.fwopera.org online.