Operas take a long time to gestate. First comes the concept, next the libretto (the words) and then the composer begins to write the music.
Friday evening at the Hilton Fort Worth hotel, the beginning of just such a project was unveiled by Darren Woods, the colorful director of the Fort Worth Opera.
Woods has rightly understood that opera companies are defined not by the works they re-create but by what they create and pass on to posterity. Such is the case with a newly commissioned opera, “Jack and Jackie, a historical phantasmagoria.”
That hundred-dollar word means a confusing scene that is always changing, as in a dream. In fact, at this introductory event, part of the libretto was presented, and dream sequences are a part of the action. People who were not present at the historical moment appear and comment.
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The opera is based on the last night of President John F. Kennedy’s life, which just happened to be spent in Fort Worth 50 years ago Thursday night and in the very hotel where this event was held. Back then, it was called the Hotel Texas. The next day would bring tragedy, but that night, none of that was evident.
As Woods said, “We want to commemorate our tie with JFK, before events took our innocence from us.”
A video was presented that, when finished, will document the creation of the opera from its beginnings to the first-night curtain. There were interviews with librettist Royce Vavrek and composer David T. Little about viewing historical footage and hearing the reminiscences of locals who were there. For example, Ruth Carter Stevenson, before she died in January, gave valuable input about the artwork that she arranged to have placed in the presidential suite.
Sections of the libretto were read, and the overall impression is that it is very poetic. The “blue gray moon” is mentioned often. But it is also about the mundane. JFK worries about his back. Jackie frets about “other women.”
There is mention of “spinners that spin our fate,” a reference to Roman mythology that also brings to mind the Norns in Wagner’s Ring Cycle.
However it turns out, you can expect an opera that mixes reality with dreams and greatness with ordinary life.