Is the Fort Worth Opera’s 2015 festival jinxed? The superstitious might begin to think so after the first couple of nights.
Friday night was supposed to be the opener, a performance of the new opera Dog Days. But nature intervened with heavy rain, high winds and a brief tornado alert. Scott Theatre’s electrical system was damaged.
Undeterred, the company arranged an impromptu Q&A session involving the audience, composer David T. Little, librettist Royce Vavrek and director Robert Woodruff, followed by a couple of samples of the music that would have been heard had the storm not passed through.
But then there was some sort of alert and the audience was instructed to evacuate. Everybody reacted calmly. In fact, there was a kind of party atmosphere through all the evening’s goings-on. First-nighters were told that their tickets would be honored at later performances.
Saturday night was Bass Hall’s turn for Giuseppe Verdi’s La Traviata.
For the first 25 minutes, the text-projection apparatus was blank. Not a tragedy, of course. In the bad old days there was no such thing as text projections. It was assumed that everybody in the audience was thoroughly familiar with all operas and, besides, this was opera, and words don’t count in opera — it’s the music that counts.
The glitch taught a couple of lessons: You don’t realize how much you depend on projections until they’re not there. And Fort Worth audiences are sensible, patient people — there was no whistling or shouts about the missing text.
The production of La Traviata had one other problem — one not easily corrected. The male tenor lead was not up to the par that general director Darren K. Woods has established in recent years. As Alfredo, Patrick O’Halloran is believable as an actor and in appearance, but his voice doesn’t have the timbre or maturity that you might expect in the big time.
The evening’s standout was baritone Nicholas Pallesen as Alfredo’s father (though he looks young enough to be his brother). His vocal sound and dignified (and ultimately sympathetic) demeanor were right for the part.
Other vocally attractive and dramatically able cast members were soprano Rachelle Durkin as Violetta and soprano Maren Weinberger in the smaller role of Annina.
Joe Illick led a sensibly paced performance, and the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra was, as usual, in good form.
This production, on loan from the Lyric Opera of Chicago, is highly conventional. You may have seen Desmond Heeley’s sets and costumes before. David Gately’s stage direction doesn’t stray from usual patterns.
La Traviata will be repeated Sunday and May 9; Dog Days is scheduled for Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday.
La Traviata repeats Sunday and May 9 at Bass Hall.
Fort Worth Opera Festival
Through May 10