This bastion for troops, civilians, and feckless outlaws, quickly became a force to be reckoned with along the sprawling Chisholm Trail, with a rowdy, red-light district known as “Hell’s Half Acre,” and thriving cattle, ranching, and trading industries to accompany it. Along with the arrival of the Texas and Pacific Railway, the aviation and oil businesses transformed this tiny outpost into a full-fledged city, one that has proved to be a formidable presence both in North Texas and beyond. The time had come to start writing a new chapter, one that would put this prosperous town on the international map.
The next chapter
Imagine a fire-lit army outpost nestled along the banks of the Trinity River — the night sky is painted with thousands of brilliant stars, glistening brightly above this dangerous and unforgiving terrain. There stands a fort, designed to provide shelter for settler and pioneer families, to protect them against a wild and untamed frontier. It was the late 1840s, and Fort Worth was only beginning to write its story within the larger narrative of Texas.
Where the west begins, new stories are written.
It was during those post-war years, when Fort Worth embraced its cultural flair and created a world-renowned museum and arts district, that the city’s dusty, whiskey-soaked, saloon and pistol-shooting past began to evolve and expand beyond that rugged image. This cowboy heritage would always remain integral to the grit and integrity of the town, but now Fort Worth was standing on the precipice of something bold and momentous.
All the sweat, tears, labor, and innovation that served as the backbone of this community’s fearless beginning, were uniting the city’s colorful past with a vibrant and exciting future. Everyone’s story from the 1840s onward, became a part of the larger narrative of the town, and a hundred years later, as Fort Worth rose to prominence in the late 1940s, something of considerable significance appeared from Cowtown — the Fort Worth Opera.
Three visionary musicians, Eloise MacDonald Snyder, Betty Berry Spain, and Jeanne Axtell Walker, decided it was time for Fort Worth to have its own world-class opera company. These infinitely talented women were well aware that art and culture are just as vital to the health, identity, and future of a city, as any other component. The community seemed to agree. The opening night of La Traviata on November 25, 1946 was performed to a sold-out house at Will Rogers Memorial Auditorium. That music, on that day, created connectivity and united a community. This is a universal truth the world over, and a timeless testament to the ever adaptable art form of telling stories to music.
Over the next 71-years, the company would continue to pioneer new frontiers of artistic expression. From hosting the farewell operatic performance of the legendary Lily Pons and fostering the burgeoning career of a young Plácido Domingo, to igniting the career of soprano Beverly Sills and presenting the globally acclaimed premiere of JFK at the world-class Bass Performance Hall, the company stepped in tandem with the rise of the great city in which it was conceived.
That is because Fort Worth Opera understands the power of storytelling and its ability to unify us through our shared history, while daring us to look toward the future and dream. It is through these stories, known in our art form as librettos, that we celebrate classic tales of old and create bold, new ones for generations of storytellers to come. You are a part of the evolution of Fort Worth Opera, because you are a part of the larger story that is this great city. Together, united, anything is possible, just as our pioneering ancestors envisioned from the battlements of that small but mighty fort as they surveyed a lawless frontier. We are proud to be the oldest opera company in Texas, but even more proud to call Fort Worth home.
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