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"Frida Kahlo and the Bravest Girl in the World" - World Premiere

We are excited to announce the world premiere of composer Joe Illick and librettist Mark Campbell's delightful one-act children's opera, Frida Kahlo and the Bravest Girl in the World.


Ryan Scott Lathan, Manager of Marketing and Communications,


Paulina Magdaleno, Audience Development and Special Events Manager,





FORT WORTH, TX — Fort Worth Opera (FWO) is excited to announce the world premiere of composer Joe Illick and librettist Mark Campbell’s delightful one-act children’s opera, Frida Kahlo and the Bravest Girl in the World, at the historic Rose Marine Theater on November 16, 2019, at 3 p.m. Based upon the highly-acclaimed book by award-winning English author and illustrator Laurence Anholt, this charming new work follows the real-life story of Marianna Morillo Safa and her friendship with famed painter Frida Kahlo. Stage director Octavio Cardenas (Zorro: FWO Festival 2020, Silent Night), returns to Fort Worth to bring Anholt’s inspirational story and artwork to life. Featuring five talented singers from Fort Worth Opera’s Lesley Resident and Studio programs, this delightful family-friendly tale teaches children about art, bravery, and the power of friendship.

The opera follows Marianna, a young girl living in the heart of Mexico City, whose home is full of beautiful artwork by Frida Kahlo. She is encouraged by her family to visit Kahlo and have her portrait painted the renowned artist, but is terrified at the thought. There are rumors that Frida keeps skeletons above her bed and exotic pets in her Blue House -- people have even said that she is a witch. As Kahlo begins to paint Marianna in her studio, this fear quickly disappears, and a friendship blooms between the two. Marianna meets Frida’s husband, Diego Rivera, and learns of the horrible accident that almost killed her new friend. Through the magic of opera, Frida’s parrot, dog, and monkey all sing, and the audience is invited to join in on the fun as well.

Frida Kahlo and the Bravest Girl in the World marks Fort Worth Opera’s seventh world premiere since 2007 and its first foray into newly commissioned works for children and their families. The opera will be presented by FWO’s Children’s Opera Theatre program, alongside Michael Ching’s opera Three Pigs Remix, in schools and communities throughout North Texas during the 2019-2020 season. Tickets for the November 16, 2019 performance can be purchased at


JOE ILLICK, Composer

Joseph Illick is the Artistic Director of Fort Worth Opera, having served for fifteen seasons as Music Director and Principal Conductor. From 2007 to 2017 he served as Executive and Artistic Director of Performance Santa Fe. He has also served as the Artistic Director of the Lake George Opera Festival and Shreveport Opera, Interim Artistic Director of Greater Miami Opera (now Florida Grand Opera), and Music Director of the Pittsburgh Opera Theater. He has served as the Principal Guest Conductor of the Teatro Lirico d’Europa, and has conducted for Opera Theatre of Saint Louis, San Francisco Opera (Merola), Stadttheater Aachen, Vienna Chamber Opera (Wiener Kammeroper), the Covent Garden Ensemble, and many other companies throughout the United States.

As a composer, he is the recipient of the Van Someren Award in the United Kingdom for the composition of a song cycle. Maestro Illick’s work Ulysses was premiered in Italy, his monodrama Emma was performed on public television, and excerpts from his one-act comedy Gunpoint have been performed with orchestra in New Mexico, New York, and Washington. He has written the operas Feel the Tango (libretto by Susan Westfall), UnShakeable (libretto by Andrea Fellows Walters), and Bliss. In June of 2019, his delightful musical for young performers, Color Planet, was performed during Fort Worth Opera’s two-week summer intensive, Opera FUNatics!


Mark Campbell’s work as a librettist is at the forefront of the current contemporary opera scene in this country. A prolific writer, Mark has created 30 opera librettos, lyrics for 7 musicals, text for 5 song cycles and 2 oratorios—and his works for the stage have been performed at more than 75 different venues around the world. Mark’s best known operas are Silent Night, which received the Pulitzer Prize in Music, and The (R)evolution of Steve Jobs, which was honored with a 2019 Grammy Award for Best Opera Recording.

According to Opera America magazine, is opera is the most produced contemporary opera in the country. Other successful works include Stonewall (recently premiered at New York City Opera), Elizabeth Cree, Songs from an Unmade Bed, As One, The Shining, Later the Same Evening, The Other Room, Approaching Ali, The Inspector, Dinner At Eight, Today It Rains, Some Light Emerges, The Manchurian Candidate, Volpone, Rappahannock County, Bastianello/Lucrezia, and The Nefarious, Immoral but Highly Profitable Enterprise of Mr. Burke & Mr. Hare.

Mark also mentors for future generations of opera composers and librettists through such organizations as American Opera Projects, American Lyric Theatre and the American Opera Initiative. Upcoming premieres include: Edward Tulane for Minnesota Opera, A Nation of Others for the Oratorio Society of New York, The Secret River for Opera Orlando, Supermax for Opera Saratoga, and Les Girls for Théâtre Du Châtelet.


Octavio Cardenas captivates audiences with his visionary, visceral, and physical style of directing. Born in the city of Guadalajara, Mexico, Opera News has praised him for “an immersive theater experience” while the Dallas Morning News hailed him for bringing “every character and situation to life.” Recent projects include Dead Man Walking for Opera Delaware and La Bohème for Des Moines Metro Opera. He will be returning to Fort Worth Opera to direct the world premiere of Zorro.

As the former Director of Opera for Baylor University, Mr. Cardenas directed productions of L’elisir d’amore, The Turn of the Screw, Dialogues of the Carmelites, and Rita. He has served as the Head of the Directing Staff at Des Moines Metro Opera and in addition to having been on the directing staff at Chautauqua Opera. Mr. Cardenas received his Master of Fine Arts in Theatre from UCLA, a Master of Music from the University of South Carolina, and a Bachelor of Arts in Music from Centenary College in Louisiana.

LAURENCE ANHOLT, Author, Illustrator, and Designer

Laurence Anholdt has created more than 200 books for children that have been published in 30 languages. His self-illustrated Anholt’s Artists series have sold millions of copies around the world, including Camille and the Sunflowers, Degas and the Little Dancer, Leonardo and the Flying Boy, Picasso and the Girl with a Ponytail, The Magical Garden of Claude Monet, Papa Chagall, Tell Us a Story, and Cézanne and the Apple Boy. Laurence has also collaborated on a multitude of books with his wife, the artist Catherine Anholt. Their titles have won numerous awards, including the Nestlé Smarties Gold Award on two occasions. The Anholts live and work in a house on a hill above the sea in Devon, England.


ABOUT FORT WORTH OPERA: Founded in 1946, Fort Worth Opera is the oldest continually-performing opera company in Texas, and one of the 14 oldest opera companies in the United States. The organization has received national acclaim from critics and audiences alike for its artistic excellence. Beginning in 2017, Fort Worth Opera launched Noches de Ópera (Nights of Opera), a groundbreaking campaign designed to introduce powerful operas to the community, each reflecting the diverse cultures of American audiences.

Fort Worth Opera is sponsored in part by awards from The Arts Council of Fort Worth & Tarrant County, The City of Fort Worth, the Texas Commission on the Arts, and OPERA America. Additional Fort Worth Opera sponsors include: the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation; The Burnett Foundation; the Amon G. Carter Foundation; the Sid W. Richardson Foundation; Visit Fort Worth; Adeline & George McQueen Foundation, J.P. Morgan, Trustee; Smallwood Foundation, J.P. Morgan, Trustee; Hattie Mae Lesley Foundation, Bank of America, Trustee; Virginia Hobbs Charitable Trust, Simmons Bank, Trustee; Garvey Texas Foundation; Mary Potishman Lard Trust; Fifth Avenue Foundation; The Thomas M. Helen McKee and John P. Ryan Foundation; R4 Foundation; Red Oak Foundation; The Rea Charitable Trust, Wells Fargo Trustee; Wells Fargo Foundation; and Autobahn.

American Airlines is the Official Airline of Fort Worth Opera.

Arts and Culture Texas Magazine is the Official Media Sponsor of Fort Worth Opera.

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