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FWO Archives (1970): Company Stages First Full-Length American Opera, 'The Ballad of Baby Doe'

Soprano Karan Armstrong headlined Fort Worth Opera's 25th anniversary production of Douglas Moore and John LaTouche's opera set in 20th century Colorado.

Soprano Karan Armstrong in 1974.
Soprano Karan Armstrong in 1974.

A few years ago, Harriet Woldt, former principal cellist for the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra for over 50 years, popped by our office to donate some beautifully-preserved archival material. One of these treasured items was a program from Fort Worth Opera's December 1970 performances of The Ballad of Baby Doe. Douglas Moore and John LaTouche's poignant opera featured Woldt under the baton of FWO General Director, musical director, and conductor Rudolf Kruger. Today, on July 7, 1956, the opera premiered at Central City Opera.

Featuring multiples casts, the Fort Worth Opera's production included Metropolitan Opera soprano Karan Armstrong and Catherine Christensen as Baby Doe, Metropolitan Opera & NYCO baritone Walter Cassel, and William Pickett as Horace Tabor, Frances Bible and Joan Wall as Augusta, Met tenor and revered language and diction coach Nico Castel, bass Edward Baird, and NYCO mezzo-soprano, Nell Evans. 

While there is no recording of Ms. Armstrong as Baby Doe, here is the late great Beverly Sills singing "The Willow Song," with an introduction by composer Douglas Moore.

A generous grant was presented to Fort Worth Opera by the Martha Baird Rockefeller Fund for Music, Inc., New York City, to assist the company with presenting their first, full-length American opera. Kicking off the company's 25th anniversary, this acclaimed production featured sets and costumes from the New York City Opera. That same season, tenor Placido Domingo and soprano Gilda Cruz-Romo appeared in Puccini's La Bohème, bass Justino Diaz and soprano Maralin Niska starred in Don Giovanni. The year closed out with Bizet's Carmen, featuring mezzo-soprano Joy Davidson and tenor John Alexander on the Convention Center stage.

Visit our Historical Timeline for 75 years of interesting facts and FWO info:

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