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Two World Premieres in 2019-2020

We are thrilled to announce two exciting world premiere productions for the company's 2019-2020 season - Frida Kahlo and the Bravest Girl in the World and Zorro.


Ryan Scott Lathan, Manager of Marketing and Communications,


Paulina Magdaleno, Audience Development and Special Events Manager,








FORT WORTH, TX — Fort Worth Opera (FWO) is thrilled to announce two exciting world premiere productions for the company’s 2019-2020 season. On November 16, 2019, FWO will present composer Joe Illick and Pulitzer Prize-winning librettist Mark Campbell’s inspirational one-act children’s opera, Frida Kahlo and the Bravest Girl in the World, at the historic Rose Marine Theater. On April 26, 2020, the company will unveil composer-librettist Héctor Armienta’s exhilarating Zorro at the legendary Ridglea Theater, a swashbuckling adventure for the whole family, featuring one of pop culture’s most iconic, sword-wielding vigilantes. Directed by visionary stage director Octavio Cardenas, both Zorro and Frida Kahlo and the Bravest Girl in the World are part of the company’s ongoing, community-driven program, Noches de Ópera, a celebration of Latino(a) culture, heritage, and artistry.

“The idea for Frida Kahlo and the Bravest Girl in the World came from General Director Tuomas Hiltunen,” says Joe Illick, who also serves as FWO’s Artistic Director. “He suggested this acclaimed children’s book as a basis for a family opera, and when Mark and I saw that the story was about the universal reach of art and empowering young women, we were thrilled to bring it to life.”

Based upon the highly-acclaimed book by award-winning English author and illustrator Laurence Anholt, Frida Kahlo and the Bravest Girl in the World follows the true-life story of Marianna Morillo Safa and her friendship with famed painter Frida Kahlo. Featuring the talented singers from Fort Worth Opera’s Lesley Resident and Studio programs, this delightful tale teaches children about art, bravery, and the power of friendship.

Frida Kahlo and the Bravest Girl in the World is the third opera I’ve written with a story that involves a visual artist, but the first children’s opera that focuses on one,” says Mark Campbell. “The narrative angle Laurence Anholt cleverly provided in his eponymous book—through Mariana Morillo Safa, a young girl who was the subject of one of Kahlo’s most famous portraits—allowed Joe and me to not only explore the workings of an artist at her height, but also the power of sororal friendships.”

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.


Fort Worth Opera’s 2020 Festival kicks off on April 17 with Puccini’s romantic masterpiece La Bohème and concludes on May 3 with Revenge of the Bat (Die Fledermaus), Strauss II’s sparkling operetta, updated to the Roaring Twenties. Nestled between these two productions, the company will present the world premiere of Zorro on April 26, 28, and 30. This will be the first time since the Ridglea Theater opened in 1950, that FWO has ever performed at this historic venue in the Camp Bowie District of Fort Worth.

“As a Mexican American opera composer, I’ve devoted my life to creating work that draws on our history and our stories,” says composer-librettist Héctor Armienta. “The opera Zorro gives me the perfect opportunity to tell a great story while setting it within a historical, cultural context.

Though the character of Zorro is fictional, I’ve incorporated the political unrest that occurred in Spain, México, and Alta California during the early 19th century as a direct result of Napoleon’s war in Europe. Musically, audiences will hear a variety of styles, including Mariachi, Mexican corridos, a Flamenco bulería, but within a neo-romantic operatic style. Finally, my goal is to create work that serves a cultural bridge between communities and excites new audiences to the power of opera.”

The opera action begins in Spain within the Mountain Fortress of the Order of Zarzueta. A scholarly student named Diego (stunning Mexican-born tenor César Delgado) trains to become a master swordsman and a skilled marksman. One fateful day, his enlightened master carves a letter “Z” into his upper arm and sends him back to the place of his birth in Alta, California. There it is said he will find his destiny and give the Order a new life. Once he arrives in the New Spain, he encounters an old flame, the beguiling Carlotta (mezzo-soprano Guadalupe Paz), the passionate Ana Maria (soprano Gabriella Enríquez), the villainous Moncada (acclaimed Mexican baritone Óscar Velázquez), and a grave evil like none he has faced before. Donning a black mask to conceal his true identity, Zorro is born, and he wields his sharp sword to fight for the oppressed.

Zorro and Frida Kahlo and the Bravest Girl in the World mark Fort Worth Opera’s seventh and eighth world premieres since 2007, and its first foray into newly commissioned works for children and their families. Tickets for the 2020 FWO Festival and the company’s entire season can be purchased online at or by calling the box office at 817.731.0726.



Music by Joe Illick

Libretto by Mark Campbell

November 16, 2019

Rose Marine Theater

In English


Robin Steitz (Marianna)

Megan Koch (Marianna, Grandmother, Monkey)

Meredith Browning (Marianna, Grandmother, Monkey)

Kayla Nanto (Frida, Mother)

Autumn Capocci (Frida, Mother)

Kyle Spears (Brother, Dog)

Lwazi Hlati (Brother, Dog)

Christopher Curcuruto (Father, Diego, Parrot)

Prosper Makhanya (Father, Diego, Parrot)


Octavio Cardenas (Director)

Charlene Lotz (Music Director | Pianist)



Music and libretto by Hector Armienta

April 26, 28, 30, 2020

Ridglea Theater, Fort Worth

In Spanish and English with Spanish and English supertitles


César Delgado (Diego de la Vega)

Guadalupe Paz (Carlotta de Obragón)

Óscar Velázquez (Moncada)

Gabriella Ottersberg Enríquez (Suzanna)


Octavio Cardenas (Director)

Emily Urbanek (Music Director | Pianist)


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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