The Fort Worth Opera has pulled the plug on the sci-fi opera A Wrinkle in Time, the $1.2 million world premiere by American composer Libby Larsen that was to have anchored the company’s 2015 festival.
General director Darren K. Woods says the festival will shrink from four productions to three next year because the company’s fundraising has not kept up with rising costs. It’s a setback for the company’s long-term “Operas of the Americas” project. A Wrinkle in Time has been scored, and Woods expects the futuristic opera will be performed later. He says the cuts won’t affect this year’s festival , which starts in April and includes another world premiere — With Blood, With Ink, which is about a 17th-century Mexican nun defending women’s rights in the face of the Inquisition.
Woods sat down with KERA to talk about the 2015 change and the company’s fundraising challenges.
Q. How did you decide to take this out — this was one of the signature pieces for the season?
A. It was an agonizing decision. But part of my job is: I’m general director and I’m also artistic director, so sometimes, often, I have to take off my artistic hat and put on the businessman hat. We had been planning this for about four years. And through the recession, we’ve had no debt, and no deficit. But we’ve relied on some extraordinary gifts from three families. As we looked forward, nothing has gone down, prices have continued to go up, while donations have stayed flat or less than that. And so, in looking forward and adding another $500,000 to the budget, that we did this year, and we did last year, just because of prices, I just knew that it was unsustainable.
Q. How difficult was this, though, to tell the performers, all the people who put so much time into this?
A. It’s the hardest thing you ever have to do. And we’re involved in that too. From the creation of this piece. It’s my idea that I’ve had for maybe 20 years. I literally lay awake probably four nights just thinking about it. But at the end of the day, the health of Fort Worth Opera is more important than anything. And I’ve seen throughout the recession so many of my fellow companies close.
Q. How did you deliver the message?
A. I think the artists and the composer take it the hardest, especially the composer, because it’s a baby that they want to see born, you know, and it’s going to be a little bit longer. But the board and the people, the staff, and the community at large, once they realize the fiscal reality compared to the artistic sacrifice, I would say artistic postponement, it’s the right decision.
Q. Why did A Wrinkle in Time cost so much?
A. It cost so much because its technology that hasn’t been seen in Bass Hall before. The theater had to be equipped with surround sound. There was video equipment that is only now being invented. I mean, this is a fantastical story where a woman turns into a unicorn … so people had to vanish and appear in different places, so there was probably $300,000, $400,000 of technology that doesn’t exist in our hall, or any other hall.
Q. What can we expect in the 2015 festival?
A. We haven’t announced the season yet. … What we are doing, which we did announce earlier, is David T. Little’s Dog Days. …. The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal called him the voice of his generation. It’s a really amazing 21st-century piece that I’m so proud we’re doing. And we’ll stick to our formula. When we did three or four, we always had a blockbuster, that everybody knows, top 20. We’ll have an opera that is not done very often, in fact this one that we’re thinking about has never been done in the area.