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Fort Worth Opera To Premiere Work Based on Frida Kahlo And Diego Rivera In 2020

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The Fort Worth Opera will premiere a work by composer Gabriela Lena Frank and librettist Nilo Cruz based on the life of Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera. The story will open on Mexico's Day of the Dead.

On the heels of the Dallas Museum of Art’s blockbuster Mexico show, the Fort Worth Opera is going international for its next world premiere.  

The official announcement will be made from Mexico City in three weeks. The new opera will focus on the lives of Mexico’s iconic artistic couple, Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera.

Composer and Grammy winner Gabriela Lena Frank was artist-in-residence with the Fort Worth Symphony two years ago. The Fort Worth opera and three partners hired her to compose "The Last Dream of Frida and Diego."

She’s already worked on several projects already with the librettist, Cuban-American Pulitzer-prize-winning playwright Nilo Cruz.

The story opens in 1957 on Dia de los Muertos, the Day of the Dead. Rivera’s about to die. Kahlo’s been gone three years and from the afterworld, a saint asks if she wants to escort Rivera.

“Frida at first resists this and says 'No, no, he caused me pain.' But the more she talks about it, and the more she remembers, the more she’s convinced she really does want to do it. So of course she does,” says Joe Illick, Fort Worth Opera’s artistic director.  

Illick says the passionate, stormy relationship is perfect for the opera.

“The only stipulation is that she not touch him if she wishes to avoid feeling any pain, physical or emotional. Well, of course, she can’t resist,” Illick says.

He adds the libretto’s mostly done, and expects minor changes. There’s not really music yet. 

This opera, which will premiere in 2020,was commissioned when Darren Woods was still the company’s director. In a surprise announcement half a year ago, he was dismissed with little explanation.

Just last month, his replacement Tuomas Hiltunen, was named. He’s a native of Finland. At the same time, Illick was promoted to artistic director after serving 15 years as music director.  

Bill Zeeble has been a full-time reporter at KERA since 1992, covering everything from medicine to the Mavericks and education to environmental issues.