JFK Opera


JFK by composer David T. Little and librettist Royce Vavrek, a co-commission between Fort Worth Opera and American Lyric Theater will premiere at FWOpera in the 2016 Festival Season. The work explores the final twelve hours of the 35th president’s life and time spent in Fort Worth, Texas. The opera marks the first joint project for the writing team following their critically acclaimed chamber opera Dog Days (2012).

JFK marks a poignant circle of mentorship between ALT and librettist Royce Vavrek, who joined the CLDP in 2007 as a member of the program’s first class of Resident Artists. Since completing the program, Vavrek has become one of the field’s most celebrated and in-demand librettists for the opera stage. ALT has been honored to co-commission and support him, as he embarked upon the largest-scale project of his career to date with frequent collaborator David T. Little. The entire world premiere cast, including baritone Matthew Worth, mezzo-soprano Daniela Mack, soprano Talise Trevigne, tenor Sean Panikkar, bass-baritone Daniel Okulitch, soprano Cree Carrico, and mezzo-soprano Katharine Goeldner as Jackie Onassis, participated in an extensive developmental workshop and public preview event produced by ALT in November 2014.

Read more about the production, cast, artistic team and performance dates below.

Music by David T. Little; libretto by Royce Vavrek
Commissioned by Fort Worth Opera and American Lyric Theater

April 23, May 1m, May 7, 2016 (m=matinee)
World Premiere; part of Opera of the Americas initiative
Bass Performance Hall, downtown Fort Worth
Sung in English with supertitles in English and Spanish

Tickets: http://www.fwopera.org/opera/jfk .

Matthew Worth (John F. Kennedy)
Daniela Mack  (Jacqueline Kennedy)
Talise Trevigne (Clara Harris)
Sean Panikkar (Henry Rathbone)
Daniel Okulitch (Lyndon B. Johnson)
Cree Carrico  (Rosemary Kennedy)
Katharine Goeldner (Jacqueline Onassis)

Steven Osgood, conductor
Thaddeus Strassberger, director and scenic design
Mattie Ulrich, costume design
Chad Jung, lighting design

Public Developmental Workshops presented by American Lyric Theater in New York City:

The Living Libretto – November 2013
InsightALT Preview Event – November 2014


Press Release – Announcing Unique Collaboration Between American Lyric Theater and Fort Worth Opera

October 15, 2013: New York, NY. – Lawrence Edelson, Producing Artistic Director of American Lyric Theater, in conjunction with Darren K. Woods, General Director of Fort Worth Opera, announced today a collaboration between the two companies on JFK, a new opera by the acclaimed team of composer David T. Little and librettist Royce Vavrek.

Fort Worth Opera (FWOpera) conceived the opera commission of. JFK. for its 70th anniversary and final work of Phase One of Opera of the Americas, its ten-year artistic commitment to the production of work from contemporary composers of the Americas. The production will focus on John F. Kennedy’s last night in Fort Worth before his assassination. The events of that fateful night resonate deeply for the Fort Worth community, and the entire country.

American Lyric Theater (ALT) joins FWOpera as a Developmental Co-commissioner of the opera, providing dramaturgical support under the auspices of ALT’s Composer Librettist Development Program, and producing two workshops in the fall of 2013 and 2014, which are integral to the opera’s development.

“The assassination of John F. Kennedy is one of the most important threads in the fabric of the 20th century,” explain Mr. Little and Mr. Vavrek. “A charismatic young leader – an idealist at a crossroads in American history – taken well before his time, JFK now occupies an elevated position in the great American mythology. Our interest, as composer and librettist, is not so much in the lore surrounding the legend, but in the human qualities that made him a beloved father, a prodigal son and a wayward husband. The opera we are creating takes the final fifteen hours of Kennedy’s life, specifically those spent in Fort Worth, Texas, and uses them to explore both the private and the very public lives of the president. It is a thrilling challenge to carve out the inner worlds of these beloved cultural icons, and what better medium than opera to mine these final moments of innocence, and make them sing.”

Librettist Royce Vavrek has become one of the most successful alumni of American Lyric Theater’s Composer Librettist Development Program (CLDP). Edelson explains, “we are thrilled to see Royce making such significant contributions to American opera, and are deeply are committed to supporting his continued artistic growth. Royce and composer David T. Little met each other at the final performance of the CLDP at Symphony Space in 2008, where we presented two one-act operas based on the myth of Adam and Eve for which Royce had written the libretti. Since that time, David and Royce have gone on to write the one-act. Vinkensport, or The Finch Opera, and. Dog Days, which received international critical acclaim after its world-premiere last season. JFK. is the first large-scale opera for both writers – featuring a full chorus, children’s chorus, and large orchestra. It is our goal that by entering into this partnership with Fort Worth Opera, we can provide artistic support to this incredibly gifted artistic team as they embark on the largest project of their career, while simultaneously providing support to Fort Worth Opera by producing developmental workshops of the opera as it progresses in New York City. In addition, Fort Worth Opera’s producing expertise compliments our developmental focus,. which will be invaluable as we prepare to present. JFK. and other operas developed through our programs in NYC in the future.”

Mr. Woods stated, “Fort Worth Opera is thrilled to partner with ALT on this opera.  The developmental process is so crucial to the creation of a great piece of art and the people at ALT are the experts at it.  I know this is the perfect partnership to take JFK from concept to premiere.”

In the fall of 2014, ALT will present a concert reading of the score in progress, the culmination of a two-week developmental workshop, also in New York City. This concert will also include a panel discussion with the composer and librettist, as well as the creative team for the production. Further details will be announced in 2014.

Fort Worth Opera will present the world premiere production of. JFK. in Fort Worth’s Bass Performance Hall, on April 23, 2016. The cast and creative team for the world premiere will be announced in 2015.


David T. Little’s potently dramatic music draws upon his experience as a rock drummer, and fuses classical and popular idioms to powerful effect. His music has been performed throughout the world—including in Dresden, London, Edinburgh, LA, Montreal, and at the Tanglewood, Aspen, MATA and Cabrillo Festivals—by the London Sinfonietta, Alarm Will Sound, eighth blackbird, So Percussion, ensemble courage, Dither, NOW Ensemble, PRISM Quartet, Praxis Quartet, Aeolus Quartet, Newspeak, the New World Symphony, Beth Morrison Projects, Peak Performances @ Montclair, American Opera Projects, New York City Opera, the Grand Rapids Symphony, the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra under Marin Alsop, at the Park Avenue Armory, and on the Ecstatic Music Festival and the 25th anniversary Bang On A Can Marathon. He has received awards and recognition from The American Academy of Arts and Letters, the Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation, Meet The Composer, the American Music Center, the Harvey Gaul Competition, BMI, and ASCAP, and has received commissions from Carnegie Hall, the Baltimore Symphony, the Albany Symphony, the New World Symphony, Third Coast Percussion, Kronos Quartet, Maya Beiser, Todd Reynolds, Alarm Will Sound, the Pittsburgh. New Music Ensemble, the University of Michigan, and Dawn Upshaw’s Vocal Arts program at the Bard Conservatory. The Wall Street Journal called Little’s first full-length opera, Dog Days, “one of the most exciting new operas of recent years,” and The New York Times cited Dog Days as one of two highlights of the season, stating that the work “proved beyond any doubt that opera has both a relevant present and a bright future.” Little’s multi-media music theatre work, Soldier Songs (2006), based on interviews with veterans of five wars, received its New York City premiere in January 2013 in the inaugural PROTOTYPE Festival. Recent works include AGENCY for the Kronos Quartet, Haunt of Last Nightfall for Third Coast Percussion; RADIANT CHiLD for the New World Symphony; Conspiracy Theory for Darcy James Argue’s Secret Society, a new music big band; CHARM for the Baltimore Symphony under Marin Alsop; haunted topography for Alarm Will Sound; and Am I Born for the Brooklyn Philharmonic, Brooklyn Youth Chorus and soprano Mellissa Hughes, under Alan Pierson. Upcoming projects include new works for the London Sinfonietta, Newspeak, cellist Maya Beiser, violinist Todd Reynolds, a new opera, JFK (working title), commissioned by Fort Worth Opera and American Lyric Theater, and a new work commissioned by The Metropolitan Opera and Lincoln Center Theater’s new works program. He is also currently developing a new multimedia theater work, Artaud in the Black Lodge with legendary Outrider poet Anne Waldman. From 2010-2012, Little was the Executive Director of the MATA Festival. He is currently the Director of Composition at Shenandoah Conservatory, and the founding artistic director of the amplified chamber ensemble, Newspeak.


Royce Vavrek is a Canadian filmmaker, librettist, playwright and musical theatre writer known for his collaborations with composers David T. Little, Missy Mazzoli and Ricky Ian Gordon, soprano Lauren Worsham, producers Beth Morrison and Lawrence Edelson, and conductor Alan Pierson. His work has been presented at or performed by the Brooklyn Philharmonic, Los Angeles Philharmonic, Carnegie Hall, International Contemporary Ensemble, and Opera America, among others. His current commissions include operas for Opera Theatre of Saint Louis and Fort Worth Opera/American Lyric Theater and a musical for Signature Theater. Vavrek’s filmmaking credits include. From Sky and Soil, which was created as part of the Corus Young Filmmakers Initiative for broadcast on the W Network through a prize administered by the Canadian Film and Television Production Association.


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. Under the leadership of General Director Darren K. Woods since 2001, the organization has gained national attention from critics and audiences alike for its artistic quality and willingness to take risks. Known throughout the operatic world as a champion of new and rarely-performed works, the company has taken a leadership role in producing contemporary operas. In 2007, when the company changed its fall/winter schedule to a condensed one-month long Festival in the spring, FWOpera staged its first world premiere,. Frau Margot, and followed up the next season with. Angels in America. (which resulted in. More Life: the Art and Science of AIDS, a community-wide collaboration amongst organizations in the performing and visual arts, children’s education, medicine, and social services),. Dead Man Walking. in 2009, the world premiere of. Before Night Falls. in 2010, and. Hydrogen Jukebox. in 2011. The 2012 Festival staged the regional premieres of Mark Adamo’s. Lysistrata. and Jake Heggie’s. Three Decembers, the first time the two composers’ works have been co-programmed, and the 2013 season featuredthe regional premiere of Tom Cipullo’s. Glory Denied, as well as the inaugural season of its new works showcase,. Frontiers, featuring works by eight composers from the Americas. Fort Worth Opera’s CD recordings of. Frau Margot, Before Night Fall,. and. Glory Denied. are available on the Albany label.


American Lyric Theater (ALT) was founded in 2005 by Lawrence Edelson to build a new body of operatic repertoire for new audiences by nurturing composers and librettists, developing sustainable artistic collaborations, and contributing new works to the national canon. Many opera companies commission and perform new works; but ALT is the only company in the United States that offers extensive, full-time mentorship for emerging operatic writers. While the traditional company model focuses on producing a season, ALT’s focus is on serving the needs of composers and librettists, developing new works, and collaborating with larger producing companies to help usher those works into the repertoire. Operas developed through the CLDP and by CLDP alumni have been presented by a wide variety of companies, including Tulsa Opera, Fort Worth Opera, Urban Arias, Center City Opera, San Francisco Conservatory, New York City Opera VOX, and Beth Morrison Projects. In 2012, ALT was the first company dedicated to artist mentorship rather than operatic production to be recognized by OPERA America as a Professional Company Member – a testament to ALT’s service to the field. For more information about American Lyric Theater, please visit. www.altnyc.org

Lead funding for the development of JFK has been generously provided to American Lyric Theater by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. Public readings of the work-in-progress are supported, in part, by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in Partnership with City Council.