A medium who cons her clients into believing she speaks to the dead — and faces consequences when they start talking back — will soon take the stage at the Rose Marine Theater.

When “La Médium” makes its debut Oct. 20, it will be the first professional Spanish-language production of the opera in the continental U.S. 

In an effort to reach a broader audience, the Fort Worth Opera commissioned a translation of this classic Gian Carlo Menotti work. After its debut in Fort Worth, other opera companies across the country will be able to license the production and reach new audiences in their own backyards.

“I think it’s brilliant, because it’s really not only a wonderful piece, but … it has the right size of orchestra and cast to be an opera that … can deliver to Spanish-speaking audiences all around the country,” said the production’s director, Malena Dayen.

Opera audiences are accustomed to hearing works in Italian, German and French, so translations are not a new concept for the medium. In fact, Dayen noted, although Menotti originally composed this piece in English, he also staged productions of it in French and Italian. 

“So, it was in the composer’s mind already, that doing it in the local language was the right way to go,” she said.

If you go

What: Fort Worth Opera’s production of “La Médium”
When: 7:30 p.m. Oct. 20-21
            2 p.m. Oct. 22 
Where: Rose Marine Theater
            1440 N. Main St.
              Fort Worth
Tickets: $50

The cast of characters includes the medium named Madame Flora, her clients, her teenage daughter and a young orphan named Toby.

David Rosenmeyer, the production’s conductor, appreciates the way the storyline injects humor into the hardships and tragedies of its characters. 

“As much as the opera is incredibly serious, very poignant, deep and tragic, these characters provide comic relief,” Rosenmeyer said. “It’s actually very fun … that they always show up in the worst moment, when it’s about to explode.”

In operas, it is common for adults to be cast as children, but it was important for Dayen and Rosenmeyer that the role of Toby be played by a child, especially in a venue as intimate as the historic Rose Marine Theater.  

“We have a great actor, a local kid who is 13. His name is Patrick Bilbow,” Dayen said. “He brings this level of vulnerability, and he’s so talented. Remember this name. You will be seeing it all over the world.”  

“There’s so many levels,” Rosenmeyer added. “It’s about a loss of innocence, a loss of faith, a sacrificial lamb. … In a bigger theater it would still be the same thing but easier for an adult to pretend to be a child. In a theater like this, that wouldn’t fly.”

Bilbow is currently juggling his opera performance along with a role in Casa Mañana’s production of “Beauty and the Beast.” 

“I like to talk with a lot of my castmates, and they’re very friendly and nice,” he said. “(Dayen and Rosenmeyer) are very funny and kind and sweet. It’s been a very good experience working with them.” 

As Bilbow and his fellow castmates perform, there will be screens on either side of the stage with text in Spanish and English.

“I’m hoping that it’s a good entry point for some people because of the language,” Rosenmeyer said. “That said, any opera lover … any music lover should come here — not because it’s not in Italian, English or French … (but) because the orchestra is amazing, that music is amazing and the singers are amazing.”

Marcheta Fornoff covers the arts for the Fort Worth Report. Contact her at marcheta.fornoff@fortworthreport.org or on Twitter. At the Fort Worth Report, news decisions are made independently of our board members and financial supporters. Read more about our editorial independence policy here.

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For just over seven years Marcheta Fornoff performed the high wire act of producing a live morning news program on Minnesota Public Radio. She led a small, but nimble team to cover everything from politics...