April 23, 2016 / 1:32 AM / 3 years ago

JFK subject of Texas opera, with singing Jack and Jackie

FORT WORTH, Texas (Reuters) - Before that fateful day in Dallas in 1963, President John F. Kennedy spent one pleasant night in neighboring Fort Worth, which is the subject of an opera due to open in the Texas city this weekend.

Performers Matthew Worth, who plays the role of President John F. Kennedy, and Daniela Mack, who plays first lady Jacqueline Kennedy appear in a scene from the opera JFK that will open in Fort Worth, Texas in this undated recent handout photo released on April 22, 2016. Nine Photography/Fort Worth Opera/Handout via Reuters

The opera called “JFK,” with music by composer David T. Little, looks at the little-remembered time that Kennedy and his wife Jacqueline spent in Fort Worth. He delivered his final speech there, and more than 4,000 people gathered outside the Hotel Texas to catch a glimpse of the glamorous first couple just before they set off to Dallas where the president was assassinated.

Fort Worth Opera General Director Darren Woods was looking for a signature event to commission as an opera for the company’s 70th anniversary this year and helped give the green light to “JFK.”

“This was exactly the kind of story we were looking for,” Woods said.

The opera mixes events from the visit with a series of dreamscapes to examine the president’s mindset at the time, including his relationships with then Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev and U.S. political leaders such as Vice President Lyndon Johnson.

Kennedy and his wife, Jacqueline, spent about 11 hours in Fort Worth, most of it overnight.

In the opera, the president is portrayed by Matthew Worth, a baritone. Mezzo-soprano Daniela Mack sings as the first lady.

The opera foreshadows the assassination but does not directly deal with the event, composer Little and librettist Royce Vavrek said in a joint statement.

“The opera is a portrayal of the man as we project our hopes, dreams and fears upon him,” they said. “It explores the sense of profound loss we still feel.”

The Kennedys arrived in Fort Worth about 11 p.m. on Nov. 21, 1963, as part of a multi-city tour of Texas that was an unofficial kickoff for JFK’s 1964 re-election campaign, said Stephen Fagin, curator of Dallas’ Sixth Floor Museum that is devoted to the Kennedy legacy and assassination.

“Jackie disliked the campaign trail but she had come along on this trip because it was so important,” Fagin said.

This was her first public appearance since the death of the couple’s infant son, Patrick Bouvier Kennedy, that August.

“Many Fort Worth residents recall this visit as the last moment of happiness before tragedy struck,” Fagin said.

The Opera de Montreal co-commissioned the opera and plans to present it there as well.

Reporting by Marice Richter; Writing by Jon Herskovitz; Editing by Will Dunham

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