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Opera head Darren Woods steps into spotlight

Posted 7:30am on Saturday, Apr. 27, 2013

In this opera, the butler did it.

If, by "did it," you mean produced the opera.

The role of Hortensius, the butler to the Marquise de Birkenfeld in The Daughter of the Regiment, will be sung by Fort Worth Opera General Director Darren Woods.

"The role's not enormous. It is something that I thought would be manageable," says Woods, who enjoyed a long professional career as a tenor before giving up the stage for the front office 14 years ago. "The character doesn't sing very much. He talks a lot. I figured I could get back in shape enough to sing the little lines I have. And I love this hapless, world-weary character."

But the greatest motivation for Woods was to once again work with his friend and colleague Joyce Castle, who is singing the role of the Marquise.

"Every time I'm on stage, I'm with Joyce," he says, happily.

Although he has not been seen by the public lately, Woods says his voice has not been dormant.

"After work, I come home and play the piano and sing before I turn on the evening news. And I do a lot of teaching, so I end up vocalizing a lot as part of that. After doing it for so many years, you don't want to completely lose it," says Woods, who took over the reins at the Fort Worth Opera in 2001.

But while it didn't take long to get his voice in shape, Woods was a bit surprised by what did turn out to be tricky about returning to the stage after such a long absence.

"I memorize for a living -- donors' names, their family and friends, etc.," he says. "But I have not had to memorize a musical piece in a really long time. I used to be able to sing through a score two or three times and have 90 percent of it memorized. But this has been a little bit difficult."

At least he didn't have to learn his lines in French, the language in which this opera is frequently performed, since it dates from Donizetti's days in Paris. This production will be sung in English.

"It wouldn't be nearly as funny [in French]," Woods says. "I wanted it to be as operatically close to a musical-theater piece as you could get."

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