Libretto by Royce Vavrek (E)
2(II=picc).2(II=corA)2(I=E-flat, II=bcl).1.dbn-2.2.2.btbn.1-timp-perc(2)-harp-keyboard 1 (pft).keyboard 2 (cel, synthesizer with volume pedal)-optional onstage rockabilly banda (piano, bass, drums)-onstage harmonica in F-10.7.5.5.3
Keyboards and percussion should be set up in close proximity
to one other in pit to help with nuanced ensemble passages.
Bass Hall, Fort Worth, TX
Thaddeus Strassberger, director
Conductor: Steven Osgood
Company: Fort Worth Opera
|John F. “Jack” Kennedy, President of the United States
|Jacqueline “Jackie” Bouvier Kennedy, The First Lady
|Clara Harris (Clotho, the spinner), present as a hotel maid
|Henry Rathbone (Lachesis, the allotter), present as Secret Service
|Atropos, the cutter (optional)
|Rosemary Kennedy, Jack’s sister
|Nikita Khrushchev, Prime Minister of the Soviet Union
|Jackie Onassis, a dream manifestation near the end of her life
|Lyndon Baines Johnson, Vice President of the United States
|Billie Sol Estes, Texas Business Man, “Wheeler-Dealer”
|Ralph Yarborough, United States Senator
|John Connally, Governor of Texas
|Raymond J. Buck, President, Ft. Worth Chamber of Commerce
|Jim Wright, Texas Congressman
Time and Place
1963, Fort Worth, Texas
"Little's opera is not made up of acts, but a total of 31 moments that fold together a commemorative collage of the historic presidential couple into a dazzling kaleidoscope. Jackie's nightmares and John's morphine delirium mix. Family members of the Kennedy clan emerge, Marylin Monroe, Nikita Khrushchev and John's adversary Lyndon B. Johnson surrounded by cowboys in glittering trousers.”
JFK delves into the hours President John F. Kennedy spent in Fort Worth, Texas immediately before his assassination in Dallas, exploring the inner life of the President and Mrs. Kennedy during their final moments together. While we conducted extensive background research into these figures and events, the opera is not a historic document and does not depict the assassination. As with our chamber opera, Dog Days, this work departs as far from reality as the truth requires.
Restless in the Presidential Suite at the Hotel Texas in Fort Worth, as two of the three fates guide the Kennedys toward the impending tragedy—a third fate awaits in Dallas—they drift into sleep. In vivid dream states—both natural and narcotic—the opera explores the subconscious of this complicated couple, examining their physical and emotional pain, their joy and love, and their metamorphosis into American myth.
Drawing on real details of the Kennedys' final night, the opera uses dreams to create an imaginary time and space, allowing the couple to revisit those who helped to shape their personal and political lives. Jack travels to the moon with his sister Rosemary, where he spars with political rivals, and relives his courtship of the demure Jacqueline. Jackie sings a duet with her future self, Jacqueline Onassis, who dresses her in her iconic pink Chanel suit, assuring her that she has a part to play in the day’s proceedings. Time is flexible in this drama; fate is not.
JFK is a portrait of a precipice. The fleeting moments of hope before a cosmic page turned, optimism faltered, and America was forced into a new and uncertain era. The opera is a portrayal of the man as we project our hopes, dreams and fears upon him. It explores the sense of profound loss we still feel. It presents the innermost struggles of a fragile human, fated to an early demise, as time presses ever forward. And though the opera identifies with the emotions of President and Mrs. Kennedy, it is also our story. Drawing us ever closer to our destinies, and to that final moment, real or imagined.
—David T. Little and Royce Vavrek
Dramatic, Poetic, Tragic
History, Politics, Relationships, Society