Fellow Travelers wasn’t only an opera with legs — it had balls. Cincinnati Opera took a risk staging the world premiere based on Thomas Mallon’s novel of a doomed gay love affair during the 1950s Lavender Scare, and rumors flew about offended patrons withdrawing support. But the opera played to full houses and the international press coverage praised the story, the performers and the production. Gregory Spears’ score skillfully conveyed unfulfilled longing and more prosaic emotions, and the youthful cast headed by Aaron Blake and University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music alum Joseph Lattanzi delivered compelling performances, thanks to the long-overdue debut of conductor Mark Gibson. Cincinnati Opera, cincinnatiopera.org.