Houston Grand Opera’s 2017–18 Season Features

Long-Awaited Return of Strauss’s Elektra and Bellini’s Norma, World Premiere of

Ricky Ian Gordon/Royce Vavrek’sThe House without a Christmas Tree, First Major American Opera House Presentation of Bernstein’sWest Side Story    

 

 

Houston, 2017— Houston Grand Opera expands its commitment to broadening the audience for opera with a 2017–18 season that includes the first presentations of Leonard Bernstein’s classic musical West Side Story by a major American opera house and the world premiere of composer Ricky Ian Gordon and librettist Royce Vavrek’s holiday opera The House without a Christmas Tree. HGO will present its first performances in a quarter century of two iconic works: Richard Strauss’s revenge-filled Elektra with virtuoso soprano Christine Goerke in the tempestuous title role and 2016 Richard Tucker Award–winner and HGO Studio alumna Tamara Wilson in her role debut as Chrysothemis, under the baton of HGO Artistic and Music Director Patrick Summers; and Bellini’s grand-scale tragedy Norma  showcasing the debut of stellar dramatic soprano Liudmyla Monastyrska in the notoriously difficult title role, with 2015 Tucker winner and HGO Studio alumna Jamie Barton as Adalgisa. The company will revive its production of Handel’s Julius Caesar set in 1930s Hollywood, featuring the role debuts of star countertenor Anthony Roth Costanzo (HGO’s 2017–18 Lynn Wyatt Great Artist) and Houston favorite and HGO Studio alumna soprano Heidi Stober as Caesar and Cleopatra, respectively, also conducted by Maestro Summers; and Rossini’s ever-popular comedy, The Barber of Seville, with a cast that includes the eagerly anticipated return of HGO Studio alumnus Eric Owens, Musical America’s 2017 Vocalist of the Year, as Don Basilio. The season opens with director Arin Arbus’s probing staging of Verdi’s poignant La traviata, with acclaimed soprano and HGO Studio alumna Albina Shagimuratova as Violetta, tenor Dimitri Pittas as Alfredo, and the North American debut of the highly praised young Korean conductor Eun Sun Kim.

 

 HGO’s main-stage season will comprise 45 performances (including two free community performances) of seven productions. The company will also present four student performances.

 

Details of the upcoming Houston Grand Opera productions are provided below, and more information is available at the company’s website: HGO.org. All repertoire, dates, pricing, productions, and casting are subject to change without notice.

 

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HGOco, the company’s initiative to connect HGO’s creative resources with the diverse and vibrant Houston community, will cap three years of engagement with the city’s veterans through several projects in November 2017 culminating around Veterans Day. HGOco will produce the American chamber opera Glory Denied by Tom Cipullo, November 6 and 9, 2017. Based on the book of the same title by Tom Philpott, the opera tells the story of America’s longest-held prisoner of war, Vietnam veteran Jim Thompson. The production will take place in the 1940 Air Museum hangar adjacent to Houston’s Hobby Airport. On Saturday, November 11, HGOco will present the final in a series of concerts featuring music commissioned during the course of its three-year Veterans Songbook project.  The songs are based on the words of veterans developed through workshops with Houston-area veterans groups held in conjunction with Writers In The Schools (WITS). Both of these projects will be part of a city-wide partnership focusing on veterans and their families that will include the Veterans Affairs Office of the City of Houston, the Veterans’ Administration Hospital, and Houston Public Media, among others.

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HGOco is also partnering with American Lyric Opera to develop a new opera for children and families by composer Kamala Sankaram, to premiere at HGO in January 2018. An alumna of American Lyric Theater’s Composer/Librettist Development Program, Sankaram’s music has been performed by The Brooklyn Youth Chorus, Beth Morrison Projects, and Opera on Tap, among others. She has received awards from the Jonathan Larson Performing Arts Foundation and the NY Innovative Theatre Foundation. Her opera Thumbprint, which premiered at the 2014 Prototype Festival, will have its West Coast premiere at LA Opera in June 2017. In recent articles Sankaram’s work has been praised as “strikingly original” (NY Times) with “a driving percussive energy and a distinctive sound”(Wall Street Journal).

 

 

This season HGO continues its discounted subscription series for young people under 25 featuring seven operas for $125, and it’s under 25 Pay Your Age single-ticket program launched last season. These initiatives complement HGO’s popular Opening Nights for Young Professionals discount series, and the continuing opportunities available to community groups for discounted and free tickets through the multiyear Nexus ticket underwriting initiative.

 

 

HGO Artistic and Music Director Patrick Summers notes, “In this season we are thrilled to bring back after nearly 25 years two masterpieces that have long captured the imaginations of opera lovers but whose extraordinarily demanding title roles have daunted many a performer; in Liudmyla Monastyrska (Norma) and Christine Goerke (Elektra) we have artists whose vocal and dramatic virtuosity illuminate these roles for our time. A new work from composer Ricky Ian Gordon and librettist Royce Vavrek, retelling the children’s holiday favorite The House without a Christmas Tree, will warm our hearts with the power of family love. We are thrilled to welcome the brilliant countertenor Anthony Roth Costanzo (HGO’s 2017–18 Lynn Wyatt Great Artist) to our stage as Julius Caesar. To celebrate the centennial of the American musical genius Leonard Bernstein, HGO is proud to present the first major American opera house production of his iconic West Side Story, which has been performed by several European opera companies, and which will speak to us with fresh relevance through the vision of director Francesca Zambello. And we are delighted to open our season with the collaboration of another tremendously gifted director, Arin Arbus, with rising conductor Eun Sun Kim on La traviata, featuring two outstanding lead artists, HGO Studio alumna Albina Shagimuratova and tenor Dimitri Pittas.” 

 

 

HGO Managing Director Perryn Leech adds, “HGO’s exceptional presentations of masterworks of the repertoire and new operas that resonate with audiences are raising the level of excitement around opera in Houston. Both the main-stage season and our HGOco activities at the Wortham and at venues around the city are connecting with our diverse and vibrant Houston community, and we look forward to new HGOco initiatives under the leadership of director Carleen Graham. We are also delighted that more young people have been discovering the excitement and passion of opera for about the same cost as a movie ticket through our under-25 Pay Your Age programs.”

Reminder due to Hurricane Harvey:  Details of the upcoming Houston Grand Opera productions and more information available at the company’s website: HGO.org. All repertoire, dates, pricing, productions, and casting are subject to change without notice. 

 

 

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La traviata: Star coloratura soprano Albina Shagimuratova returns in a new HGO production staged by noted director Arin Arbus, conducted by Eun Sun Kim in her North American debut (October 20­–November 11, 2017)

 

HGO opens its 63rd season with Verdi’s time-honored setting of the heartbreaking story of a courtesan who sacrifices herself for love, given a fresh take by off-Broadway director Arin Arbus, “a director of true insight” (Toronto Star),  whose 2012 HGO production of The Rape of Lucretia was her first foray into opera. Dramatic coloratura soprano and HGO Studio alumna Albina Shagimuratova, who sang Violetta here in 2012, returns after her recent triumphant portrayal of the title role in Lucia di Lammermoor at Lyric Opera of Chicago and appearances as the Queen of the Night in The Magic Flute in Paris and Vienna. Her lover, Alfredo, will be sung by tenor Dimitri Pittas, whose “plangent tenor soar(ed) effortlessly”(Houston Press) as Nemorino in HGO’s 2016 production of The Elixir of Love. Romanian baritone George Petean, “absolutely outstanding in the title role” (Bachtrack) of Simon Boccanegra at Opera Australia in 2016, makes his HGO debut as Germont before performing the role later in the season at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, and the Metropolitan Opera. The rising Korean conductor Eun Sun Kim makes her American debut after successful appearances in Europe, including a 2014 Traviata in Marseilles that displayed “a convincing sense of bel canto”(Opera Today).

 

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Julius Caesar: Countertenor Anthony Roth Costanzo (HGO’s 2017–18 Lynn Wyatt Great Artist) and soprano Heidi Stober make role debuts in James Robinson’s art deco–era production (October 27–November 10, 2017)

An art deco pyramid and a silver-screen Cleopatra bring Handel’s romantic comedy to the golden age of 1930s Hollywood in this imaginative HGO production originally staged in 2003 by James Robinson. Acclaimed countertenor Anthony Roth Costanzo makes his role and HGO mainstage debuts as Caesar, following successes at the Dallas Opera as Roane in Jake Heggie’s Great Scott (2015) and in the title role of Philip Glass’s Akhnaten at English National Opera in 2016, where he displayed “more raw power than any countertenor I can remember”(Bachtrack). Soprano Heidi Stober returns to HGO as Cleopatra after 2016 performances as Susanna in The Marriage of Figaro and her Lyric Opera of Chicago debut as Valencienne in The Merry Widow, when Opera News praised her “instrument of stunning brilliance, proportion and beauty.” The much-admired mezzo-soprano Stephanie Blythe, who turned in a “bravura performance”(Opera Warhorses) as Nettie Fowler in Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Carousel at HGO in 2016, returns to the role of Cornelia, which she last performed in 2002. The role of Sextus will be sung by mezzo-soprano Megan Mikailovna Samarin in her first performances as an alumna of the HGO Studio, on the heels of her “impressive”(Opera Warhorses) 2016 appearances as Siébel in HGO’s Faust. Countertenor David Daniels, who played Arsamenes in HGO’s Xerxes in 2010 and is widely agreed to have helped redefine the opera world’s understanding of countertenors, will sing Ptolemy. Argentine bass and HGO Studio artist Federico De Michelis, familiar to HGO audiences as Angelotti in Tosca and Thomas Betterton in Carlisle Floyd’s Prince of Players, both in 2016, will perform Achillas. Patrick Summers will conduct. 

  

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Elektra: First HGO performances in 25 years feature superstar soprano Christine Goerke and role debut of Tucker Award–winner Tamara Wilson as Chrysothemis in David McVicar production of Strauss tragedy (January 19–February 2, 2018)

 

Soprano Christine Goerke’s portrayal of Richard Strauss’s revenge-driven Elektra in concert with the Boston Symphony Orchestra at Carnegie Hall was a highlight of the 2015 season, her “effortless power, gleaming sound, and dramatic intensity” adding up to an “unforgettable” performance, according to the New York Times. Now, after her triumphant appearances as Brünnhilde in HGO’s first Ring cycle (2014–17), the company brings this virtuosic artist back to Houston for the return, after a 25-year absence, of Strauss’s startling one-act masterwork based on the ancient tragedy by Sophocles.

The stellar cast also includes 2016 Richard Tucker Award–winning soprano Tamara Wilson in her role debut as Elektra’s sister, Chrysothemis. An HGO Studio alumna, Ms. Wilson last appeared here as Leonora in Il trovatore in 2013. In 2015 she portrayed Aida at the Metropolitan Opera, where the New York Times noted that her “passion surpasses stereotype.” The sisters’ murderous mother, Klytaemnestra, will be sung by mezzo-soprano Michaela Martens, making her house and role debuts. In the Metropolitan Opera’s 2014 mounting of John Adams’s The Death of Klinghoffer, Martens, as Marilyn Klinghoffer, was “the singer who most tore at the heart”(New Yorker). Baritone and HGO Studio alumnus Greer Grimsley will sing Orest, Elektra’s brother. Last heard at HGO in 2002 as the High Priest in Samson and Delilah, Grimsley portrayed the title role in Seattle Opera’s The Flying Dutchman (2016), where the Seattle Times noted his “commanding stage presence and resonant voice.” Klytaemnestra’s lover, Aegisth, will be taken by HGO Studio alumnus Chad Shelton, whose 2016 HGO roles included Charles II in Carlisle Floyd’s Prince of Players and Cavaradossi in performances of Tosca. Shelton is Mao Tse-tung in last season’s Nixon in China. 

Patrick Summers conducts and Nick Sandys directs this revival of David McVicar’s haunting 2012 production.

 

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The Barber of Seville: Rising star Lucas Meachem makes HGO debut as Figaro and Eric Owens returns as Don Basilio in popular Els Comediants staging of Rossini classic comedy (January 26–February 10, 2018)

 

Opera’s favorite barber returns to HGO with an all-star cast in the colorful Els Comediants production that the Houston Chronicle termed “inventive, playful,[and] unpredictable” when it debuted here in 2011. San Antonio native David Portillo, one of Opera News’s 2015 Rising Stars, returns to HGO to play Count Almaviva after bringing his “clean, pure tenor” (Houston Chronicle) to the role of Tamino in The Magic Flute in 2015. Baritone Lucas Meachem will make his HGO debut as Figaro, the role in which he gave a “charismatic”(San Francisco Classical Voice) performance at San Francisco Opera in 2015. Rosina will be sung by HGO Studio alumna Sofia Selowsky, who gave memorable HGO performances during the 2015–16 season as The Fox in The Little Prince and Eliza in the world premiere of David Hanlon’s After the Storm.  Peixin Chen, the HGO Studio alumnus who “stole the show” with his “deep-dish voice”(Houston Press) as Dr. Bartolo in The Marriage of Figaro, will portray that character in Rossini’s opera. Acclaimed bass Eric Owens, an HGO Studio alumnus who was named Musical America’s 2017 Vocalist of the Year, will make a long-anticipated return to HGO as the wily Don Basilio. He last appeared here as Ramfis in Aida in 1999.

 

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West Side Story: Francesca Zambello directs first major American opera house presentation of Leonard Bernstein, Stephen Sondheim, and Jerome Robbins’s beloved musical, featuring soprano Andrea Carroll and tenor Norman Reinhardt (April 20–May 6, 2018)

 

Leonard Bernstein often lamented that his 1957 landmark musical West Side Story did not have the bona fides to qualify as an opera, yet he eventually recorded it with opera singers (1984); the multiple award-winning work has found its way into opera houses across Europe, including a production at Austria’s Bregenz Festival in 2003 and 2004 directed by Francesca Zambello. Now Zambello returns to HGO, where she staged many notable projects including Show Boat (2013), Billy Budd (2009), and the world premieres of The Little Prince (2003) and Florencia en el Amazonas (1996), to create a new co-production with Glimmerglass Festival, where she is the artistic director, and Lyric Opera of Chicago.  

 

Set in a factory where the young women are employed, the production will feature as Maria HGO Studio alumna Andrea Carroll, whose HGO successes include portrayals of Mary Hatch Bailey in the 2016 world premiere of Jake Heggie and Gene Scheer’s It’s a Wonderful Life and Julie Jordan in Carousel (2016). HGO Studio alumnus Norman Reinhardt will reprise the role of Tony after singing it in the 2016 Salzburg Festival opposite Cecilia Bartoli. Reinhardt’s portrayal of Lensky in HGO’s 2015 Eugene Onegin was “magnificently sung”(Houston Press). Anita will be sung by soprano Alicia Gianni, an HGO Studio alumna who portrayed Giannetta in The Elixir of Love (2016), and baritone Brian Vu will make his role and house debuts as Riff. A 2016–17 resident artist with Pittsburgh Opera, he won first place in the 2016 Lotte Lenya Competition, whose judges noted his “refreshing flair and vocal prowess.”

 

Timothy Myers, artistic and music director of North Carolina Opera, will conduct. He led HGO’s productions of Gregory Spears and Royce Vavrek’s O Columbia (2015) and Ricky Ian Gordon’s A Coffin in Egypt (2014). 

 

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Norma: Acclaimed soprano Liudmyla Monastyrska and mezzo-soprano Jamie Barton headline Kevin Newbury production of Bellini’s bel canto masterwork (April 27–May 11, 2018)

 

Vocal acrobatics abound in the title role in Norma, one of the most formidable dramatic soprano roles in all of opera. HGO has not presented the work in 22 years, so Ukrainian soprano Liudmyla Monastyrska’s first performances in the role will be particularly significant. After thrilling Houston audiences as Aida in 2013 and Tosca in 2015, she recently gave a “vocally scorching”(Telegraph) portrayal of Abigaille in Nabucco at London’s Royal Opera House, Covent Garden. Joining her as Adalgisa is world-renowned mezzo-soprano Jamie Barton, an HGO Studio alumna whose debut as Fenena in that same Covent Garden production was impressive with “warmth, richness of tone, [and] convincing dramatic engagement”(Opera). Tenor Simon O’Neill, whose “stirring tenor…epitomizes strength and perseverance”(Houston Chronicle) as Siegmund in HGO’s 2015 Die Walküre, will sing Pollione, and bass and HGO Studio alumnus Peixin Chen will portray Oroveso. As Dr. Bartolo in HGO’s 2016 Marriage of Figaro, Chen “stole the show” with his “deep-dish voice”(Houston Press).

Inspired by research into Druid culture in Roman-occupied Gaul, acclaimed director Kevin Newbury’s staging of this monumental work captures the visceral nature of the characters, with costumes often described as reminiscent of Game of Thrones.

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Subscription tickets for HGO’s 2017–18 season are now available, and single tickets will go on sale August 27. For further information please visit HGO.org or call 713-228-OPERA (6737). Performances take place at the Wortham Theater Center, 501 Texas Avenue, unless specifically stated otherwise.

 

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Librettist Mark Campbell has written 15 operas and five musicals including Silent Night, which premiered at Minnesota Opera, received the 2012 Pulitzer Prize in Music, and has been produced by many other American opera companies. Other operas include Later the Same Evening, The Manchurian Candidate, As One, Volpone, and Bastianello/Lucrezia. Campbell has eight new works premiering in the next two years, including major commissions for Minnesota Opera, Opera Philadelphia, and Santa Fe Opera.

 

Filmmaker/librettist Kimberly Reed’s Prodigal Sons, a “whiplash doc that heralds an exciting talent” (SF Weekly), premiered at Telluride Film Festival, has been shown at 100+ festivals and broadcast worldwide, and garnered 14 awards including the FIPRESCI Prize. She is also working on Dark Money, a documentary about campaign finance reform. A New York Foundation for the Arts fellow, she has had residencies at Yaddo, Hermitage Artist Retreat, and Squaw Valley Community of Writers. She has made several national television and radio appearances and is one of Filmmaker magazine’s “25 New Faces of Independent Film.”

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Subscription tickets for HGO’s 2016–17 season are now available, and single tickets will go on sale August 28. For further information please visit HGO.org or call 713-228-OPERA (6737). Performances take place at the Wortham Theater Center, 501 Texas Avenue, unless specifically stated otherwise.

HGO Artistic Staff Take On Enhanced Roles

Several members of HGO’s artistic staff will take on enhanced roles. Bradley Moore will be promoted to associate music director for the 2017–18 season. While continuing as music director of the HGO Studio, he will also serve as music director of HGOco and oversee all musical aspects of the commissioning, workshopping, and delivery of new works. He will have new conducting responsibilities starting with The House without a Christmas Tree and will also serve as cover conductor for operas conducted by Patrick Summers and others.

 

Richard Bado, an HGO Studio alumnus, will return full-time to the company for the 2017–18 season as head of music staff, a position he previously held from 1991 until 2005 when he was recruited to lead the opera program at Rice University. Bado will also continue as chorus master for the acclaimed HGO Chorus, a post he has held for 29 years. 

 

Paul Hopper has been promoted to assistant artistic director. He will be responsible for managing special artistic projects and advising the artistic director, with special emphasis on the planning and logistical delivery of new works and the development of American composers and their compositions. He will continue to serve as the company’s principal dramaturg and will also develop new working partnerships across the wider Houston community.

 

Daniel James adds the new title of artistic media manager to his current role as music administrator.  In addition to handling all administrative aspects of the chorus, children’s chorus, corps dancers, and orchestra he will plan and manage HGO’s increasing artistic media and recording activities. He will take over the management of supertitles and also assist in educating internal and external constituents about selected repertoire. 

 

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Houston Grand Opera: 2017–18 Season

 

* Company debut

** HGO Studio artist

# Former HGO Studio artist

† Alternate cast/date

 

Verdi: La traviata

Sung in Italian with projected English translation

October 20, 22m, 28, Nov. 1, 3, 5m, 11, 2017

 

Violetta Valéry                           Albina Shagimuratova #

Alfredo Germont                      Dimitri Pittas

Giorgio Germont                      George Petean *

Conductor                                Eun Sun Kim *

Director                                    Arin Arbus

Set Designer                              Riccardo Hernandez

Costume Designer                     Cait O’Connor *

Lighting Designer                      Marcus Doshi *

Projection Designer                   Christopher Ash *

Choreographer                          Austin McCormick *

Chorus Master                          Richard Bado #

 

Houston Grand Opera Orchestra and Chorus

 

A co-production of Houston Grand Opera, Lyric Opera of Chicago and Canadian Opera Company

 

Handel: Julius Caesar

Sung in Italian with projected English translation

October 27, 29m, Nov. 4, 8, 10, 2017

 

Julius Caesar                              Anthony Roth Costanzo *

Cleopatra                                  Heidi Stober #

Cornelia                                                Stephanie Blythe

Sextus                                       Megan Mikailovna Samarin #

Ptolemy                                    David Daniels

Achillas                                     Federico De Michelis #

Conductor                                Patrick Summers

Director                                    James Robinson

Associate Director                     Michael Shell *

Set Designer                              Christine Jones

Costume Designer                     James Schuette

Lighting Designer                      Christopher Akerlind

 

Houston Grand Opera Orchestra

 

 

 

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World Premiere

The House without a Christmas Tree

A Chamber Opera in One Act

Based on The House without a Christmas Tree, a book by Gail Rock

Music by Ricky Ian Gordon; Libretto by Royce Vavrek

Sung in English with projected English text

November 30, Dec. 2, 3m, 6, 8, 10m, 14, 16m, 17m, 2017

 

Addie Mills                               Lauren Snouffer #

James Addison Mills III (“Dad”)            Daniel Belcher #

Miss Thompson/                     Heidi Stober #

Helen Mills/

Adelaide Mills

Grandma Mills                          Patricia Schuman

Conductor                                Bradley Moore

Director                                    James Robinson

Set Designer                              Allen Moyer

Costume Designer                     James Schuette

Lighting Designer                      Christopher Akerlind

 

Houston Grand Opera Orchestra and Juvenile Chorus

 

Commissioned and produced by Houston Grand Opera

 

 

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R. Strauss: Elektra

Sung in German with projected English translation

January 19, 21m, 27, 31, Feb. 2, 2018

 

Elektra                                      Christine Goerke

Chrysothemis                            Tamara Wilson #

Klytaemnestra                           Michaela Martens *

Orest                                        Greer Grimsley #

Aegisth                                     Chad Shelton #

Conductor                                Patrick Summers

Production                                David McVicar

Revival Director                         Nick Sandys*

Set and Costume Designer         John Macfarlane

Lighting Designer                      Jennifer Tipton

Chorus Master                          Richard Bado #

Houston Grand Orchestra and Chorus

 

A Lyric Opera of Chicago production

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Rossini: The Barber of Seville

Sung in Italian with projected English translation

January 26, 28m, Feb. 3, 8, 10, 2018

 

Figaro                                       Lucas Meachem *

Count Almaviva                        David Portillo

Rosina                                      Sofia Selowsky#

Don Basilio                               Eric Owens #

Doctor Bartolo                          Peixin Chen #

Conductor                                Julian Wachner *

Director                                    Joan Font

Set and Costume Designer         Joan Guillén

Lighting Designer                      Albert Faura

Choreographer                          Xevi Dorca

Chorus Master                          Richard Bado #

Houston Grand Opera Orchestra and Chorus

 

A co-production of Houston Grand Opera, Canadian Opera Company, Opéra National de Bordeaux, and Opera Australia

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West Side Story

Based on a Conception of JEROME ROBBINS

Book by ARTHUR LAURENTS, Music by LEONARD BERNSTEIN, Lyrics by STEPHEN SONDHEIM

Entire Original Production Directed and Choreographed by JEROME ROBBINS

Sung in English with projected text

April 20, 22m, 28, May 1, 3, 4, 6m, 2018

 

Maria                                        Andrea Carroll #

Tony                                        Norman Reinhardt #

Anita                                        Alicia Gianni #

Riff                                           Brian Vu *

Conductor                                Timothy Myers

Director                                    Francesca Zambello

Choreographer                          Julio Monge *

Set Designer                              Peter J. Davison

Costume Designer                     Jessica Jahn

Lighting Designer                      Mark McCullough

Houston Grand Opera Orchestra

 

A co-production of Houston Grand Opera, Glimmerglass Festival, and Lyric Opera of Chicago

 

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Bellini: Norma

Sung in Italian with projected English translation

April 27, 29m, May 5, 8, 11, 2018

 

Norma                                     Liudmyla Monastyrska

Adalgisa                                                Jamie Barton #

Pollione                                    Simon O’Neill

Oroveso                                   Peixin Chen #

Conductor                                Patrick Summers

Director                                    Kevin Newbury

Set Designer                              David Korins *

Costume Designer                     Jessica Jahn

Lighting Designer                      Duane Schuler

Chorus Master                          Richard Bado #

Houston Grand Opera Orchestra and Chorus

 

A co-production of San Francisco Opera, Canadian Opera Company, Lyric Opera of Chicago, and Gran Teatre del Liceu

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About Houston Grand Opera

 

Since its inception in 1955, Houston Grand Opera has grown from a small regional organization into an internationally renowned opera company. HGO enjoys a reputation for commissioning and producing new works, including 62 world premieres and seven American premieres since 1973. In addition to producing and performing world-class opera, HGO contributes to the cultural enrichment of Houston and the nation through a diverse and innovative program of performances, community events, and education projects that reaches the widest possible public. HGO has toured extensively, including trips to Europe and Asia, and has won a Tony, two Grammy awards, and two Emmy awards—the only opera company to have won all three honors. 

 

Through HGOco, Houston Grand Opera creates opportunities for Houstonians of all ages and backgrounds to create, participate in, and observe art. The NEXUS Initiative is HGO’s multi-year ticket underwriting program that allows Houstonians of all ages and backgrounds to enjoy world-class opera without the barrier of price. Since 2007 NEXUS has enabled more than 225,000 Houstonians to experience first-quality opera through discounted single tickets and subscriptions, subsidized student performances, and free productions.

 

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Houston Grand Opera Announces

Seeking the Human Spirit 2017–2023

Comprehensive artistic and community initiative will break new ground for Houston

 

Houston, 2017— Houston Grand Opera (HGO) today announced plans for Seeking the Human Spirit (STHS), a six-year multidisciplinary initiative designed to highlight the universal spiritual themes raised in opera and to expand and deepen Houstonians’ connections to opera and to art. Launching in the fall of 2017, STHS comprises three mainstage operas each season—one of which will be a new work—united by a single theme, and complementary projects by HGO and partner organizations created to enhance and enrich the community’s experience of the themes. Some of these activities will be available to the public; others will offer personal access to opera and HGO artists and staff for groups such as hospital patients, women who are rebuilding their lives after homelessness, and young people pursuing interfaith projects. 

 

“Opera takes the human spirit in this grand cathartic way and sings it back to you,” explained HGO Artistic and Music Director Patrick Summers. “I wanted us to explore a set of pieces that have some vein of spirituality as their artistic core, and invite partners here in the Houston community to help us ignite a set of conversations about what art is for that will be meaningful to audiences and to the broader community.” 

 

Adds HGO Managing Director Perryn Leech, “At a time when conflict and division are all around us, two things that unite all people and cultures are spirituality and music. HGO is thrilled to inaugurate the most ambitious and inclusive initiative in our 62-year history and to invite Houstonians to discover the powerful experiences that great opera can provide. We are proud to break new ground in this city by collaborating with partner organizations who are doing vital artistic and community work and creating meaningful connections for new and nontraditional audiences as well as opera lovers.”

 

HGO will launch Seeking the Human Spirit in 2017–18 with three works tied to the theme of Sacrifice: Verdi’s La traviata (October 20–November 11) featuring Albina Shagimuratova as Violetta in a new production by Arin Arbus; the world premiere of Ricky Ian Gordon and Royce Vavrek’s The House without a Christmas Tree (November 30–December 17) with Heidi Stober as Adelaide Mills; and Bellini’s Norma (April 27–May 11, 2018) with Liudmyla Monastyrska as Norma and Jamie Barton as Adalgisa. The 2018–19 mainstage operas, speaking to the theme of Transformation, will be Wagner’s The Flying Dutchman (fall 2018) with Andrzej Dobber as the Dutchman, Rachel Willis-Sørensen as Senta, and Kristinn Sigmundsson as Daland; Catán’s Florencia en el Amazonas (winter 2019) with Ana María Martínez as Florencia, directed by Francesca Zambello; and the world premiere of The Phoenix by Tarik O’Regan and John Caird, featuring Thomas Hampson as Lorenzo da Ponte and Luca Pisaroni as Young Lorenzo da Ponte. Also in the 2018–19 season, mezzo-soprano superstar and HGO Studio alumna Joyce DiDonato will perform her acclaimed recital program In War and Peace: Harmony through Music, which explores discord and harmony in times of war through her powerful interpretations of Baroque arias.


Future seasons of Seeking the Human Spirit will include productions of Handel’s Saul, Donizetti’s La favorite, R. Strauss’s Salome, Wagner’s Tannhäuser, and the world premiere of a new opera by Adam Guettel based on H. G. Wells’s The Invisible Man.

 

Presentations by HGOco, the company’s community and education arm, will include performances of Tom Cipullo’s Glory Denied, a chamber opera based on the true story of America’s longest held prisoner of war; a concert of songs created from the stories of Houston veterans; The Armadillo’s Dream, a newly created book by Dennis Arrowsmith and Eduard Hakobyan for HGOco’s Storybook Opera program for young children; and Star-Cross’d, the pilot for a web-based serial opera on love in the face of obstacles. Star-Cross’d will follow a modern-day Romeo and Juliet storyline to be chosen from public submissions and will be created by composer Avner Dorman  and librettist Stephanie Fleischmann. 

 

Six artistic and community organizations will participate in Seeking the Human Spirit by presenting projects that speak to the individual operas or the annual themes. These groups and examples of their projects follow. Other partners will be invited to join the initiative in the future.   

 

Houston Methodist and its Center for Performing Arts Medicine

 

Museum of Fine Arts, Houston (MFAH)

·         Performances by HGO Studio artists in the MFAH galleries will be included as part of a pop-up concert series.

·         In conjunction with the MFAH Book Club program, one book will be selected per year to complement an opera featured in the HGO season, beginning with Norma in the spring of 2018. 

·         This collaboration will also utilize the expertise of the Mellon Foundation Undergraduate Curatorial Fellows at the MFAH, who will curate a digital exhibition of artworks from the MFAH collections that represent  the motifs embodied in the Seeking the Human Spirit initiative. The selected artworks will be printed and/or projected for Seeking the Human Spirit audiences to enjoy.

 

The Jung Center, Houston

 

The Rothko Chapel

 

Sacred Sites Quest

 

The Women’s Home/Institute for Spirituality and Health

 

 

HGO will provide opportunities for people to reflect on the themes and spiritual questions and to share their experiences throughout the initiative, using the hashtag #HGOHumanSpirit on social media, on the HGO website HGO.org/HumanSpirit, and in other ways to be announced later.

 

HGO’s Seeking the Human Spirit initiative is made possible by the generous support of the following donors and funders: Mr. and Mrs. Oscar S. Wyatt Jr.; Dian Graves Owen Foundation; The Wortham Foundation, Inc.; Ting Tsung and Wei Fong Chao Foundation; Mr. John G. Turner and Mr. Jerry G. Fischer; Louisa Stude Sarofim Foundation; Mr. and Mrs. Byron Dyer; OPERA America; Mr. and Mrs. Donald G. Sweeney; Mr. and Mrs. Gabriel Loperena; Mrs. Pat Breen; and The Alkek and Williams Foundation.

 

 

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About Houston Grand Opera

 Since its inception in 1955, Houston Grand Opera has grown from a small regional organization into an internationally renowned opera company. HGO enjoys a reputation for commissioning and producing new works, including 63 world premieres and seven American premieres since 1973. In addition to producing and performing world-class opera, HGO contributes to the cultural enrichment of Houston and the nation through a diverse and innovative program of performances, community events, and education projects that reaches the widest possible public. HGO has toured extensively, including trips to Europe and Asia, and has won a Tony, two Grammy awards, and two Emmy awards—the only opera company to have won all three honors. 

 

Through HGOco, Houston Grand Opera creates opportunities for Houstonians of all ages and backgrounds to create, participate in, and observe art. The NEXUS Initiative is HGO’s multi-year ticket underwriting program that allows Houstonians of all ages and backgrounds to enjoy world-class opera without the barrier of price. Since 2007 NEXUS has enabled more than 225,000 Houstonians to experience first-quality opera through discounted single tickets and subscriptions, subsidized student performances, and free productions.

 

 

 

Seeking the Human Spirit Announcement Event

May, 2017

 

Quotes from Artistic and Community Partners

 Houston Methodist Center for Performing Arts Medicine

“Music has been shown to assist the healing process through improved clinical outcomes and meaningful patient and caregiver experiences. At Houston Methodist, this is the difference between practicing medicine and leading it.” J. Todd Frazier, Director

 

Museum of Fine Arts, Houston

“Visual art, like opera, stirs the soul, and has always been used as a form of expression for humanity’s deepest emotions. MFAH is proud to participate in this meaningful project that celebrates the power of art in our lives.”   Gary Tinterow, Director

 

The Jung Center, Houston

“Developing greater creative expression is not only necessary for human development across the lifespan, it is fundamental to the healthy growth of our community. Great art reflects timeless and profound psychological truths, and this collaboration allows us to draw them into our collective awareness.” Sean Fitzpatrick, Director

 Rothko Chapel

“Art is a catalyst for change, and opera can shine a spotlight on societal issues. Seeking the Human Spirit will serve as an important conduit for social engagement among diverse groups, inspiring people to reflect on both personal and social questions. This sort of collaboration is of great interest to supporters of Rothko Chapel.” David Leslie, Executive Director

 

 

Sacred Sites Quest

“So often we are blind to the sacred qualities of the world around us. Seeking the Human Spirit offers a framework for us to share with our students how opera can transmit those qualities. We hope the students will discover that the pursuit of making opera can be a sacred quest, and that the people of HGO will also be inspired by our students.” Reginald Adams, Creative/Artistic Director

 

The Women’s Center/ Institute for Spirituality and Health

“The mission of The Women’s Home is to help women in crisis regain their self-esteem and dignity, empowering them to become strong community members and lead healthy, productive lives. Our WholeLife® Model of Care treats the whole person, and spiritual wellness is part of the healing process. In connection with HGO and the Institute for Spirituality and Health, Seeking the Human Spirit will give our residents a connection to opera where sweeping music and universal stories can move them in powerful ways.” Staci Young, Chief Program Officer, The Women’s Home   

 

“The Institute for Spirituality and Health exists to raise awareness of the role that spirituality plays in health and in healing. Over the past three years, our partnership with The Women’s Home has resulted in an ongoing, volunteer- driven program, Courage to Search, which focuses on fostering spiritual growth and health amongst their clients. We are extremely excited that Seeking the Human Spirit will allow us to explore with these women how powerful operatic themes are woven into the fabric of their own spiritual stories.” Stuart Nelson, Vice President, Institute for Spirituality and Health