Houston Grand Opera’s 2018–19 season

features world premiere of Tarik O’Regan/John Caird’sThe Phoenix; new productions of Wagner’sThe Flying Dutchman and Mozart’sDon Giovanni; first HGO performances of Bizet’sThe Pearl Fishers; and a revival of Catán’s Florencia en el Amazonas


HGO will return to its Wortham Theater Center home


Second season of Seeking the Human Spirit initiative to focus on transformation

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Houston, January 19, 2018— Houston Grand Opera (HGO) will present its 2018–19 season in its creative home at Houston’s Wortham Theater Center after a year of displacement due to damage to the building from Hurricane Harvey. The 64th season will open October 19, 2018, with HGO’s first performances in 20 years of Wagner’s romantic ghost story The Flying Dutchman, in a new production featuring baritone Andrzej Dobber as the Dutchman and the role debut of award-winning American soprano and HGO Studio alumna Rachel Willis-Sørensen as Senta. To close the season, the new Kasper Holten production of Mozart’s Don Giovanni featuring the HGO debut of baritone Philippe Sly in the title role and the role debut of soprano Ailyn Pérez as Donna Anna will be presented in repertory with The Phoenix, a world premiere about the colorful life of Lorenzo da Ponte, Mozart’s librettist for the masterful Don Giovanni, The Marriage of Figaro, and Così fan tutte. The new work, written by composer Tarik O’Regan and librettist John Caird, will star renowned baritone Thomas Hampson as Lorenzo da Ponte in a belated HGO debut and bass-baritone Luca Pisaroni as Da Ponte’s son, Lorenzo. HGO will also present a revival of Daniel Catán’s ethereal Florencia en el Amazonas with internationally acclaimed soprano and HGO Studio alumna Ana María Martínez in the title role; the first HGO presentation of Bizet’s The Pearl Fishers with the stellar tenor and baritone pairing of Lawrence Brownlee and Mariusz Kwiecien in the title roles along with soprano Andrea Carroll; and the return of HGO’s 2012 production of Puccini’s perennial classic La bohème, featuring the role debut of soprano and HGO Studio alumna Nicole Heaston as Mimì.


Subscriptions to the 2018–19 season are now available at HGO.org.  Single tickets will be available later this summer.



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Three mainstage operas—The Flying Dutchman, Florencia en el Amazonas, and The Phoenix—are part of Seeking the Human Spirit, HGO’s six-year multidisciplinary initiative designed to highlight the universal spiritual themes raised in opera, and to enable a wider segment of the Houston community to experience opera’s beauty, emotional power, and potential to heal. The initiative, which began in the fall of 2017, includes three mainstage operas each season—one of which is a new work—united by a single theme. The theme of the 2018–19 season will be transformation.


Six partner organizations have joined HGO to date, with a commitment to create projects that complement the operas, enhancing and enriching our community’s experience of the themes. These organizations include The Center for Performing Arts Medicine at Houston Methodist; Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; The Jung Center, Houston; The Rothko Chapel; Sacred Sites Quest; and The Women’s Home in collaboration with the Institute for Spirituality and Health. Information about their 2018–19 collaborations will be announced later in 2018. 


HGO’s mainstage season will comprise 33 performances (including two free community performances) of six productions. The company will also present three student performances. 

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HGOco, the company’s ten-year-old initiative that connects HGO’s creative resources with the diverse and vibrant Houston community, begins its second decade with an Opera to Go! tour of Cinderella in Spain by Mary Carol Warwick and Kate Pogue. One of HGOco’s most successful commissions for children’s opera, Cinderella in Spain has been offering a bilingual opera experience to young people and families for 20 years. In March 2019, HGOco will present the world premiere of Home of My Ancestors by composer Nkeiru Okoye and librettist Anita Gonzalez. The story of a Chicago-based African American doctor who returns to her childhood home in Houston’s Third Ward is the first of three new commissions for HGOco’s award-winning Song of Houston initiative, which has been creating new works based on stories that define the unique character of Houston since 2007.

This season, HGO continues to reach younger audiences through its popular Opening Nights for Young Professionals (ONYP) subscription series, where subscriptions start as low as $138 for six operas, and its affordable ticket initiatives that include the Pay Your Age program and the NEXUS ticket underwriting program. Launched just two years ago, the Pay Your Age program gives those under the age of 25 the opportunity to pay the price of their age for a single ticket. The multiyear NEXUS initiative provides a limited number of $15 tickets for first-time opera goers and student group audiences to all HGO performances. Both the ONYP subscription series and the affordable ticket initiatives have made opera more accessible to new audiences in the Greater Houston Area.



Our 2018-19 season is most movingly expressed by The Phoenix,” notes HGO Artistic and Music Director Patrick Summers (Margaret Alkek Williams Chair), “because in this important season we are a phoenix of a company, rising not from ashes but from the inundation of Hurricane Harvey that so violently moved us out of our beloved Wortham Theater for a year. This season is built upon a great diversity of voices and artistry, emerging stars and veterans of the operatic stage, familiar operas and operas you will not know but will want to. They range from The Flying Dutchman—our first post-Ring Wagner opera, featuring Andrzej Dobber’s brooding and powerful Dutchman—to our first Brown Theater world premiere in a decade, The Phoenix, by the multi-talented Tarik O’Regan and John Caird. We are delighted to welcome Thomas Hampson, who will star alongside his real-life son-in-law, the beloved Luca Pisaroni, in this funny and moving new opera about Mozart’s closest collaborator, Lorenzo da Ponte, whose own life was the stuff of many operas! We are pairing The Phoenix with Kaspar Holten’s searing and visceral new production of Don Giovanni. We will give the HGO premiere of The Pearl Fishers, among the most requested opera titles from HGO patrons over the last 20 years, and will bring back for the third time Daniel Catán’s unparalled Florencia en el Amazonas, one of the most popular operas HGO ever commissioned. We will luxuriate in the sounds and artistry of sopranos Rachel Willis-Sørensen, Nicole Heaston, Ana María Martínez, and Andrea Carroll, each of whom are starring in an opera next year and who are all illustrious alumnae of the HGO Studio, a source of profound pride to HGO. I’m also, with enormous pride, looking forward to the performances of our great resident ensembles, the Houston Grand Opera Orchestra and Chorus.”

HGO Managing Director Perryn Leech (Sarah and Ernest Butler Chair) adds, “The tremendous support of the Houston community and our friends and colleagues all over the world has enabled us to keep great opera alive while displaced from our creative home. Through our community collaborations for our Seeking the Human Spirit initiative we have connected many Houstonians, including nontraditional audiences, with the spiritual and healing power of opera. We are thrilled to carry this groundbreaking work forward when we return to the Wortham next fall with a season of exceptional presentations of masterpieces as well as creative new operas, including an HGOco production set in Houston’s own Third Ward. In three seasons so far, our under-25 subscription and Pay Your Age programs have brought nearly 400 young people to opera.”        

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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The Flying Dutchman: new production by Tomer Zvulun features return of baritone Andrzej Dobber as the Dutchman and role debut of HGO Studio alumna Rachel Willis-Sørensen as Senta (Oct. 19Nov. 2, 2018) (Seeking the Human Spirit presentation)


HGO opens its 64th season with Wagner’s gothic romance about the redeeming and transformative power of a woman’s love. Last presented here in 1998, The Flying Dutchman tells the haunting story of a ship captain doomed by a curse to navigate a ghost ship forever unless released by true love and the young woman who becomes obsessed with him.

Polish baritone Andrzej Dobber, whose “authoritative presence” and “dark, rich, timbre” (Houston Chronicle) as Scarpia in HGO’s 2015 Tosca impressed HGO audiences, sings the Dutchman, while the demanding role of Senta will be sung by soprano and HGO Studio alumna Rachel Willis-Sørensen, who won first prize at the 2014 Operalia competition and whose “darkly colored voice”  was praised as “ideal” as Elsa in Opernhaus Zurich’s Lohengrin in the summer of 2017(Der Neue Merker). Senta’s father, Daland, will be sung by the Icelandic bass Kristinn Sigmundsson, who gave a “jolly and rich-toned performance” (San Francisco Chronicle) of the role at San Francisco Opera in 2013 and appeared as Fasolt in HGO’s Das Rheingold in 2014. Tenor Eric Cutler, who sang the Duke of Mantua in HGO’s 2009 Rigoletto and Florestan in the Stuttgart Opera’s 2016 production of Fidelio, will take the role of young Erik. Patrick Summers will conduct.

HGO’s new co-production with Atlanta Opera and Cincinnati Opera is directed by Atlanta Opera’s general and artistic director, Tomer Zvulun.


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La bohème: Houston soprano Nicole Heaston stars in revival of 2012 HGO production by award-winning director John Caird (Oct. 26Nov. 11, 2018)


This story of young love in bohemian 19th-century Paris set to Puccini’s radiant score has become one of the best-loved operas of all time. HGO brings back the “strikingly original…innovative staging”(Opera News) by John Caird from 2012; Caird reflects the action in the paintings of Marcello, an artist who lives along with his fellow bohemians in the garret.

Nicole Heaston, the Houston-based soprano and HGO alumna whom the Houston Press termed “an artist of rare beauty” in her role as Adina in HGO’s 2016 The Elixir of Love, makes a much anticipated role debut as Mimì.

Two former HGO Studio artists will also make professional role debuts: Korean soprano Pureum Jo will appear as Musetta, following noted appearances as Dai Yu in the 2016 world premiere of Bright Sheng’s Dream of the Red Chamber at San Francisco Opera; Marcello will be portrayed by baritone Michael Sumuel, whose voice as Belcore in HGO’s 2016 Elixir of Love had a “resounding amber glow”(Houstonia). Argentine bass and HGO Studio alumnus Federico De Michelis will sing Colline. Opera News praised his “deep-voiced authority” as Thomas Betterton in HGO’s 2016 world premiere of Carlisle Floyd’s Prince of Players.

Grammy-nominated conductor James Lowe, an HGO Studio alumnus who has led multiple Broadway productions as well as HGO’s 2016 Sweeney Todd, will be on the podium.


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Florencia en el Amazonas: Houston favorite and HGO Studio alumna Ana María Martínez takes title role, Francesca Zambello directs an enhanced revival of Daniel Catán’s homage to magical realism, originally premiered by HGO (Jan. 18Feb. 3, 2019) (Seeking the Human Spirit presentation)


The first Spanish-language opera to be commissioned by major American opera companies, the late Mexican-American composer Daniel Catán’s Florencia en el Amazonas was an immediate hit with audiences and has been performed by opera companies across the United States as well as in Mexico and in Germany since its 1996 HGO premiere and 2002 recording (Albany Records). The mystical story of an opera singer returning home and floating down the Amazon river in a boat to follow a lost love was written by Marcela Fuentes-Berain, a pupil of renowned magical realism novelist Gabriel García Márquez. Catán’s romantic score employs Latin American instruments within the orchestra along with a lush choral landscape.

Now, HGO brings back original director Francesca Zambello to stage a rebuilt version enhanced with projections. Currently artistic and general director of Washington National Opera and the Glimmerglass Festival, Ms. Zambello has a long relationship with HGO and will stage a new production of Bernstein’s West Side Story in April 2017. HGO Artistic and Music Director Patrick Summers, who led HGO’s last performances and recording of Florencia, will conduct.

Internationally renowned soprano and HGO Studio alumna Ana María Martínez returns to HGO for the first time as Florencia. The role holds special significance for her: the late composer was a close friend and wrote his opera Salsipuedes for her. Ms. Martínez’s most recent HGO appearances were in 2016, when she appeared in the title role of Rusalka and as Marguerite in Faust, both to critical and audience acclaim.

Four artists will make their HGO debuts in this revival. Rising American tenor Joshua Guerrero, a 2016 Richard Tucker career grant winner, will sing Arcadio. Baritone and Lubbock, TX, native Norman Garrett will reprise the role of Riobolo, which he sang at Washington National Opera. Spanish mezzo-soprano Nancy Fabiola Herrera will sing Paula, which she has performed with both Washington National Opera and LA Opera. The role of Capitán will be taken by veteran bass David Pittsinger, who performed the role with LA Opera.


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The Pearl Fishers: First-ever HGO performances feature renowned tenor Lawrence Brownlee and baritone Mariusz Kwiecien in eye-popping Zandra Rhodes production (Jan. 25Feb. 8, 2019)



Twelve years before he wrote Carmen, 24-year-old French composer Georges Bizet received a commission from a Parisian theater for his first opera. The project came with a libretto about two pearl fishers in love with a mysterious priestess on the exotic island of Ceylon (now Sri Lanka), a prime example of the exaggerated Orientalism that fascinated Europeans for decades. Audiences fell in love with the romantic story and score, highlighted by one of the most radiantly beautiful duets in the operatic repertoire.

In HGO’s first-ever production of the opera, this famous duet, “Au fond du temple saint,” will be sung by two of today’s premier operatic artists, tenor Lawrence Brownlee as Nadir, and baritone Mariusz Kwiecien as Zurga. Brownlee’s “bell-like tenor” and “effortless facility”(Houston Press) were evident in his 2017 HGO appearances as Belmonte in The Abduction from the Seraglio. Kwiecien’s “powerful, moving singing” as Zurga in the Metropolitan Opera’s 2017 production of The Pearl Fishers was noted by the Washington Post. HGO Studio alumna Andrea Carroll, who sang with “purity and radiance”(Opera News) as Mary Hatch Bailey in HGO’s 2016 world premiere of Jake Heggie and Gene Scheer’s It’s a Wonderful Life, will portray the priestess Leila. Argentine bass and HGO Studio alumnus Federico De Michelis (see La bohème), will sing Nourabad.

The technicolor production by renowned English fashion designer Zandra Rhodes, who created HGO’s 2007 Aida, (also seen in 2013) was based on the fabrics and artwork of Sri Lanka and “recalls the fascination of artists like Delacroix and Matisse with exotic textiles” (Washington Post). In collaboration with HGO’s Cultural Advisory Committee, HGO will offer audiences opportunities to explore the opera from both historical and current social-cultural perspectives through a variety of informational resources.

E. Loren Meeker, who has directed five world premieres for HGOco and most recently choreographed HGO’s The Marriage of Figaro in 2011, will direct. Conductor Roderick Cox, associate conductor of the Minnesota Orchestra, will make his operatic debut with these performances.


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Don Giovanni: New HGO co-production features house debuts of director Kasper Holten and baritone Philippe Sly, role debuts of Ailyn Pérez as Donna Anna and HGO Studio alumnus Ryan McKinny as Leporello (Apr. 20May 5, 2019)



Mozart and Lorenzo da Ponte’s masterpiece Don Giovanni returns to the HGO stage in a much anticipated HGO co-production that marks the company debut of Danish director Kasper Holten, director of opera at Royal Opera, Covent Garden, from 2011 to 2017. The opera’s ending calls for the unrepentant title character, who was based on the fictional libertine Don Juan, to be dragged to the underworld. In an approach that resonates in the MeToo era, Holten’s production explores what hell might look and feel like for a charismatic serial seducer. Working with the award-winning team of set designer Es Devlin and video designer Luke Halls—both contributors to the 2012 London Summer Olympics closing ceremonies—Holten conceives the entire opera through the prism of Giovanni’s complex mental landscape, resulting in a somewhat unconventional finale. Noted as “striking and clever” by the New York Times, this focus gives the 231-year-old masterpiece a contemporary perspective.

Canadian baritone Philippe Sly, whose “voracious performance was extraordinary” (Bachtrack) in his role debut as Giovanni at the 2017 Aix-en-Provence festival, will make his HGO debut in the role. Soprano Ailyn Pérez, who charmed Houston audiences as Countess Almaviva in The Marriage of Figaro (2016), will make her own role debut as Donna Anna. Bass-baritone and HGO Studio alumnus Ryan McKinny, whose most recent appearances here were as Gunther in Götterdämmerung (2017), will debut the role of Giovanni’s servant, Leporello.  Donna Elvira will be sung by Melody Moore, whose Dorabella in HGO’s 2014 Così fan tutte was a “standout”(Houston Press). Tenor Ben Bliss, a Metropolitan Opera Martin E. Segal Award winner, will sing Don Ottavio in his HGO debut. Kristinn Sigmundsson, who also appears in the season-opening Flying Dutchman, will portray the Commendatore.

Romanian conductor Cristian Măcelaru, who made his operatic debut with HGO’s 2010 production of Madame Butterfly and was recently appointed music director of the Cabrillo Festival, leads the HGO Orchestra and Chorus.



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The Phoenix: World-renowned bass-baritone Luca Pisaroni and baritone Thomas Hampson bring Lorenzo da Ponte to life in world premiere by Tarik O’Regan and John Caird (Apr. 26May 10, 2019) (Seeking the Human Spirit presentation) 



Mozart’s collaboration with librettist Lorenzo da Ponte produced three of opera’s greatest masterpieces. But opera lovers may not realize that the adventures of Don Giovanni’s title character bore more than a passing resemblance to Da Ponte’s own colorful life. Forced to leave Venice on charges of “public concubinage,” Da Ponte embarked on a journey that led him from Vienna to London and eventually to America, where he went from selling groceries in Philadelphia to selling books in New York, teaching Italian, and eventually becoming a professor at Columbia College and founding the city’s first opera company. Da Ponte’s ability to reinvent himself led Mozart to call him “the phoenix,” which is also the name of the great opera house in Venice (La Fenice), where Da Ponte grew up. In Grammy-nominated composer Tarik O’Regan and award-winning librettist/director John Caird’s new opera, an elderly Da Ponte stages a new opera in New York City based on his own memoirs. With a character list that includes Mozart, famed mezzo-soprano Maria Malibran, and members of Da Ponte’s family including his son, Lorenzo, The Phoenix reveals Da Ponte’s tumultuous and truly operatic odyssey as a lifelong search for identity.   

Bass-baritone Luca Pisaroni returns to HGO as Da Ponte’s son, Lorenzo, after a star turn as the “ideal devil” (Houston Press), Méphistophélès in Faust (2016). The distinguished American baritone Thomas Hampson, who is also Pisaroni’s father-in-law, makes a much-anticipated HGO debut as the older Lorenzo da Ponte. Based in Europe, Hampson’s illustrious career has included performances as Don Giovanni along with other lyric baritone roles as well as extensive work as a recitalist specializing in both German Romantic and American songs. Canadian-Tunisian mezzo-soprano Rihab Chaieb, who sang The Fairy Prince in Opera Philadelphia’s 2017 world premiere of The Wake World with an “agile mezzo” (Philadelphia Inquirer), will make her HGO debut in the roles of Maria Malibran, Mozart, and Da Ponte’s wife, Nancy. Canadian tenor Joseph Kaiser will also sing multiple roles including those of Emperor Joseph II and Giacomo Casanova. He gave “appealing, refined” (New York Times) performances as Walter in HGO’s American premiere of Weinberg’s The Passenger in Houston and New York (2014). The parts of Da Ponte’s niece Giulietta and three other soprano roles will be taken by HGO Studio alumna Lauren Snouffer, who charmed audiences and critics as the young Addie Mills in HGO’s 2017 world premiere The House without a Christmas Tree. 

John Caird will direct The Phoenix, and Patrick Summers will conduct. 

British and American composer Tarik O’Regan’s first opera, Heart of Darkness, premiered in 2011 at the Royal Opera’s Linbury Theater and won an NEA Artistic Excellence Award. Another vocal work, Threshold of Night (2009), earned two Grammy nominations. Now in the first season of a three-year residency with the Pacific Chorale, he serves on the composition faculty of Rutgers University and is senior advisor to the Center for Ballet and the Arts at New York University. He previously held the Fulbright Chester Schirmer Fellowship at Columbia University; a Radcliffe Institute Fellowship at Harvard; and positions at Trinity and Corpus Christi Colleges in Cambridge, the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, and Yale. 

John Caird’s long association with HGO as a stage director most recently includes a 2010 production of Tosca that returned in the fall of 2015 and a 2012 staging of La bohème that will be remounted in the fall of 2018. The winner of multiple awards as a theater director, he has also written, co-written, and adapted several musical theater works and earned a 2016 Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Book of a Musical for Daddy Long Legs. He is an honorary associate director of the Royal Shakespeare Company, a regular director with the Royal National Theatre of Great Britain, and the principal guest director of the Royal Dramatic Theatre, Stockholm (Dramaten).

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Subscription tickets for HGO’s 2018–19 season are now available, and single tickets are on sale now. 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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Houston Grand Opera: 2018–19 Season


* Company debut

** HGO Studio artist

# Former HGO Studio artist

† Alternate cast/date


Wagner: The Flying Dutchman

Sung in German with projected English translation

October 19, 21m, 27, 30, Nov. 2, 2018


Dutchman                                            Andrzej Dobber

Senta                                                    Rachel Willis-Sørensen #

Daland                                                 Kristinn Sigmundsson

Erik                                                      Eric Cutler

Steersman                                            TBD

Conductor                                            Patrick Summers

Director                                               Tomer Zvulun *           

Associate Director                                 Brenda Corner *

Set and Costume Designer                     Jacob A. Climer *         

Lighting Designer                                  Amith Chandrashaker*             

Projections Designer                              S. Katy Tucker*            

Chorus Master                                      Richard Bado #


Houston Grand Opera Orchestra and Chorus


A co-production of Houston Grand Opera, Atlanta Opera, and Cincinnati Opera



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Puccini: La bohème

Sung in Italian with projected English translation

October 26, 28m, Nov. 3, 6, 10, 11m†, 2018


Mimì                                                    Nicole Heaston #

Rodolfo                                                            TBD

Marcello                                                Michael Sumuel #

Musetta                                                 Pureum Jo #

Colline                                                  Federico De Michelis #

Schaunard                                             TBD

Conductor                                            James Lowe #

Director                                                John Caird

Set and Costume Designer                     David Farley

Lighting Designer                                  Michael James Clark

Chorus Master                                      Richard Bado #

Children’s Chorus Director                    Karen Reeves



Houston Grand Opera Orchestra, Chorus, and Children’s Chorus


A co-production of Houston Grand Opera, Canadian Opera Company, and San Francisco Opera





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Catán: Florencia en el Amazonas

Sung in Spanish with projected English translation

January 18, 20m, 26, 30, Feb. 3m, 2019


Florencia                                               Ana María Martínez #

Rosalba                                                 TBD

Arcadio                                                 Joshua Guerrero *

Riolobo                                                Norman Garrett *

Paula                                                     Nancy Fabiola Herrera *

Alvaro                                                  TBD

Capitán                                                 David Pittsinger *

Conductor                                            Patrick Summers

Director                                                Francesca Zambello

Associate Director                                 E. Loren Meeker

Set Designer                                          Robert Israel

Costume Designer                                 Catherine Zuber

Lighting Designer                                  Mark McCullough

Video and Projections Designer             S. Katy Tucker  

Choreographer                                      Eric Sean Fogel

Chorus Master                                      Richard Bado #


Houston Grand Orchestra and Chorus


A production of Houston Grand Opera.

Original production generously underwritten by Cullen Trust for the Performing Arts, Nancy and Rich Kinder and Sara and Bill Morgan, Shell Oil Company Foundation, Nelda and H. J. Lutcher Stark Foundation

Co-commissioned by Houston Grand Opera, Los Angeles Music Center Opera, and Seattle Opera

Commissioned in part through a generous grant from Drs. Dennis and Susan Carlyle




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Bizet: The Pearl Fishers

Sung in French with projected English translation

January 25, 27m, Feb. 2, 5, 8, 2019

Nadir                                                    Lawrence Brownlee

Leila                                                     Andrea Carroll #

Zurga                                                   Mariusz Kwiecien

Nourabad                                             Federico De Michelis #

Conductor                                            Roderick Cox *

Director                                                E. Loren Meeker

Scenic and Costume Designer                Zandra Rhodes

Lighting Designer                                  Mark McCullough

Choreographer                                      Charlie Williams *

Chorus Master                                      Richard Bado #


Houston Grand Opera Orchestra and Chorus

  A production of San Diego Opera

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Mozart: Don Giovanni

Sung in Italian with projected English translation

April 20, 27, 30, May 3, 5m, 2019


Don Giovanni                                      Philippe Sly*

Leporello                                              Ryan McKinny #

Donna Anna                                         Ailyn Pérez

Donna Elvira                                        Melody Moore

Don Ottavio                                         Ben Bliss*

Zerlina                                                  TBD

Masetto                                                TBD

Commendatore                                     Kristinn Sigmundsson

Conductor                                            Cristian Măcelaru

Director                                                Kasper Holten *

Associate Director                                 Amy Lane *

Set Designer                                          Es Devlin *

Costume Designer                                 Anja Vang Kragh *

Lighting Designer                                  Bruno Poet *

Video Designer                                     Luke Halls *

Original Choreographer                         Signe Fabricius *

Revival Choreographer                          Anna-Marie Sullivan *

Chorus Master                                      Richard Bado #


Houston Grand Opera Orchestra and Chorus


A co-production of Houston Grand Opera; Royal Opera, Covent Garden; Gran Teatre del Liceu; and The Israeli Opera



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World Premiere

Tarik O’Regan and John Caird: The Phoenix

Sung in English and Italian with projected text/translation

April 26, 28m, May 4, 7, 10, 2019


Lorenzo da Ponte                                  Thomas Hampson *

Lorenzo da Ponte Jr./                           Luca Pisaroni

  Lorenzo as a young man

Maria Malibran/                                                Rihab Chaieb *

  Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart/

 Nancy da Ponte née Grahl

Patrick Kelly/                                        Joseph Kaiser

  Giacomo Casanova/

  Emperor Joseph II/ Opera Taylor/

  Clement Clark Moore

Giulietta/Anzoletta/Matilda Grahl/        Lauren Snouffer #

  Anna Morichelli

Faustina/Angela Tiepolo/Annetta/        TBA

  Louisa Grahl/Brigida Banti

Conductor                                            Patrick Summers

Director                                                John Caird

Set and Costume Designer                     David Farley

Lighting Designer                                  Michael James Clark

Choreographer/Movement Director      Tim Claydon


Houston Grand Opera Orchestra and Chorus


A co-production of Houston Grand Opera and Royal Opera, Covent Garden



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About Houston Grand Opera


Houston Grand Opera (HGO) is one of the largest, most innovative, and most highly acclaimed opera companies in the United States. HGO was the only American finalist for Opera Company of the Year at the 2017 International Opera Awards. In fulfilling its mission to advance the operatic art to serve an ever-evolving audience, HGO has led the field in commissioning new works (64 world premieres to date) and in training and nurturing promising young artists and administrators. The company 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’s pioneering community engagement initiative, HGOco, has served as a model for other arts organizations.


The NEXUS Initiative is HGO’s multi-year ticket underwriting program that allows Houstonians of all ages and backgrounds to enjoy opera without the barrier of price. Since 2007, NEXUS has enabled more than 250,000 Houstonians to experience superlative opera through discounted single tickets and subscriptions, subsidized student performances, and free productions.


HGO has toured extensively and has won a Tony, two Grammy awards, and two Emmy awards. It is the only opera company to win all three honors.



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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