HOUSTON GRAND OPERA
TO MOUNT ITS FIRST PRODUCTION OF
STEPHEN SONDHEIM'S TONY AWARD-WINNING
A LITTLE NIGHT MUSIC
Houston, TX, December 16, 1998 -- Known for producing great works of American musical
theater, Houston Grand Opera will begin its winter repertory with a new production of Stephen Sondheim's A Little Night Music. This mounting will be Houston Grand Opera's first production of the Tony Award-winning musical theater classic. A tale of three mismatched couples who spend a weekend in the country sorting out who should love whom, this production will feature the return to Houston Grand Opera of legendary star soprano Evelyn Lear, who will be reunited on stage after twenty years with mezzo-soprano Frederica von Stade. A Little Night Music opens Friday, January 29 at the Wortharn Center's Brown Theater with additional performances on January 30, 31 m, February 3, 6, 9, 12, 14m, 1999.
Director/Choreographer Michael Leeds and his production team (assistant director/associate choreographer Thomas Mills, set designer Ken Foy, costume designer Ann Hould-Ward, lighting designer Ken Billington and sound designer Herb Lagoski) will be the first team to utilize the basic elements of Houston Grand Opera's innovative Multimedia Modular Stage indoors. The Multimedia Modular Stage was introduced last summer with Carmen at The Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion and Miller Outdoor Tineatre. Like Carmen, this production will feature the Houston Grand Opera Orchestra on-stage with the singers. Conductor Grant Gershon makes his HGO debut.
A Little Night Music features American mezzo-soprano Frederica von Stade as Desiree Armfeldt,
British baritone Thomas Allen as Fredrik Egerman, and American soprano Sheri Greenawald as Charlotte Malcolm. A quartet of American singers rounds out the principal roles, soprano Nanne Puritz making her HGO debut as Anne Egerman, tenor John McVeigh (a former member of Houston Opera Studio) as Henrik Egerman, mezzo-soprano Leslie Ann Hendricks making her HGO debut as Petra, and baritone Frank Hernandez (another former member of Houston Opera Studio) as Carl-Magnus Malcolm.
"Suggested" by Ingmar Bergman's film, Smiles of a Summer Night, A Little Night Music opened on Broadway in February, 1973. With music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheirn and book by Hugh Wheeler, A Little Night Music was one in a series of successful collaborations between Sondheim and producer / director Harold Prince. Musically, the show is interesting because all the songs are written in variations of three-quarter, or waltz, time. The show contains Sondheim's only song to cross over and become a popular hit, "Send in the Clowns." That song just made it into the show; it was written in one night, and performed for the first time at an early run-through. Other highlights are "You Must Meet My Wife," a duet for Fredrik and Desiree, and "A Weekend in the Country," for the entire company. A Little Night Music won Tony Awards for Best Musical, Best Music and Lyrics and Best Book.
Fredrik Egerman's marriage to the much-younger Anne is disturbed when his passion for his former
lover, the actress.Desiree Armfeldt, is reignited after he sees her in a play. That night, Fredrik goes
to see Desiree, and they are caught together by Desiree's current lover, Count Carl-Magnus
Malcolm. The Count has his wife, Charlotte, tell Anne about Fredrik's behavior; Anne is
devastated and Fredrik's son, Henrik, a student home from school, tries to comfort her. Desiree
has her mother invite Fredrik and his family to their country estate. They accept, with both Anne
and Desiree hoping to win back Fredrik's heart. Count Carl-Magnus and Charlotte show up
uninvited and Charlotte throws herself at Fredrik, in order to make her husband jealous. Desiree's
daughter, Fredrika, informs Anne that Henrik is in love with her. Laying her cards on the table,
Desiree confides to Fredrik that she hopes to settle down with him, but he rejects her. Anne
realizes that she loves Henrik, and they run off together. Charlotte's ploy works and she wins back
her husband. Fredrik decides he is ready to establish a life with Desiree after all.
Widely regarded as America's foremost musical theater composer, Stephen Sondheim wrote
the music and lyrics for Passion, which received Tony Awards for both Best Musical and Best
Score of a Musical for 1994. He also wrote the music and lyrics for Assassins (1991), Into the
Woods (1987), Sunday in the Park with George (1984), Merrily We Roll Along (1981), Sweeney
Todd (1979), Pacific Overtures (1976), The Frogs (1974), Follies (1971, revised in London
1987), Company (1970), Anyone Can Whistle (1964) and A Funny Thing Happened on the Way
to the Forum (1962), as well as the lyrics for West Side Story (1957), Gypsy (1959), Do I Hear A
Waltz? (1965), and additonal lyrics for Candide (1973). He also composed the songs for the film,
Dick Tracy (Academy Award, 1990). He won Tony Awards for Best Score for A Musical for
Into the Woods, Sweeney Todd, Follies and Company. Sunday in the Park with George received
the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 1985. Sondheim is the subject of the recent biography, Stephen
Sondheim: A Life, by Meryle Secrest.
Director Michael Leeds wrote and directed the Broadway musical, Swinging On A Star, which was nominated for a Tony Award for Best Musical. Off Broadway, he directed and choreographed the musical Hello Mudda, Hello Faddah - The Songs of Allan Sherman, for which he was nominated for a Drama Desk Award for Best Director and Best Choreographer. Other Off-Broadway credits include directing and choreographing Lypsinka - A Day in the Life, and the critically acclaimed Showing Off. Mr. Leeds has directed for Playwrights Horizons and Steppenwolf Theatre Company, among others. His production of Arthur Miller's Playing For Time won a Festival First at the Edinburgh Festival, where it was given its European premiere. He directed and choreographed the Boston production of Mating Habits of the Urban Mammal, a musical he wrote with Peggy Gordon and Brian Lasser which has had productions throughout the
country. He choreographed the movie End of Summer, directed by Linda Yellen, starring Jacqueline Bisset and Peter Weller. Mr. Leeds is making his HGO debut.
Conductor Grant Gershon is making his Houston Grand Opera debut. He recently led the Los
Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra in numerous acclaimed subscription concerts, with soloists
including Frederica von Stade, Leon Fleisher and Evelyn Glennie. In 1998, he took over
performances from Claudio Abbado of Peter Brook's production of Don Giovanni at the Royal
Opera in Stockholm. He also recently conducted the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, Phoenix
Symphony, Mahler Chamber Orchestra and Aspen Festival Orchestra. An ardent champion of
new music, Mr. Gershon conducted the world premiere of John Adams' I Was Looking at the
Ceiling and Then I Saw the Sky. He subsequently conducted its New York premiere as part of
Lincoln Center's Serious Fun Festival, and led a series of award-winning performances of the work
at the Edinburgh and Helsinki Festivals. Last season, he premiered Hallelujah Junction, a piano duo
piece written for him by John Adams, and this past summer he led the much-acclairned American
premiere of Mark Anthony Turnage's opera, Greek, at the Aspen Music Festival.
Assistant director / associate choreographer Thomas Mills has directed and choreographed
musicals throughout the country. He served as resident director-choreographer for the prestigious
"American Song Series" at the Smithsonian for three years. Mills, who directs extensively in
cabaret, won the Bistro Award for outstanding direction in 1994. He is making his HGO debut.
Ken Foy designed the sets and projections for HGO's production of Carmen on the Multimedia
Modular Stage. Also, he designed HGO's intemationally-acclairned production of Porgy and Bess,
which toured to ten U.S. cities, three Japanese cities, the Opera Bastille in Paris, La Scala in Milan
and the Teatro Real in Madrid. Foy's other designs include the national touring production of the
Harold Arlen revue Sweet and Hot, Celebrate Broadway for the League of American Theatres and
Producers, Can Can and Galileo for the Goodspeed Opera House, Cole in Los Angeles and
Brimstone for the Berkshire Theatre Festival. He has designed sets for Radio City Music Hall, the
America Opera Center, the Juilliard Theatre Center and Long Wharf. He has also designed for the
opera companies of Chicago, Los Angeles and San Francisco.
Lighting designer Ken Billington won a Tony Award for his work on the Broadway revival of
Chicago. He is one of the conceivers of HGO's Multimedia Modular Stage. The nineteen
productions he has lit for HGO include last season's Carmen, the touring production of Porgy and
Bess mentioned above, and productions of Madame Butterfly, Don Giovanni and The Marriage
offigaro. Billington has over 70 Broadway productions to his credit, including, Annie, Candide,
Inherit the Wind and Hello, Dolly! His opera credits include Madame Butterfly for the Teatro
Col6n in Buenos Aires, Candide for the New York City Opera, Harold Prince's productions of
The Girl of the Golden West and Madame Butterfly for the Lyric Opera of Chicago and Turandot
for the Vienna State Opera. He has been nominated for six additional Tony awards, received two
Los Angeles Drama Critics awards and has won an Ace award for television design.
Costume designer Ann Hould-Ward's work has been seen on Broadway, Off Broadway, and in
regional theater, opera, dance and fihn. She designed the costumes for the Broadway production of Beauty and the Beast, for which she won a Tony Award. She has had a long association with the works of Stephen Sondheim, designing the costumes for the Broadway production of Into the Woods, the Off Broadway and Broadway productions of Sunday in the Park with George, regional productions of Merrily We Roll Along and Into the Woods and the national touring production of Into the Woods.
Sound designer Herb Lagoski worked on HGO's Multimedia Modular Stage production of
Carmen. He has worked extensively in outdoor muiscal theater, including many productions for
Starlight Theatre in Kansas City, where he has been Sound Designer and Head of Sound for the
past six years. At Starlight, he has designed and engineered sound for such shows as Phantom,
Jekyll and Hyde, Evita, Annie, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dream Coat and The Wizard
Described by the New York Times as "one of America's finest artists and singers," mezzo-soprano
Frederica von Stade (Desiree Arrnfeldt) is in the midst of the third decade of an extraordinary
career. Her career has taken her to the stages of the world's great opera houses and concert halls.
Since her Metropolitan Opera debut in 1970, she has sung nearly all of her great roles with that
company. In addition, she has appeared with every leading American opera company, including
San Francisco Opera, Lyric Opera of Chicago, the Los Angeles Music Center Opera and Houston
Grand Opera. Her career in Europe has been no less spectacular, with new productions mounted
for her at La Scala, Covent Garden, the Vienna State Opera and the Paris Opera. She is invited
regularly by the world's fmest conductors, among them Claudio Abbado, James Levine and
Michael Tilson-Thomas, to appear in concert with the world's leadin- orchestras, including those of
Boston, Chicago, New York and London. Her repertoire extends from bel canto, to the French
repertoire, to the great trouser roles. Her orchestra repertoire is equally broad, embracing works
from the Baroque to today's composers. She has made over three dozen recordings with every
major label, including complete operas, aria albums, symphonic works, solo recital programs and
crossover albums. She appears regularly on television, with "Live from the Met" performances and
through numerous PBS broadcasts including the recent celebration of American song, "I Hear
As one of the twentieth century's most celebrated American opera and concert singers, soprano
Evelyn Lear (Madame Armfeldt) has enjoyed a long and remarkable careeer, spanning three
decades in starring roles at all of the major opera houses of the world. She has appeared as a star
with virtually every major opera company in the United States, from the Metropolitan Opera to San
Francisco Opera, and in Europe has appeared at La Scala, Covent Garden, the Paris Opera,
Vienna State Opera, and the Berlin, Hamburg and Munich Operas. Miss Lear has also appeared in
major festivals from Edinburgh, Holland, Salzburg, Munich and Florence to Tanglewood, Ravinia,
Blossom, Aspen and the Hollywood Bowl. She made her Metropolitan Opera debut in 1967 when
she created the role of Lavinia in Levy's Mourning Becomes Electra. Her extensive discography
includes complete recordings of Der Rosenkavalier, The Magic Flute and Boris Godunov, as well
as song literature from Schumann to Sondheim for such companies as Polydor, DGG, Philips, EMI
and CBS. She has appeared with every major symphony orchestra in Europe and America and
worked with such renowned conductors as Claudio Abbado, Pierre Boulez, Zubin Mehta and Seiji
Baritone Thomas Allen (Fredrik Egerman) is a star of all the important operatic centers, La Scala in
Milan, the Vienna and Munich State Operas, Salzburg Festival, Metropolitan Opera, the Lyric
Opera of Chicago, San Francisco Opera and the Royal Opera, Covent Garden, where new
productions are regularly mounted for him. He accompanied the Royal Opera on their historic tour
to America with The Magic Flute, and on their tour to Japan with Don Giovanni and The Marriage
of Figaro. He is a regular guest artist with the leading American and European orchestras, and is
acclaimed as a recitalist world wide. His recent engagements have included new productions of The
Cunning Little Vixen, Capriccio and Cosi fan tutte at Covent Garden, Die Fledermaus at the Lyric
Opera of Chicago, Don Giovanni at La Scala, La Traviata in Munich and Madame Butterfly at the
Metropolitan Opera. In 1986, Mr. Allen won the Laurence Olivier Award for his performance as
Busoni's Doctor Faustus. His recent recordings include Cosi fan tutte, his second Don Giovanni,
Mendelssohn's Elijah. Walton Belshazzar's Feast and Britten's Peter Grimes.
Soprano Sheri Greenawald (Charlotte Malcohn) has appeared throughout North America and
Europe in a wide variety of roles. She has been engaged and re-engaged by many leading
American houses, among them the San Francisco Opera, Lyric Opera of Chicago, Santa Fe
Opera, Houston Grand Opera and Washington Opera. Highlights of Ms. Greenawald's 1998-99
season include the title role in Barber's Vanessa for Seattle Opera and a return to Santa Fe Opera
for the title role in Countess Maritza. In concert performances this season, Ms. Greenawald
appears in her home state, where she will sing Mahler's Second Symphony with the West Virginia
Symphony, and travels to Japan, where she will sing with the NHK Symphony in performances of
Britten's Spring Symphony under Andre Previn. Sheri Greenawaid's career highlights include
performances of Jenny Smith in Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny at the Metropolitan Opera;
the world premiere performances of Daniel Catan's Florencia en el Amazonas for Houston Grand
Opera; Donna Anna in performances of Don Giovanni conducted by Sir Colin Davis with the
Bayerische Staatsoper; and Gluck's Orfeo for Seattle Opera.
A former member of Houston Opera Studio, baritone Frank Hernandez (Carl-Magnus Malcolm,
Sharpless in last season's Madame Butterfly) was a 1995 winner of the Luciano Pavarotti International Voice Competition. He also appeared at Houston Grand Opera in Florencia en el Amazonas, The Magic Flute and La Boheme. Later this season, he will appear with Frederica von Stade in Richard Danielpour's Elegies with the New Jersey Philharmonic and sing his first Mercutio in Romeo and Juliet with the Cleveland Opera.
Tenor John McVeigh (Henrik Egerman) is also a former member of Houston Opera Studio. He
appeared with Houston Grand Opera most recently in Billy Budd, and also appeared in Four
Saints in Three Acts, Boris Godunov, Susannah, The Tibetan Book of the Dead, Salome and
Jackie O. This season, he appeared in New York City Opera's production of Partenope, and will
appear in the Metropolitan Opera's new production of Susannah and in Idomeneo at Santa Fe
Soprano Nanne Puritz (Anne Egerrnan) is making her HGO debut. She appeared on Broadway in
Harold Prince's production of Candide, and Off Broadway in productions of The Second
Hurricane, Sweethearts, Iolanthe and H.M.S. Pinafore. She has also appeared in numerous
Off-Off Broadway and regional theater productions.
Mezzo-soprano Leslie Ann Hendricks (Petra) is making her HGO debut. She has appeared in the
national touring companies of Blood Brothers, A Chorus Line and Ziegfeld-A Night at the Follies.
She has also appeared in productions of Fiddler on the Roof, Crazy For You, West Side Story,
City of Angels and 42nd Street. Ms. Hendricks appeared as a dancer in the film Dirty Dancing.
The Southwestern Bell Pre-Curtain Lecture Series is thirty minutes before each performance. Guest
speakers present a twenty-minute informal lecture on the sixth floor of the Grand Foyer. These
lectures, free and open to all ticket holders, are intended to enhance audience members' enjoyment
by preparing them for the production they are about to attend.
The Wortham Theater Center features easy wheelchair access to both theaters. An infrared listening system, generously underwritten by Pennzoil Company, is available and free of charge at all performances. Please call the subscription office at 713/546-0246 or 1-800-346-4462 for details. Descriptive services for visually impaired persons are also available with 48-hour advance reservations. Please call the Education and Outreach Department at 713/546-0232 for information or to make a reservation.
Single tickets for A Little Night Music, priced from $20 to $175, are available by phone at
713/227-ARTS, out-of-town at 1-800-828-ARTS or in person at both Houston Ticket Center
locations (the ticket lobby at the Wortham Theater Center and courtyard level at Jones Hall) and at
all TicketMaster outlets. Ticket prices do not include a $1 city surcharge.
Exxon is the corporate guarantor for A Little Night Music.
HOUSTON GRAND OPERA LAUNCHES ITS WINTER REPERTORY
WITH SONDHEIM'S A LITTLE NIGHT MUSIC
Musical theater classic to star Fredericka von Stade, Thomas Allen, Evelyn Lear
in new production on Multimedia Modular Stage in the Brown Theater
This winter will not be a time for hibernation at HGO! In a new production, HGO will
for the first time in its history present Stephen Sondheim's A Little Night Music-a tale
of three mismatched couples who spend a weekend in the country sorting out who should
love whom. Featuring the hit "Send in the Clowns," this musical tour-de-force won the
Tony Award for best musical when it opened on Broadway. Director/Choreographer
Michael Leeds presents a new production that features a few familiar faces-American
mezzo-soprano Frederica von Stade and soprano Sheri Greenawald, and British
baritone Thomas Allen. After an absence of twenty years, the legendary soprano
Evelyn Lear will return to the HGO stage as Madame Armfeldt.' American tenor John
McVeigh will sing the role of Henrik Egerman. HGO's Multimedia Modular Stage will
be used indoors for the first time. An all-American production team led by Kenneth Foy
(HGO's Porgy and Bess), with costumes by Ann Hould-Ward (Broadway's Beauty and
the Beast) and lighting by Tony-Award winner Ken Billington will create the new
production. Conductor Grant Gershon makes his HGO debut conducting the Houston
Grand Opera Orchestra.
WHAT: A Little Night Music is a Houston Grand Opera production
WHEN: Opening night Friday, January 29, 1999 at 7:30 p.m.
Saturday, January 30, 1999 at 7:30 p.m.
Sunday, January 31, 1999 at 2:00 p.m.
Wednesday, February 3, 1999 at 7:30 p.m.
Saturday, February 6, 1999 at 7:30 p.m.
Tuesday, February 9, 1999 at 7:30 p.m.
Friday, February 12, 1999 at 7:30 p.m.
Sunday, February 14, 1999 at 2:00 p.m.
WHERE: Brown Theater at the Wortham Center, Texas Avenue at Smith Street, Houston
Conductor: Grand Gershon; Director / Choreographer: Michael Leeds; Set Designer: Kenneth Foy; Costume Designer: Ann Hould-Ward; Lighting Designer: Ken Billington; Orchestra: Houston Grand Opera Orchestra;
Fredrik Egerman...............Thomas Allen (baritone, Great Britain)
Desiree Armfeldt...............Frederica von Stade (mezzo-soprano, United States)
Madame Armfeldt.............Everyn Lear (soprano, United States)
Anne Egerman...................Nanne Puritz (sorpano, United States)
Henrick Egerman...............John McVeigh (tenor, United States)
Petra.................................Leslie Ann Hendricks (mezzo-soprano, United States)
Carl-Magnus Malcolm.......Frank Hernandez (baritone, United States)
Charlotte Malcolm.............Sheri Greenawald (soprano, United States)
Mrs. Nordstrom.................Kerri Marcinko (soprano, United States)
Mrs. Anderssen..................Jessica Jones (soprano, United States)
Mrs. Segstrom....................Leslie Johnson (mezzo-soprano, United States)
Mr. Erlanson.......................Richard Crawley (tenor, United States)
Mr. Lindquist.......................Daniel Belcher (baritone, United States)
Frederika Armfeldt..............Mega Kane (mezzo-soprano, United States)
LANGUAGE: A Little Night Music will be sung in English with English surtitles
TICKETS: Single tickets for A Little Night Music priced from $20 to $175 go on sale January 3, 1999 (prices do not include the $1.00 city surcharge). Tickets are available by phone at 713-227-ARTS, out of town by calling 1-800-828-ARTS or in person at both Houston Ticket Center locations (the ticket lobby at the Wortham Theater Center and at courtyard level at Jones Hall) and at all Ticket Master outlets.