Houston Grand Opera’s 2023–2024 season

HGO’s New Season to Feature Six Operas, Including a Highly Anticipated World Premiere, Wagner’s Final Masterpiece, a New Staging of a Family-Friendly Classic, and Beloved Audience Favorites

The new season includes the world premiere of superstar composer Jake Heggie's Intelligence; its second-ever Parsifal; a new co-production of The Sound of Music; and three popular favorites, Falstaff, Madame Butterfly, and Don Giovanni


“The season’s theme surrounds finding truth within art.” —Khori Dastoor, HGO General Director & CEO

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HOUSTON—March, 2023—Houston Grand Opera (HGO) proudly announces its 2023-24 season, featuring a season-opening, world premiere opera based on a little-known true story of the Civil War, Intelligence; the company’s first presentation of Wagner’s Parsifal since 1992; a new staging of The Sound of Music co-produced by HGO and the Glimmerglass Festival; and popular classic operas FalstaffMadame Butterfly, and Don Giovanni.


“The season’s theme surrounds finding truth within art,” says HGO General Director and CEO Khori Dastoor. “These operas are united by the complexity of their musical languages, the maturity of their themes, and the immutable truths contained within their stories. Only in opera do we see the truthful representation of multiple art forms, multiple points of view, and a wide diversity of perspectives co-existing in one moment. That complexity is the essence of the human condition. Opera can be ridiculous at times, but it is always honest.”


“The dreams of next season, with its mix of newness and comforting familiarity, will be brought to life by a roster of artists and creatives so prodigiously talented, it truly takes your breath away,” says HGO Artistic and Music Director Patrick Summers. “These are monumental works of art, whether they were gifted to us by history’s great geniuses or the most brilliant creators of the current day. From the great new American story of Intelligence; to the burst of truthful human laughter that ended Verdi’s long and historic career, Falstaff; to the familiar Italian operas influenced by dozens of other cultures, Madame Butterfly and Don Giovanni; to the more ancient mystical beauties of Parsifal—there is a journey for everyone.”



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For the first time in its history, HGO will open its 2023-24 season with a world premiere: the company-commissioned opera Intelligence, created by acclaimed composer Jake Heggie, librettist Gene Scheer, and director/choreographer Jawole Willa Jo Zollar, 2021 MacArthur Fellow and founder of the Urban Bush Women, the renowned Brooklyn dance company that centers the perspective of Black women.



 Shared through a fusion of music, words, and dance and inspired by historic events, Intelligence tells the story of two women—Elizabeth Van Lew, from a prominent Confederate family, and Mary Jane Bowser, born into slavery in the family’s household—who form a secret pro-Union spy ring. As they change the course of history together, Mary Jane uncovers secrets of her own history and identity. The sensational cast will be led by mezzo-soprano and Sarah and Ernest Butler Houston Grand Opera Studio alumna Jamie Barton as Elizabeth and soprano Janai Brugger in her company debut as Mary Jane. They will be joined by eight dancers from the Urban Bush Women in their HGO debut, with acclaimed conductor Kwamé Ryan also making his company debut at the podium.


The other opera from HGO’s fall repertoire is Verdi’s comic masterpiece, Falstaff, which recounts the drunken misdeeds of Shakespeare’s beloved, down-on-his-luck knight, who crosses the wrong women in a harebrained scheme to pay off his debts. The stellar cast features four beloved company favorites: baritone Reginald Smith, Jr. as Falstaff, soprano Nicole Heaston as Alice, baritone Blake Denson as Ford, and soprano Andrea Carroll as Nannetta. Paula Suozzi directs the production, and maestro Patrick Summers conducts.



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The company will launch its winter repertoire with Wagner’s revered masterpiece, Parsifal, in a colorful production from Tony Award-winning director John Caird. The opera takes audiences on a mystical journey as a group of knights tries to protect the Holy Grail and their wounded king, who can only be healed by the titular protagonist and the Holy Spear. HGO Principal Guest Conductor Eun Sun Kim will lead a cast of extraordinary Wagnerians—including tenor Russell Thomas as Parsifal, soprano Christine Goerke as Kundry, bass Kwangchul Youn as Gurnemanz, and bass-baritone Ryan McKinny as King Amfortas—for this major operatic event.


Next, Puccini’s beloved tragedy, Madame Butterfly, returns to HGO, with Jordan Braun directing the revival of Tony Award winner Michael Grandage’s acclaimed production. The opera’s diverse cast will be led by internationally


sought-after soprano Ailyn Pérez, who returns to Houston as Cio-Cio-San, opposite tenor Yongzhao Yu as Pinkerton in his role debut, with mezzo-soprano Sun-Ly Pierce as Suzuki, bass-baritone Michael Sumuel as Sharpless, bass William Guanbo Su as


the Bonze, and tenor Rodell Rosel as Goro. Maestro Patrick Summers conducts.


HGO’s spring repertoire opens with Mozart’s sublime tragicomedy, Don Giovanni. Conducted by the world-renowned Dame Jane Glover, the production will be led by superstar Italian bass-baritone Luca Pisaroni as the opera’s titular womanizing antihero opposite sensational soprano Andriana Chuchman in her role debut as Donna Anna. They will be joined by a powerhouse cast that includes bass-baritone Ryan McKinny as Leporello, tenor Kang Wang in his company debut as Don Ottavio, and mezzo-soprano Sasha Cooke as Donna Elvira. Greg Eldridge directs the revival of Kasper Holten’s innovative production. 




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Closing the season is acclaimed director Francesca Zambello’s vibrant new staging of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s The Sound of Music, co-produced by HGO and the Glimmerglass Festival. The world-class HGO Orchestra and Chorus will propel the timeless tale and its outstanding cast, which includes Grammy-winning mezzo-soprano Isabel Leonard as Maria and baritone Alexander Birch Elliott as the Captain. HGO’s Richard Bado takes the podium to conduct this classic family-friendly production.


Dastoor continues, “The caliber of performers and the resources these operas require, their pure scope, their wild ambition—the season will require marshaling our full creative forces in service of epic storytelling. We cannot wait to share these incredible and historic performances with the diverse community we serve.”



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During the 2023-24 school year, HGO will present composer Faye Chiao and librettist Anton Dudley’s company-commissioned opera Katie: The Strongest of the Strong, which made its digital world premiere in 2020. The 45-minute opera celebrates women’s strength and confidence through the inspiring true story of protagonist Katie Sandwina, a circus strongwoman who defied expectations and went on to help lead the U.S. suffrage movement in the early 1900s. The opera will tour community spaces and schools throughout the season.


On February 2, 2024, HGO will present the 36th annual Concert of Arias, the live final round of the Eleanor McCollum Competition for Young Singers, which brings young singers from around the world to Houston. The company holds this popular event each year to identify candidates for the company’s internationally acclaimed emerging artist training program, the Sarah and Ernest Butler Houston Grand Opera Studio.


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In 2024 HGO will present the fifth annual Giving Voice, its popular celebration of Black artists in opera created by international tenor Lawrence Brownlee. Details including presenting partners, date, and location will be announced at a later date.


From February 16 to 18, 2024, the HGO-commissioned chamber opera The Big Swim, created by composer Meilina Tsui and librettist Melisa Tien, will make its world premiere. The new work—which shares the story of the Jade Emperor and the Great Race between the 12 animals that became the symbols of the Lunar New Year calendar—will be presented at the Asia Society Texas Center as part of its Lunar New Year festivities.

As the war rages on, Ukraine opera singers express their pride to sing the country's national anthem. Click on the picture above to view the YouTube video.



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This season HGO is offering a variety of subscriptions, from flexible three-opera packages to the full six-opera season. Full subscriptions start as low as $90. Subscriptions to the 2023-24 season are now available at HGO.org. Single tickets will be available later this summer.


Subscribers to the company’s 2023-24 season will receive a host of expanded benefits, including a 25 percent discount on additional tickets, first access to all HGO performances, free tickets to the company’s popular Butler Studio Showcase, special deals at the HGO Boutique and downtown-area restaurants, entry to win tickets to special HGO events and parties, and a monthly subscriber newsletter.


The company continues to encourage younger audiences to experience the art form through several opportunities, including its popular Opening Nights for Young Professionals (ONYP) subscription series; and tickets starting at $25 for all productions.


HGO’s mainstage season will comprise 34 mainstage, 2 student, and 2 free performances of six productions. Additional details of the upcoming HGO 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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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. General Director and CEO Khori Dastoor assumed leadership of the organization and responsibility for its strategic vision in 2021. HGO was the only American finalist for Opera Company of the Year in the 2019 International Opera Awards, and the only American company to be nominated twice. In fulfilling its mission to advance the operatic art, to serve the Houston community, and to be a global leader in the future of opera, HGO has led the field in commissioning and producing new works (74 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 and Learning initiative has served as a model for other arts organizations. The company invites all Houstonians to experience superlative opera without the barrier of price 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 three Emmy awards. It is the only opera company to win all three honors. 



Ukrainian girl who fled to Poland sings the national anthem at a charity concert.  Click on the picture above to view the YouTube video.



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Houston Grand Opera: 2023-24 Season


* Company mainstage debut 

# Alternate cast

† Sarah and Ernest Butler Houston Grand Opera Studio artist 

‡ Former Butler Studio artist 


Heggie | Scheer: Intelligence

Music by Jake Heggie

Libretto by Gene Scheer

Conceived by Jake Heggie, Gene Scheer, and Jawole Willa Jo Zollar 

Performance dates: October 20, 22m, 28, November 1, 3, 2023

Sung in English with projected English text




Elizabeth Van Lew                         Jamie Barton ‡

Mary Jane Bowser                         Janai Brugger *

Lucinda                                            J’Nai Bridges *

Callie Van Lew                                Caitlin Lynch                 

Henry                                               Nicholas Newton 

Travis Briggs                                   Michael Mayes

Wilson                                             Joshua Blue *

Dance Company                            Urban Bush Women *




Composer                                       Jake Heggie

Librettist                                          Gene Scheer

Conductor                                      Kwamé Ryan *

Director/Choreographer              Jawole Willa Jo Zollar *

Set Designer                                   Mimi Lien *

Costume Designer                         Carlos Soto *

Lighting Designer                          John Torres

Projection Designers                     Wendall K. Harrington

Rasean Davonté Johnson *

Associate Choreographer            Vincent Thomas *

Dramaturg                                      Jeremy Johnson


HGO Orchestra


An HGO-Commissioned World Premiere

Produced in Collaboration with Urban Bush Women





Sara and Bill Morgan

Gordon Getty



The Edgar Foster Daniels Foundation 

Mellon Foundation

Diane B. Wilsey 

Carol Franc Buck Foundation 



Margaret Alkek Williams 

Mr. And Mrs. Richard Husseini 




Mr. Jay Hiemenz 

Terrylin G. Neale 

Boulware & Valoir / Meg Boulware and Hartley Hampton

Allyson Pritchett 



OPERA America / The Opera Fund

Michelle Klinger and Ruain Flanagan

Brenda Harvey Traylor 

Kiana Caleb

Elaine Decanio

David Wolff


This production of Intelligence received funding from OPERA America’s Opera Fund.


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Verdi: Falstaff

Performance dates: October 27, 29m, November 4, 8, 10, 2023

Sung in Italian with projected English translation




Falstaff                                            Reginald Smith, Jr. ‡

Alice Ford                                        Nicole Heaston ‡

Ford                                                 Blake Denson ‡

Mistress Quickly                            Jennifer Johnson Cano

Nannetta                                         Andrea Carroll ‡

Fenton                                             Jack Swanson *

Meg Page                                        Emily Treigle †

Doctor Caius                                   Martin Bakari *

Bardolf                                            Michael McDermott *





Conductor                                      Patrick Summers

Sarah and Ernest Butler Chair

Director                                           Paula Suozzi

Set and Costume Designer          Adrian Linford

Lighting Designer                           Rick Fisher

Chorus Director                             Richard Bado ‡

Sarah and Ernest Butler Chorus Director Chair


HGO Orchestra

HGO Chorus


A Production of Los Angeles Opera





The Wortham Foundation, Inc.



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Wagner: Parsifal

Performance dates: January 19, 21m, 27, 31, February 4m, 2024

Sung in German with projected English translation




Parsifal                                            Russell Thomas

Kundry                                             Christine Goerke

Gurnemanz                                    Kwangchul Youn *

Amfortas                                         Ryan McKinny ‡

Klingsor                                           Andrea Silvestrelli

Titurel                                              André Courville *

Flower Maidens                             Meryl Dominguez †

                                                          Erin Wagner †

                                                          Renée Richardson †

                                                          Ani Kushyan †*

Esquires                                           Demetrious Sampson

                                                          Michael McDermott





Principal Guest Conductor          Eun Sun Kim

Director                                           John Caird

Original Scenic                               Johan Engels

and Costume Designer

Associate Scenic Designer           David Farley

Original Lighting Designer           Duane Schuler

Revival Lighting Designer             Michael James Clark

Choreographer                              Tim Claydon

Chorus Director                             Richard Bado ‡

Sarah and Ernest Butler Chorus Director Chair


HGO Orchestra

HGO Chorus


A Production of Lyric Opera of Chicago





Janice Barrow 

Louise G. Chapman 



Drs. Liz Grimm and Jack Roth 

Donna Kaplan and Richard A. Lydecker 

Mr. John G. Turner and Mr. Jerry G. Fischer 



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Puccini: Madame Butterfly


Performance dates: January 26, 28m, 30 (Student Matinee) #, February 3, 6 (High School Night) #, 7, 9, 11m, 2024


Sung in Italian with projected English translation




Cio-Cio-San                                     Ailyn Pérez

                                                          Raquel González *#

Pinkerton                                        Yongzhao Yu ‡

                                                          Eric Taylor #‡

Sharpless                                        Michael Sumuel ‡

                                                          Navasard Hakobyan #†

Suzuki                                              Sun-Ly Pierce ‡

                                                          Emily Treigle #†

Goro                                                Rodell Rosel

The Bonze                                       William Guanbo Su ‡

Yamadori                                        André Courville

Kate Pinkerton                               Erin Wagner †




Conductor                                      Patrick Summers

Sarah and Ernest Butler Chair

Original Director                            Michael Grandage

Revival Director                             Jordan Lee Braun *

Set and Costume Designer          Christopher Oram

Original Lighting Designer           Neil Austin

Revival Lighting Designer             Philip Alfano

Chorus Director                             Richard Bado ‡

Sarah and Ernest Butler Chorus Director Chair


HGO Orchestra

HGO Chorus


A Co-Production of Houston Grand Opera, Grand Théâtre de Genève, and Lyric Opera of Chicago





The Robert and Jane Cizik Foundation 

Vinson & Elkins



Connie Dyer 

Marianne and Joe Geagea  

Carolyn Levy

Laura and Brad McWilliams



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Mozart: Don Giovanni

Performance dates: April 19, 21m, 27, May 1, 3, 2024

Sung in Italian with projected English translation



Don Giovanni                                 Luca Pisaroni

Leporello                                         Ryan McKinny ‡

Donna Anna                                   Andriana Chuchman

Don Ottavio                                    Kang Wang *

Donna Elvira                                   Sasha Cooke

Zerlina                                             Erika Baikoff *

Commendatore                             Patrick Guetti *




Conductor                                      Dame Jane Glover

Original Director                            Kasper Holten

Revival Director                             Greg Eldridge

Set Designer                                   Es Devlin

Costume Designer                         Anja Vang Kragh

Original Lighting Designer           Bruno Poet

Associate Lighting Designer        John-Paul Percox

Projection Designer                      Luke Halls

Original Choreographer               Signe Fabricius

Revival Choreographer                Anna-Marie Sullivan

Chorus Director                             Richard Bado ‡

Sarah and Ernest Butler Chorus Director Chair


HGO Orchestra

HGO Chorus


A Co-Production of Houston Grand Opera; Royal Opera House, Covent Garden; Gran Teatre del Liceu; and The Israeli Opera





The Robert and Jane Cizik Foundation



Laura and Brad McWilliams





Rodgers | Hammerstein II: The Sound of Music

Music by Richard Rodgers

Lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II

Book by Howard Lindsay and Russel Crouse

Suggested by “The Trapp Family Singers” by Maria Augusta Trapp

Performance dates: April 26, 28m, 30, May 4, 5m, 10, 11, 12m, 2024

Sung in English with projected English text




Maria Rainer                                  Isabel Leonard

Captain Georg von Trapp             Alexander Birch Elliott

The Mother Abbess                      Katie Van Kooten

Liesl                                                  Tori Tedeschi Adams *

Max Detweiler                               Daniel Belcher ‡

Elsa Schraeder                               Megan Marino *

Sister Margaretta                          Renée Richardson †

Sister Berthe                                  Erin Wagner †

Sister Sophia                                  Ani Kushyan †




Conductor                                      Richard Bado ‡

Director                                           Francesca Zambello

Associate Director/                       Eric Sean Fogel


Set Designer                                   Peter J. Davison

Costume Designer                         Aleš Valášek *

Lighting Designer                          Mark McCullough

Sound Designer                             Andrew Harper


HGO Orchestra

HGO Chorus


A Co-Production of Houston Grand Opera and The Glimmerglass Festival






The Robert and Jane Cizik Foundation 

Margaret Alkek Williams 

The Robert and Janice McNair Foundation

Novum Energy

Houston Methodist



Connie Dyer

Laura and Brad McWilliams