Houston Grand Opera’s 2018–19 season features world premiere of Tarik O’Regan/John Caird’s The Phoenix; new productions of Wagner’s The Flying Dutchman and Mozart’s Don Giovanni; first HGO performances of Bizet’s The 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
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.
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.
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.”