The upcoming season presents Javier Martínez and Leonard Foglia’s world premiere of El Milagro del Recuerdo, the North American premiere of Saul, new productions of Rigoletto and Aida, a dazzling production of The Magic Flute, the rarely performed La favorite, and the much-anticipated return of Salome.
Houston—Houston Grand Opera (HGO) will present its 2019–20 season with a broad repertoire of operas in productions that have never been seen by Houston audiences. The 65th season will open October 18, 2019, with Verdi’s classic Rigoletto. Tomer Zvulun returns to direct the season opener after successfully opening the 2018–19 season with his production of The Flying Dutchman. American baritone Brian Mulligan sings his first Rigoletto leading an outstanding cast filled with renowned HGO Studio alumni, including Mexican tenor Arturo Chacón-Cruz as the Duke of Mantua and Armenian soprano Mané Galoyan as Gilda. Paired with Rigoletto is the North American premiere of the dramatic oratorio Saul in a much-lauded and imaginative production by Barrie Kosky. Christopher Purves returns to the title role after his celebrated performance at the Glyndebourne Festival and is joined by countertenor Aryeh Nussbaum Cohen and Korean soprano Pureum Jo, both HGO Studio alumni.
The tradition of holiday-themed opera returns in the 2019–20 season with the company’s 67th world premiere: Javier Martínez and Leonard Foglia’s El Milagro del Recuerdo / The Miracle of Remembering. The opera is a prequel to Cruzar la Cara de la Luna. Keeping with the theme of family found in both operas, Mexican composer Javier Martínez continues the legacy of mariachi opera established by his late father, José “Pepe” Martínez, in a collaboration with Foglia. Set during the Christmas season in Mexico, the opera lovingly explores the themes of holiday traditions, familial bonds, and the dream of something more while contemplating life-changing decisions. Several characters from Cruzar la Cara de la Luna return to the stage including Renata, Lupita, and Chucho, sung by Cecilia Duarte, Vanessa Alonzo, and Miguel de Aranda.
The winter features beloved HGO Studio alumnae and opera powerhouses Jamie Barton and Tamara Wilson. The repertoire begins with Donizetti’s rarely performed La favorite with superstar Jamie Barton and the HGO audience favorite tenor Lawrence Brownlee for this rarely performed bel canto jewel. La favorite shares the stage with Verdi’s timeless Aida in a new production directed by Phelim McDermott. The stunning new design is enhanced by the incorporation of visionary artist Basil Twist’s silk choreography. International star and HGO alumna Tamara Wilson sings the title role and rising star Russell Thomas makes a role debut as Radames. HGO Artistic and Music Director Patrick Summers conducts.
In the spring of 2020, Lise Lindstrom makes her HGO debut in the title role of Salome alongside HGO Studio alumnus Ryan McKinny. In a production directed by Francisco Negrin, Salome returns to the Wortham stage for the first time in 20 years. Eun Sun Kim takes the podium conducting in her first outing in Houston since being named HGO’s principal guest conductor in 2018. The season closes with Barrie Kosky and Suzanne Andrade’s wildly inventive production of Mozart’s The Magic Flute with an exceptional international cast. This visual spectacle evokes a silent-film style by incorporating an animated world created by artist and illustrator Paul Barritt. Jane Glover conducts this Mozart masterpiece.
HGO is excited to announce Eun Sun Kim as this season’s Lynn Wyatt Great Artist recipient. The Lynn Wyatt Great Artist Fund is an endowed fund dedicated to bringing the world's best artists to HGO and was established in 2010 by Oscar Wyatt in honor of Lynn Wyatt's many years of philanthropy and service to the company. Past recipients include Ana María Martínez, John Caird, Anthony Roth Costanzo, Jane Glover, and Joyce DiDonato.
“As we do every season, we have combined repertoire favorites like Rigoletto, Aida, and The Magic Flute with opera gems that deserve to be programmed more often but aren’t—often because they are difficult to perform and we have to wait for just the right casting,” says HGO Artistic and Music Director Patrick Summers, “Saul, La favorite, and Salome fall into the latter category. All that, plus the world premiere of Javier Martínez and Leonard Foglia’s El Milagro del Recuerdo, adds up to a season that truly has it all: an entire season of productions our audience has never seen by some of the most innovative directors in opera, the greatest singers in the world, a brilliant new principal guest conductor, and a diverse set of operas that stretch the heart and mind. Make the journey with all of them if you can, but if you can experience only one, Saul will live in the heart forever and is not to be missed.”
HGO Managing Director Perryn Leech says, “We are so proud to announce a full season as we recover from the ongoing impacts of Hurricane Harvey. The positive response from our board, supporters, and local community is unparalleled and we are once again able to produce seven exceptional mainstage opera productions. As we progress towards full recovery, we are excited to deepen our collaborative partnerships within the city as we continue to tell the stories of the communities that call Houston home.”
Additionally, Houston Grand Opera welcomes Joyce DiDonato for In War & Peace, a one-night concert event on Wednesday, November 6, 2019. The world-renowned HGO Studio alumna returns to the Wortham stage for the first time since 2015 to present a concert designed to open conversation about art that unifies, transcends borders, connects the disconnected, and gloriously exalts the spirit. Tickets for this special evening will be available in late spring.
Four mainstage operas—Saul, El Milagro de Recuerdo, La favorite, and The Magic Flute—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 at least three mainstage operas each season—one of which is a new work—united by a single theme. The theme of the 2019–20 season will be “identity.”
To date, ten partner organizations have joined HGO’s Seeking the Human Spirit initiative, with a commitment to create projects that complement the operas, enhancing and enriching our community’s experience of the themes. These organizations include Buffalo Bayou Partnership; Center for Spirituality & Health, Texas Medical Center; Discovery Green; Harris County Juvenile Detention Services; Italian Cultural & Community Center; The Jung Center, Houston; Houston Methodist Center for Performing Arts Medicine; Methodist Research Institute; Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; The Texan-French Alliance for the Arts; and The Women’s Home. Information about their 2019–20 collaborations will be announced later in 2019. More information can be found at HGO.org/spirit.
HGOco is the company’s groundbreaking initiative that connects its creative resources to partner and collaborate with the diverse and vibrant Houston community. Part of HGOco’s role is to commission new works in keeping with its mission. During the 2019–20 season, HGO’s 68th world premiere will be the HGOco commissioned, Marian’s Song, composed by HGOco Music Director and composer-in-residence Damien Sneed with a libretto by Deborah Mouton, Houston’s poet laureate. The opera is based on the life of Marian Anderson, one of the most celebrated opera singers of the 20th century who broke racial barriers throughout her storied career. This innovative fusion of opera, spoken word, and multimedia projections debuts March 5, 2020. Another program of HGOco, Opera to Go!, tours the much-requested Strega Nona with music by Mary Carol Warwick and libretto by Mary Ann Pendino. Based on the beloved Caldecott Award–winning book, Strega Nona is the tale of a young man learning to pay attention in an Italian village overrun with pasta. The exciting opera, created for young audiences, will tour schools, libraries, and community venues during the upcoming season.
This season, HGO continues to encourage younger audiences to experience the art form through several opportunities, including its popular Opening Nights for Young Professionals (ONYP) subscription series. Subscriptions start as low as $162 for seven operas and include exclusive season extras. In addition to ONYP, HGO offers two affordable ticket initiatives: the Pay Your Age program and the NEXUS ticket-underwriting program. Launched just four 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 operagoers and student groups 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, and beyond.
HGO’s mainstage season will comprise 42 performances (including three free community performances) of seven productions. The company will also present four student performances. Subscriptions to the 2019–20 season are now available at HGO.org. Single tickets will be available later this summer. Additional 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.