DAS RHEINGOLD and CARMEN to Close Out Houston Grand Opera's Season
Houston, (May 29, 2014) - Houston Grand Opera drew the season to a close with hit new productions of Das Rheingold and Carmen that prompted CultureMap Houston to conclude: "This is, without doubt, the epitome of early twenty-first century opera production. It's where we are going, and it's thrilling." This success capped a series of triumphs: fall revivals of Die Fledermaus and Aida proved "a spellbinding and sumptuous beginning" (Broadway World) to the new season, followed by the world premieres of three new commissions: Ricky Ian Gordon's A Coffin in Egypt, named one of the twelve "must-see opera events of the season" (Opera News); and Bound and River of Light, both commissioned under the auspices of HGOco's award-winning Song of Houston project; a "downright gorgeous" (Houston Chronicle) take on Sondheim's A Little Night Music; a "glorious" (Theater Jones) Rigoletto revival; and the American premiere of long-suppressed Holocaust opera The Passenger -hailed by the Associated Press as "the latest coup for a company known for producing new works"-which the company will bring to New York's Park Avenue Armory for three performances at this summer's Lincoln Center Festival (July 10-13).
Das Rheingold marked victorious launch of HGO's first Ring cycle
Houston Grand Opera scored an unequivocal triumph with Das Rheingold, which marked an important company milestone, launching not only the American debut of La Fura dels Baus's groundbreaking and visionary treatment of Der Ring des Nibelungen, but also the first staging of Wagner's epic cycle in HGO history. "Houston Grand Opera enters a new phase of its illustrious history with this stunning Rheingold," enthused CultureMap Houston. Finding the results "a jaw-dropping example of opera as an art form," Houstonia declared: "This is a production to be reckoned with." Broadway World admired the "altogether magnificent spectacle," which the Houston Press pronounced "thoroughly mesmerizing." As Opera News put it, "The extraordinary quality of this production lies in how effectively it unleashes the potential and profoundest significances of the Rheingold story." Furthermore, as Classical Voice recognized, despite its originality, the production remained "faithful to the composer's conception of Gesamtkunstwerk. ... Unforgettable."
As for the musical performances, the Houston Press concluded:
"Under the sympathetic baton of [Patrick] Summers, who has a definite affinity for Wagner, ... the ensemble cast is above reproach: probably the best all-round Rheingold I've ever heard."
Opera News was similarly impressed by the "fantastic cast of singers and the exceptionally rich orchestral color achieved by artistic and music director Patrick Summers." ConcertoNet considered the cast "one of the strongest HGO has ever assembled," while CultureMap Houston stated simply: "This is likely the best all-around international cast I have ever heard in any Wagner opera." Iain Paterson's Wotan proved "nothing short of magnificent" (Theater Jones], and Dallas News named him "the best Wotan I've heard since James Morris's heyday." Jamie Barton "displayed a big, resonant mezzo" (Wall Street Journal) as Fricka, giving "a definitive, strong and passionate performance...that puts her clearly in the upper echelon of great singers" (CultureMap Houston). As Freia, Melody Moore's "lush soprano instrument pulls on our heartstrings" (Broadway World); Christopher Purves "was a perfect embodiment of the tortured dwarf [Alberich]" (ConcertoNet); and Stefan Margita's "joyful rendition of the mischievous Loge" proved "a show-stealing performance" (Houstonia).
All told, as CultureMap Houston reflected, in HGO's Rheingold, "Patrick Summers creates a milestone in his impressive career, the singers advance artistically, and the city further establishes itself as a sophisticated, international center for opera." As for what lies ahead, Houstonia noted: "If the next three operas in the series are anywhere near this good, Houston is in for a very exciting few years." As ConcertoNet concluded, "This Ring will be one for the ages."
HGO's new Carmen was "the one to see"
HGO crowned the 2013-14 season with a fresh take on Bizet's perennially popular Carmen. "If you've never seen Carmen live on stage, this HGO production is the one to see. Steamy, provocative, and thoroughly entertaining, it's the ultimate in gypsy love," declared Houstonia. Broadway sensation Rob Ashford's "robust vision for the production highlights the sexuality and emotionality of the show," explained Broadway World, and Houston Press affirmed: "This is mighty fine stage direction."
"Ana María Martínez sizzles in the title role," observed Houstonia. "It's no surprise that Martínez is a Grammy Award winner-this woman has vocal prowess." "Martínez is the most physical Carmen since operatic superstar Geraldine Farrar in Cecil B. DeMille's silent classic from 1915. ... Spectacular," added the Houston Press. Singing opposite the soprano as Don José, Brandon Jovanovich was "a revelation" (Houston Press), being "one of the rare tenors to make the stratospheric climactic phrase of the Flower Song taper off pianissimo as Bizet planned" (Houston Chronicle). "I found myself glued to the edge of my seat," noted the writer in Broadway World. Similarly, as Escamillo, Ryan McKinny demonstrated "another fine interpretation." As the Houston Press remarked, "Carmen falls hard for him. Who wouldn't?"