Shereen Pimentel and Brenton Ryan To Lead WEST SIDE STORY At Houston Grand Opera; Full Season Announced

Houston Grand Opera's 2024-25 season will feature six operas, including a new staging of a Verdi tragedy and a highly anticipated Wagner production.

By: Mar. 21, 2024
Shereen Pimentel and Brenton Ryan To Lead WEST SIDE STORY At Houston Grand Opera; Full Season Announced
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Houston Grand Opera has announced its 2024-25 season, which includes a concert presentation of the Broadway masterpiece, West Side Story,

Directed by Francesca Zambello (Broadway's The Little Mermaid), the production will be led by Shereen Pimentel in her HGO debut as Maria, the role that won her an Outer Critics Circle Award on Broadway in the most recent revival of the show, opposite tenor Brenton Ryan as Tony.

Broadway's Kyle Coffman, who also appeared in Steven Spielberg's 2021 film version, will make his company debut as Riff. Internationally acclaimed conductor Roberto Kalb takes the podium in his HGO debut.

The creation of composer Leonard Bernstein, lyricist Stephen Sondheim, choreographer Jerome Robbins, and playwright Arthur Laurents, this production received raves in Houston in 2018, when the company was displaced from the Wortham Theater Center by Hurricane Harvey. Now audiences have the chance to experience Zambello's full vision of the romantic tragedy, which transports Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet to a New York setting.

The new, season also includes a production of Il trovatore; the return of charming, family-friendly Cinderella, classic tragedy La bohème, Houstonians' first-ever chance to see award-winning opera Breaking the Waves; and a lushly beautiful new production of Tannhäuser, the company's first presentation of the opera in more than two decades.

The company will open the 2024-25 season with the debut of an original, new HGO-commissioned production, a fresh vision of Verdi's Il trovatore from industry-leading director Stephen Wadsworth. His awe-inspiring, old-meets-new-world production sets the story in contemporary Europe, where castles sit amid skyscrapers and monuments stand alongside street art, a juxtaposition that accentuates the timelessness of the story.

The opera takes place in Spain, where the royalist Count di Luna and the revolutionary leader Manrico love the same woman, Leonora. As the men face off, they become ensnared in a larger web of lies, murder, and revenge, spun in part by the Romani woman Azucena, whose own mother's death set the story in motion many years earlier. Superstar soprano Ailyn Pérez, fresh from triumphing in Houston as Madame Butterfly, performs the role of Leonora opposite virtuoso baritenor Michael Spyres as Manrico, with baritone Lucas Meachem as Count di Luna and mezzo-soprano Raehann Bryce-Davis as Azucena. Maestro Patrick Summers conducts.

Also part of HGO's fall repertoire is Rossini's frothy delight, Cinderella, presented in the production that has charmed the world. Directed by Joan Font, one of the geniuses behind Barcelona-based collective Els Comediants, the opera shares the story of renamed heroine Angelina, a sweet young beauty who finds love with a prince, in a bright and whimsical HGO co-production that includes a group of hilarious, scene-stealing rats.

Leading the vocally challenging Bel Canto opera is world-famous mezzo-soprano Isabel Leonard as Angelina, with baritone Alessandro Corbelli, a revered Rossini specialist, as Don Magnifico. The incredible cast also boasts tenor Jack Swanson as Prince Ramiro, baritone Iurii Samoilov in his company debut as the prince's valet Dandini, and bass-baritone Cory McGee as the philosopher Alidoro. Lorenzo Passerini, making his company debut, conducts.

The company's winter repertoire will launch with Puccini's heart-wrenching La bohème, in a revival co-production from HGO, Canadian Opera Company, and San Francisco Opera, created by Tony Award-winning director John Caird. The production's intimate set, constructed from paintings and canvases, perfectly conjures belle époque Paris, where tragedy awaits the story's irresistible band of bohemians.

Soprano Yaritza Veliz makes her HGO debut in the role that has garnered her international acclaim—that of the fragile Mimì—opposite Grammy Award-winning lyric tenor Joshua Guerrero as her Rodolfo. Baritone Edward Parks, also a Grammy winner, performs the role of the painter Marcello with Juliana Grigoryan, an electrifying new star who recently took top honors at Operalia, as his lover Musetta. Another Grammy winner, the celebrated conductor Karen Kamensek, takes the HGO podium to conduct Puccini's unforgettable score.

Spring will bring the highly anticipated Houston debut of Breaking the Waves, the critically acclaimed contemporary opera from sought-after composer-and-librettist team Missy Mazzoli and Royce Vavrek, which made its world premiere in 2016. Directed by Tom Morris, this powerful, highly praised HGO co-production brings to life the strict Calvinist community in 1970s Scotland, where the tragic story, adapted from the art film by Lars von Trier unfolds.

Luminous soprano Lauren Snouffer performs the role of the impressionable young Bess, with charismatic bass-baritone Ryan McKinny as the offshore oil rigger Jan. After the two marry, Bess embarks on a journey of sexual exploration that, following a series of shocking events, ends in tragedy. Sara Brodie directs the revival of Morris's production of the award-winning, boundary-pushing opera, with Maestro Patrick Summers conducting Mazzoli's rich, intriguing, original score.

HGO Will Close the mainstage season with a highly anticipated new staging of Wagner's Tannhäuser from internationally acclaimed director Francesca Zambello. Houston audiences will be the first to experience this strikingly beautiful co-production from HGO and Washington National Opera.

A powerhouse cast up to the formidable challenges of Wagner's sublime score is set to deliver an unforgettable experience for HGO audiences. Tenor Russell Thomas, an acclaimed Wagnerian and HGO's Parsifal in 2024, performs the role of Tannhäuser, a poet struggling between the forces of lust and love. World-famous soprano Tamara Wilson portrays his spiritual love, the pure Elisabeth, with sought-after mezzo-soprano Sasha Cooke as the tempting goddess Venus. The superb lead cast is completed by baritone Luke Sutliff as Wolfram von Eschenbach and bass Alexandros Stavrakakis in his company debut as Landgraf Hermann. Erik Nielsen, acclaimed music director of Bilbao Symphony Orchestra, makes his company debut at the podium.

“Our theme for the 2024-25 season is Truly. Madly. Deeply,” says HGO General Director and CEO Khori Dastoor. “Whether Verdi or Wagner, a comedy or a tragedy, a centuries-old masterwork or a bold addition to the repertoire, each of the six ravishing operas HGO is planning for our audiences will explore what it means to fall in love—with every last iota of your being. Only opera, through its magical merging of text and musical score, can conjure the profound pleasure and searing pain that accompany pure romantic feeling. And that is what we will be reveling in, with abandon, over the extraordinary season ahead.”

“HGO's new season is not only largely about young love, but the operas themselves were composed by youngsters—Rossini was 23 when he began his beloved Cinderella, and West Side Story's lyricist Stephen Sondheim was only 24,” says HGO Artistic and Music Director Patrick Summers. “The boundless energy of youth runs through each of next year's works: Tannhäuser, though not Wagner's first opera, was his first grandly romantic work in the style for which he would change the world. Il trovatore was a breakthrough opera for the young Verdi, as was Breaking the Waves for the preternaturally gifted young Missy Mazzoli. And, of course, all of the innocence of youth, love, and the pain of loss is wrapped in the ultimate love opera, Puccini's La bohème.”

The 2024-25 Season Beyond the Mainstage

Augmenting HGO's mainstage season is a host of programming intended to serve students, families, and the entire Houston community, including several new initiatives.

“HGO's mission is to serve the entire city of Houston with the inspiration and transformation that results from forging a connection with great art and world-class artists—and families are at the center of that,” says Dastoor. “As we enter a new era for the art form, and the company assumes an ever-greater leadership role in the industry, we will continue to place a premium on multi-generational programming. We cannot wait to welcome Houstonians of all ages to the family-friendly performances we're planning for next season.”

November 9, 2024, will usher in a new tradition at the company: HGO Family Day. The first annual event, HGO Family Day Presents Cinderella, will feature a 90-minute, relaxed-environment performance of the Rossini opera the company is presenting as part of its fall repertoire. Directed by superstar mezzo-soprano Isabel Leonard, this show is perfect for young guests, complete with kid-centric lobby activities. Subscribers enjoy presale access to tickets, which will go on sale on May 15, 2024.

Throughout the 2024-25 season, HGO will present a double bill of touring operas for students and families, Opera to Go!: Mo Willems's Bite-Sized Operas!, presented as a bilingual English and Spanish edition. The show features two children's books by popular, Emmy Award-winning author Mo Willems, with music by Carlos Simon. Slopera! shares the story of Piggie and Elephant, two best friends who learn to appreciate one another's differences. And Don't Let the Pigeon Sing Up Late!, starring The Pigeon and some delightful new companions, recounts The Pigeon's losing battle against bedtime. In addition to schools and other community spaces throughout the region, the family-friendly double bill will be presented at Miller Outdoor Theatre from October 8-10, 2024.

On January 17, 2025, HGO will host the Concert of Arias, the live final round of the Eleanor McCollum Competition for Young Singers, featuring a small group of talented young artists selected following an extensive international search. In 2025, for the first time in company history, the singers performing in the concert will be accompanied by the HGO Orchestra. Subscribers receive first access to tickets.

In winter 2025 HGO will present the sixth annual Giving Voice—an adored company tradition created by renowned tenor Lawrence Brownlee, showcasing the monumental artistry and historic contributions made by Black artists in opera and song. Subscribers receive premier access to register.

Tickets and More Information

This season, HGO is featuring a variety of ticket offerings, from flexible three-opera packages to the full six-opera season. Full subscriptions start as low as $90. Subscriptions to the 2024-25 season are now available at Single tickets will be available later this summer. The deadline for renewal is May 24, 2024.

Subscribers to the company's 2024-25 season will receive a host of benefits, including a 25 percent discount on additional tickets, free tickets to the company's popular Butler Studio Showcase, special deals at downtown-area restaurants, a monthly subscriber newsletter, and access to Opera America's Opera Passport program, which offers discounted tickets to performances from Lyric Opera of Chicago, San Francisco Opera, and many more companies across the country.

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

In 2024, HGO announced the launch of a new initiative to offer $20 student tickets for mainstage productions. Students with a valid student ID are invited to take advantage of this offer one month prior to the opening of every performance.

HGO's mainstage season will comprise 34 mainstage, 1 family, and 2 student performances of six productions. Additional details of the upcoming HGO productions are provided below, and more information is available at the company's website: All repertoire, dates, pricing, productions, and casting are subject to change without notice.

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 (76 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.