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Houston Grand Opera Announces Winter Repertory, NIXON IN CHINA, VIVALDI

In the fall of 1987, Houston Grand Opera's world premiere of Nixon in China made political headlines and galvanized the opera world. Thirty years later, John Adams's trailblazing opera returns in a new-to-Houston production that sheds light on the electronic media's role in political history, just as a new media-savvy American president takes office.

A dramatization of President Richard Nixon's historic 1972 visit to China that ended decades of isolation from the West, John Adams's first opera, with a libretto by Alice Goodman and staging by Peter Sellars, broke new ground with its visceral portrayal of relatively recent world events and its bold departures in musical style and instrumentation. The Houston production was televised on PBS's Great Performances and recorded the same year; the broadcast won an Emmy Award and the recording won a Grammy in 1988. Since then, Nixon in China has been produced worldwide and has become one of the most performed among operas of our time.

Composer John Adams wrote, in his 2008 memoir, Hallelujah Junction, "Nixon and Mao virtually embodied the 20th century's great agonistic struggle for human happiness: capitalism versus communism; the market economy versus the social welfare state. The lead characters were so vivid they literally cried out for operatic treatment...."

In 2004, director James Robinson created a new production for the Opera Theatre of Saint Louis that takes a more intimate approach than the original staging, including incorporating previously classified 8 mm home movies filmed by the delegation that accompanied Nixon to China. HGO celebrates the 30th anniversary of the work's historic world premiere by presenting this reinterpretation, directed by Robinson, who will also direct HGO's The Abduction from the Seraglio in the spring of 2017.

"Nixon's visit was the biggest TV event after JFK's funeral," says Robinson. "Every aspect was choreographed to hit prime time in the U.S.; it pre-empted everyone's favorite shows. We decided to look at it as a journey that was all about media, about getting your time on TV."

Leading the cast in the title role will be baritone and HGO Studio alumnus Scott Hendricks, whose "sonorous voice" was noted by the Houston Chronicle in his 2015 portrayal of Sharpless in HGO's Madame Butterfly. Pat Nixon will be played by Canadian soprano Andriana Chuchman, whose 2014 last-minute replacement of Anna Netrebko in the Metropolitan Opera's The Elixir of Love was deemed "an assured, sparkling success" by the New York Times. This appearance will mark her HGO debut. Chinese baritone Chen-Ye Yuan, an HGO Studio alumnus who sang the Speaker of the Temple in HGO's 2008 The Magic Flute, and who makes his home in China, will play the role of the premier, Chou En-lai. Tenor and HGO Studio alumnus Chad Shelton and bass-baritone Patrick Carfizzi, both frequently seen on HGO's main stage, will portray Mao Tse-tung and Henry Kissinger, respectively. Shelton most recently performed Charles II in the world premiere of Carlisle Floyd's Prince of Players, and Carfizzi sang Dr. Dulcamara in The Elixir of Love earlier this season. The demanding coloratura role of Chiang Ch'ing (Madame Mao) will be sung by Canadian soprano Tracy Dahl, who has performed the role with Opera Colorado, Portland Opera, and Vancouver Opera. She last appeared at HGO as Zerbinetta in Ariadne auf Naxos (1993).

Conductor Robert Spano, music director of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra and the Aspen Music Festival and an active proponent of contemporary composers, will be on the podium. He most recently conducted The Magic Flute at HGO in 2015.

Widely recognized as one of the most dramatic works written in the form of the Christian liturgy, Verdi's mighty Requiem differs from those of other composers in that it demands operatic performing forces; it has been called "an opera in disguise."

The work premiered in 1874 at Milan's Church of San Marco with four operatic soloists and the composer on the podium. The occasion was the anniversary of the death of Italian poet and national hero Alessandro Manzoni, to whom Verdi dedicated the work. Subsequent performances often took place in opera houses, and from the beginning, critics remarked, some disapprovingly, on the work's operatic nature. What has never been questioned is the Requiem's profound spiritual, even cathartic impact, which has caused it to be performed under the most trying of circumstances, such as in a World War II concentration camp, and excerpted on such occasions as the funeral of Diana, Princess of Wales, and in New York City after the 9/11 tragedy.

welcomes the Super Bowl in February 2017, and the surrounding logistics have created challenges to the presentation of fully staged opera at the Wortham Theater Center during that period. HGO is delighted to take this opportunity to devote the company's full operatic forces to Verdi's iconic score, including the HGO Orchestra led by Artistic & Music Director Patrick Summers and the largest HGO Chorus in the company's history, directed by HGO's highly respected chorus master, Richard Bado, along with four outstanding soloists, February 10-18.

Angela Meade, whose Norma at the Metropolitan Opera created a critical stir, will make her HGO debut as the soprano soloist. At her Requiem performance at the BBC Proms, her voice was "all gilded evanescence and glow" (The Arts Desk). Sasha Cooke-Magnolia Hawks in HGO's 2013 Show Boat and noted by the Los Angeles Times for her "standout" performance as Anna in San Francisco Opera's 2015 Les Troyens-will be the alto soloist. The tenor soloist will be Alexey Dolgov, a hit with Houston audiences in 2015 as both Pinkerton in Madame Butterfly and Cavaradossi in Tosca. The bass soloist will be Peixin Chen, a 2015 HGO Studio alumnus who sang Dr. Bartolo in HGO's The Marriage of Figaro last season and performed Sparafucile in Rigoletto at Santa Fe Opera (2015).

the spring, Maestro Summers will lead Götterdämmerung, the final installment of Wagner's epic Ring cycle, featuring a new generation of leading Wagnerians including Simon O'Neill as Siegfried and Christine Goerke as Brünnhilde, starting April 22. Mozart's zany yet deeply emotive comedy, The Abduction from the Seraglio -featuring Russian coloratura soprano and HGO Studio alumna Albina Shagimuratova as Konstanze and leading American tenor Lawrence Brownlee as Belmonte in HGO's inventive 2002 co-production-will close the main-stage season, beginning April 28. HGO will also present the world premiere, in March, of Some Light Emerges by composer Laura Kaminsky with libretto by Mark Campbell and Kimberly Reed. spired by the creation of Houston's iconic Rothko Chapel by philanthropist and art collector Dominique de Menil, the work is commissioned by HGOco, the company's community collaboration and education initiative. In May, HGOco will present Das Barbecü, a comedic country-western take on Wagner's Ring by Scott Warrender and Jim Luigs.

The full list of events for the rest of the HGO season is provided below. More information is available at

* * * * *

Houston Grand Opera: 2016-17 Season

* Company debut

** HGO Studio artist

# Former HGO Studio artist

John Adams/Alice Goodman: Nixon in China

Sung in English with projectEd English text

January 20, 22m, 24, 26, 28, 2017

Richard Nixon Scott Hendricks #

Pat Nixon Andriana Chuchman *

Chou En-lai Chen-Ye Yuan #

Mao Tse-tung Chad Shelton #

Henry Kissinger Patrick Carfizzi

Chiang Ch'ing Tracy Dahl

T'ang (First Secretary) Yelena Dyachek **

Second Secretary Megan Mikailovna Samarin **

Third Secretary Zoie Reams **

Conductor Robert Spano

Director James Robinson

Set Designer Allen Moyer

Costume Designer James Schuette

Lighting Designer Paul Palazzo

Projection Designer Wendall K. Harrington

Choreographer Seán Curran

Sound Designer Brian Mohr *

Chorus Master Richard Bado #

Houston Grand Opera Orchestra and Chorus

A co-production of Houston Grand Opera and

Opera Theatre of Saint Louis

Verdi: Requiem

Sung in Latin with projectEd English translation

February 10, 12m, 15, 17, 18, 2017

Soprano Angela Meade *

Alto Sasha Cooke

Tenor Alexey Dolgov

Bass Peixin Chen #

Conductor Patrick Summers

Chorus Master Richard Bado #

Houston Grand Opera Orchestra and Chorus

Wagner: Götterdämmerung

Sung in German with projectEd English translation

April 22, 25, 29, May 4, 7m, 2017

SiegfriEd Simon O'Neill

Brünnhilde Christine Goerke

Hagen Andrea Silvestrelli

Gunther Ryan McKinny #

Waltraute/Second Norn Jamie Barton #

Alberich Christopher Purves

First Norn Meredith Arwady

Third Norn/Gutrune Heidi Melton *

Conductor Patrick Summers

Production La Fura dels Baus

Director Carlus Padrissa

Set Designer Roland Olbeter

Costume Designer Chu Oroz

Lighting Designer Peter van Praet

Projection Designer Franc Aleu

Chorus Master Richard Bado #

Houston Grand Opera Orchestra and Chorus

A co-production of Palau de les Art Reina Sofia, Valencia, and Maggio Musicale, Florence

Mozart: The Abduction from the Seraglio

Sung in German with projectEd English translation

April 28, 30m, May 6, 10, 12, 2017

Konstanze Albina Shagimuratova #

Belmonte Lawrence Brownlee

Osmin Ryan Speedo Green *

Blonde Uliana Alexyuk #

Pedrillo Chris Bozeka **

Pasha Selim Christopher Purves

Conductor Thomas Rösner

Director James Robinson

Set Designer Allen Moyer

Costume Designer Anna R. Oliver

Lighting Designer Paul Palazzo

Projection Designer Wendell K. Harrington

Chorus Master Richard Bado #

Houston Grand Opera Orchestra and Chorus

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