Houston Grand Opera Presents Götterdämmerung, 4/22
Houston Grand Opera presents Götterdämmerung (Twilight of the Gods), 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 company's mainstage season, beginning April 28.
HGO's four-year mounting of Wagner's epic cycle reaches its thunderous climax this season with Götterdämmerung in the dazzling La Fura dels Bausstaging, directed by Carlus Padrissa. The heroic Siegfried gives Brünnhilde the ring as a token of their love, but they unexpectedly face challenges beyond their control. In the definitive act of self-sacrifice, Brünnhilde returns the universe to its natural order. The Rhine overflows, Valhalla burns, and the kingdom of the gods is destroyed.
New Zealand tenor Simon O'Neill takes on the role of Siegfried with "a sound to give one real hope for the healthy future of [Wagnerian] singing" (International Record Review). Superstar soprano Christine Goerke returns as Brünnhilde; of her portrayal in HGO's Die Walküre in 2015, Opera News wrote, "beyond the power and warmth of her voice, Goerke's vigorous performance radiated brash confidence." Italian bass Andrea Silvestrelli, who sang Fafner in Das Rheingold and Siegfried, returns as Hagen, and bass-baritone and HGO Studio alumnus Ryan McKinny, who performed Donner in Das Rheingold, portrays Gunther. Award-winning mezzo-soprano and HGO Studio alumna Jamie Barton, whom the New York Times terms "a leader of a new generation of opera stars," returns as Waltraute/Second Norn after singing Fricka in Das Rheingold and in Die Walküre. Reprising his role as Alberich will be English bass-baritone Christopher Purves, who will also play Pasha Selim in HGO's concurrent production of The Abduction from the Seraglio. Contralto Meredith Arwady, who portrayed Erda in Das Rheingold, will sing First Norn. Soprano Heidi Melton will sing Third Norn/Gutrune. HGO Artistic and Music DirectorPatrick Summers conducts.
Set designer for HGO's Ring operas is Roland Olbeter; costume designer is Chu Uroz. Peter van Praet is lighting designer, and projection designer is Franc Aleu.
HGO brings back Mozart's comic singspiel The Abduction from the Seraglio in the widely admired staging by James Robinson that the company premiered in 2002 and last presented in 2008. A damsel in distress and her maidservant are captured by Turkish pirates and await their fate in the harem of the Pasha Selim. Her fiancé and his valet set out to rescue their beloveds as the colorful comedy unfolds. The updating of the Middle Eastern-flavored action from Istanbul to the decadent railcars of the 1920s Orient Express was deemed by Opera News "inventive...a dramatic refocusing that puts Mozart's wonderfully emotive arias into high relief...also looked wonderful, in Allen Moyer's cleverly designed sets."<
The demanding dramatic coloratura role of Konstanze will be performed by Russian soprano and HGO Studio alumna Albina Shagimuratova, who last appeared at HGO as Violetta in La traviata (2012). Of her 2016 Metropolitan Opera performance as Konstanze, the New York Times wrote, "The virtuosic runs, leaps and trills of Konstanze's arias held no terrors for Ms. Shagimuratova. She offered a memorable and fiery rendition of 'Martern Aller Arten,' a ferociously difficult showstopper that also requires delicate balancing with the orchestral part."
Tenor Lawrence Brownlee, acclaimed as part of a "new golden age of Bel Canto" (New York Times), will sing Belmonte. A regular performer at HGO, he last portrayed Lindoro in HGO's 2012 The Italian Girl in Algiers. Making his HGO debut as Osmin will be bass-baritone Ryan Speedo Green, noted by the New York Times as "excellent as Osmin...a scene-stealing baritone with a robust voice." Ukrainian soprano and HGO Studio alumna Uliana Alexyuk returns to the company as Blonde. Her 2014 last-minute portrayal of Gilda in Rigoletto "captured Gilda's sweetness, ardor, and vulnerability"(Houston Chronicle). The role of Pedrillo will be sung by HGO Studio artist Chris Bozeka, who performed Nemorino in performances of The Elixir of Love earlier this season.
Austrian conductor Thomas Rösner, who led HGO's 2013 Die Fledermaus, will be in the pit. James Robinson returns to direct. Costumes are by Anna R. Oliver, lighting by Paul Palazzo, and projection design by Wendall K. Harrington.
To mark the close of HGO's historic first Ring cycle, the company will present Scott Warrender and Jim Luigs's Das Barbecü on April 23 and 30. A fast-paced comedic retelling of the Ring epic set in Wild West Texas, the production will be performed in two iconic Houston locales, Jackson Street BBQ and Neon Boots Dancehall & Saloon. The full list of events for the rest of the HGO season is provided below. More information is available at HGO.org.