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Houston Grand Opera Will Premiere THE PHOENIX in 2018-19 Season; Full Line-Up Announced!

Houston Grand Opera Will Premiere THE PHOENIX in 2018-19 Season; Full Line-Up Announced!

Houston Grand Opera (HGO) will present its 2018-19 season in its creative home at Houston's Wortham Theater Center after a year of displacement due to damage to the building from Hurricane Harvey. The 64th season will open October 19, 2018, with HGO's first performances in 20 years of Wagner's romantic ghost story The Flying Dutchman, in a new production featuring baritoneAndrzej Dobber as the Dutchman and the role debut of award-winning American soprano and HGO Studio alumna Rachel Willis-Sørensen as Senta. To close the season, the new Kasper Holten production of Mozart's Don Giovanni featuring the HGO debut of baritone Philippe Sly in the title role and the role debut of soprano Ailyn Pérez as Donna Anna will be presented in repertory with The Phoenix, a world premiere about the colorful life of Lorenzo da Ponte, Mozart's librettist for the masterful Don Giovanni, The Marriage of Figaro, and Così fan tutte. The new work, written by composer Tarik O'Regan and librettist John Caird, will star renowned baritone Thomas Hampson as Lorenzo da Ponte in a belated HGO debut and bass-baritone Luca Pisaroni as Da Ponte's son, Lorenzo. HGO will also present a revival of Daniel Catán's ethereal Florencia en el Amazonas with internationally acclaimed soprano and HGO Studio alumna Ana María Martínez in the title role; the first HGO presentation of Bizet's The Pearl Fishers with the stellar tenor and baritone pairing of Lawrence Brownlee and Mariusz Kwiecien in the title roles along with soprano Andrea Carroll; and the return of HGO's 2012 production of Puccini's perennial classic La bohème, featuring the role debut of soprano and HGO Studio alumna Nicole Heaston as Mimì.

Subscriptions to the 2018-19 season are now available at Single tickets will be available later this summer.

Three mainstage operas-The Flying Dutchman, Florencia en el Amazonas, and The Phoenix-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 three mainstage operas each season-one of which is a new work-united by a single theme. The theme of the 2018-19 season will be transformation.

Six partner organizations have joined HGO to date, with a commitment to create projects that complement the operas, enhancing and enriching our community's experience of the themes. These organizations include The Center for Performing Arts Medicine at Houston Methodist; Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; The Jung Center, Houston; The Rothko Chapel; Sacred Sites Quest; and The Women's Home in collaboration with the Institute for Spirituality and Health. Information about their 2018-19 collaborations will be announced later in 2018.

HGO's mainstage season will comprise 33 performances (including two free community performances) of six productions. the company will also present three student performances.

HGOco, the company's ten-year-old initiative that connects HGO's creative resources with the diverse and vibrant Houston community, begins its second decade with an Opera to Go! tour of Cinderella in Spain by Mary Carol Warwick and Kate Pogue. One of HGOco's most successful commissions for children's opera, Cinderella in Spain has been offering a bilingual opera experience to young people and families for 20 years. In March 2019, HGOco will present the world premiere of Home of My Ancestors by composer Nkeiru Okoye and librettist Anita Gonzalez. The story of a Chicago-based African American doctor who returns to her childhood home in Houston's Third Ward is the first of three new commissions for HGOco's award-winning Song of Houston initiative, which has been creating new works based on stories that define the unique character of Houston since 2007.

This season, HGO continues to reach younger audiences through its popular Opening Nights for Young Professionals (ONYP) subscription series, where subscriptions start as low as $138 for six operas, and its affordable ticket initiatives that include the Pay Your Age program and the NEXUS ticket underwriting program. Launched just two 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 opera goers and student group audiences 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.

"Our 2018-19 season is most movingly expressed by The Phoenix," notes HGO Artistic and Music Director Patrick Summers (Margaret Alkek Williams Chair), "because in this important season we are a phoenix of a company, rising not from ashes but from the inundation of Hurricane Harvey that so violently moved us out of our beloved Wortham Theater for a year. This season is built upon a great diversity of voices and artistry, emerging stars and veterans of the operatic stage, familiar operas and operas you will not know but will want to. They range from The Flying Dutchman-our first post-Ring Wagner opera, featuring Andrzej Dobber's brooding and powerful Dutchman-to our first Brown Theater world premiere in a decade, The Phoenix, by the multi-talented Tarik O'Regan and John Caird. We are delighted to welcome Thomas Hampson, who will star alongside his real life son-in-law, the beloved Luca Pisaroni, in this funny and moving new opera about Mozart's closest collaborator, Lorenzo da Ponte, whose own life was the stuff of many operas! We are pairing The Phoenix with Kaspar Holten's searing and visceral new production of Don Giovanni. We will give the HGO premiere of The Pearl Fishers, among the most requested opera titles from HGO patrons over the last 20 years, and will bring back for the third time Daniel Catán's unparalled Florencia en el Amazonas, one of the most popular operas HGO ever commissioned. We will luxuriate in the sounds and artistry of sopranos Rachel Willis-Sørensen, Nicole Heaston, Ana María Martínez, and Andrea Carroll, each of whom are starring in an opera next year and who are all illustrious alumnae of the HGO Studio, a source of profound pride to HGO. I'm also, with enormous pride, looking forward to the performances of our great resident ensembles, the Houston Grand Opera Orchestra and Chorus."

HGO Managing Director Perryn Leech (Sarah and Ernest Butler Chair) adds, "The tremendous support of the Houston community and our friends and colleagues all over the world has enabled us to keep great opera alive while displaced from our creative home. Through our community collaborations for our Seeking the Human Spirit initiative we have connected many Houstonians, including nontraditional audiences, with the spiritual and healing power of opera. We are thrilled to carry this groundbreaking work forward when we return to the Wortham next fall with a season of exceptional presentations of masterpieces as well as creative new operas, including an HGOco production set in Houston's own Third Ward. In three seasons so far, our under-25 subscription and Pay Your Age programs have brought nearly 400 young people to opera."

Details of the upcoming Houston Grand Opera 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.

The Flying Dutchman: new production by Tomer Zvulun features return of baritone Andrzej Dobber as the Dutchman and role debut of HGO Studio alumna Rachel Willis-Sørensen as Senta (Oct. 19-Nov. 2)(Seeking the Human Spirit presentation)

HGO opens its 64th season with Wagner's gothic romance about the redeeming and transformative power of a woman's love. Last presented here in 1998, The Flying Dutchman tells the haunting story of a ship captain doomed by a curse to navigate a ghost ship forever unless released by true love and the young woman who becomes obsessed with him.

Polish baritone Andrzej Dobber, whose "authoritative presence" and "dark, rich, timbre" (Houston Chronicle) as Scarpia in HGO's 2015 Tosca impressed HGO audiences, sings the Dutchman, while the demanding role of Senta will be sung by soprano and HGO Studio alumna Rachel Willis-Sørensen, who won first prize at the 2014 Operalia competition and whose "darkly colored voice" was praised as "ideal" as Elsa in Opernhaus Zurich'sLohengrin in the summer of 2017(Der Neue Merker). Senta's father, Daland, will be sung by the Icelandic bass Kristinn Sigmundsson, who gave a "jolly and rich-toned performance" (San Francisco Chronicle) of the role at San Francisco Opera in 2013 and appeared as Fasolt in HGO's Das Rheingold in 2014. Tenor Eric Cutler, who sang the Duke of Mantua in HGO's 2009 Rigoletto and Florestan in the Stuttgart Opera's 2016 production of Fidelio, will take the role of young Erik. Patrick Summers will conduct.

HGO's new co-production with Atlanta Opera and Cincinnati Opera is directed by Atlanta Opera's general and artistic director, Tomer Zvulun.

La bohème: Houston soprano Nicole Heaston stars in revival of 2012 HGO production by award-winning director John Caird (Oct. 26-Nov. 11)

This story of young love in bohemian 19th-century Paris set to Puccini's radiant score has become one of the best-loved operas of all time. HGO brings back the "strikingly original...innovative staging"(Opera News) by John Caird from 2012; Caird reflects the action in the paintings of Marcello, an artist who lives along with his fellow bohemians in the garret.

Nicole Heaston, the Houston-based soprano and HGO alumna whom the Houston Press termed "an artist of rare beauty" in her role as Adina in HGO's 2016 The Elixir of Love, makes a much anticipated role debut as Mimì.

Two former HGO Studio artists will also make professional role debuts: Korean soprano Pureum Jo will appear as Musetta, following noted appearances as Dai Yu in the 2016 world premiere of Bright Sheng's Dream of the Red Chamber at San Francisco Opera; Marcello will be portrayed by baritone Michael Sumuel, whose voice as Belcore in HGO's 2016 Elixir of Love had a "resounding amber glow"(Houstonia). Argentine bass and HGO Studio alumnus Federico De Michelis will sing Colline. Opera News praised his "deep-voiced authority" as Thomas Betterton in HGO's 2016 world premiere of Carlisle Floyd's Prince of Players.

Grammy-nominated conductor James Lowe, an HGO Studio alumnus who has led multiple Broadway productions as well as HGO's 2016 Sweeney Todd, will be on the podium.

Florencia en el Amazonas: Houston favorite and HGO Studio alumna Ana María Martínez takes title role, Francesca Zambello directs an enhanced revival of Daniel Catán's homage to magical realism, originally premiered by HGO (Jan. 18-Feb. 3) (Seeking the Human Spirit presentation)

The first Spanish-language opera to be commissioned by major American opera companies, the late Mexican-American composer Daniel Catán's Florencia en el Amazonas was an immediate hit with audiences and has been performed by opera companies across the United States as well as in Mexico and in Germany since its 1996 HGO premiere and 2002 recording (Albany Records). The mystical story of an opera singer returning home and floating down the Amazon river in a boat to follow a lost love was written by Marcela Fuentes-Berain, a pupil of renowned magical realism novelist Gabriel García Márquez. Catán's romantic score employs Latin American instruments within the orchestra along with a lush choral landscape.

Now, HGO brings back original director Francesca Zambello to stage a rebuilt version enhanced with projections. Currently artistic and general director of Washington National Opera and the Glimmerglass Festival, Ms. Zambello has a long relationship with HGO and will stage a new production of Bernstein's West Side Story in April 2017. HGO Artistic and Music Director Patrick Summers, who led HGO's last performances and recording of Florencia, will conduct.

Internationally renowned soprano and HGO Studio alumna Ana María Martínez returns to HGO for the first time as Florencia. The role holds special significance for her: the late composer was a close friend and wrote his opera Salsipuedes for her. Ms. Martínez's most recent HGO appearances were in 2016, when she appeared in the title role of Rusalka and as Marguerite in Faust, both to critical and audience acclaim.

Four artists will make their HGO debuts in this revival. Rising American tenor Joshua Guerrero, a 2016 Richard Tucker career grant winner, will sing Arcadio. Baritone and Lubbock, TX, native Norman Garrett will reprise the role of Riobolo, which he sang at Washington National Opera. Spanish mezzo-soprano Nancy Fabiola Herrera will sing Paula, which she has performed with both Washington National Opera and LA Opera. The role of Capitán will be taken by veteran bass David Pittsinger, who performed the role with LA Opera.

The Pearl Fishers: First-ever HGO performances feature renowned tenor Lawrence Brownlee and baritone Mariusz Kwiecien in eye-popping Zandra Rhodes production (Jan. 25-Feb. 8)

Twelve years before he wrote Carmen, 24-year-old French composer Georges Bizet received a commission from a Parisian theater for his first opera. The project came with a libretto about two pearl fishers in love with a mysterious priestess on the exotic island of Ceylon (now Sri Lanka), a prime example of the exaggerated Orientalism that fascinated Europeans for decades. Audiences fell in love with the romantic story and score, highlighted by one of the most radiantly beautiful duets in the operatic repertoire.

In HGO's first-ever production of the opera, this famous duet, "Au fond du temple saint," will be sung by two of today's premier operatic artists, tenor Lawrence Brownlee as Nadir, and baritone Mariusz Kwiecien as Zurga. Brownlee's "bell-like tenor" and "effortless facility"(Houston Press) were evident in his 2017 HGO appearances as Belmonte in The Abduction from the Seraglio. Kwiecien's "powerful, moving singing" as Zurga in the Metropolitan Opera's 2017 production of The Pearl Fishers was noted by the Washington Post. HGO Studio alumna Andrea Carroll, who sang with "purity and radiance"(Opera News) as Mary Hatch Bailey in HGO's 2016 world premiere of Jake Heggie and Gene Scheer's It's a Wonderful Life, will portray the priestess Leila. Argentine bass and HGO Studio alumnus Federico De Michelis (see La bohème), will sing Nourabad.

The technicolor production by renowned English fashion designer Zandra Rhodes, who created HGO's 2007 Aida, (also seen in 2013) was based on the fabrics and artwork of Sri Lanka and "recalls the fascination of artists like Delacroix and Matisse with exotic textiles" (Washington Post). In collaboration with HGO's Cultural Advisory Committee, HGO will offer audiences opportunities to explore the opera from both historical and current social-cultural perspectives through a variety of informational resources.

E. Loren Meeker, who has directed five world premieres for HGOco and most recently choreographed HGO's The Marriage of Figaro in 2011, will direct. Conductor Roderick Cox, associate conductor of the Minnesota Orchestra, will make his operatic debut with these performances.

Don Giovanni: New HGO co-production features house debuts of director Kasper Holten and baritone Philippe Sly, role debuts of Ailyn Pérez as Donna Anna and HGO Studio alumnus Ryan McKinny as Leporello (Apr. 20-May 5)

Mozart and Lorenzo da Ponte's masterpiece Don Giovanni returns to the HGO stage in a much anticipated HGO co-production that marks the company debut of Danish director Kasper Holten, director of opera at Royal Opera, Covent Garden, from 2011 to 2017. The opera's ending calls for the unrepentant title character, who was based on the fictional libertine Don Juan, to be dragged to the underworld. In an approach that resonates in the MeToo era, Holten's production explores what hell might look and feel like for a charismatic serial seducer. Working with the award-winning team of set designer Es Devlin and video designer Luke Halls-both contributors to the 2012 London Summer Olympics closing ceremonies-Holten conceives the entire opera through the prism of Giovanni's complex mental landscape, resulting in a somewhat unconventional finale. Noted as "striking and clever" by the New York Times, this focus gives the 231-year-old masterpiece a contemporary perspective.

Canadian baritone Philippe Sly, whose "voracious performance was extraordinary" (Bachtrack) in his role debut as Giovanni at the 2017 Aix-en-Provence festival, will make his HGO debut in the role. Soprano Ailyn Pérez, who charmed Houston audiences as Countess Almaviva in The Marriage of Figaro (2016), will make her own role debut as Donna Anna. Bass-baritone and HGO Studio alumnus Ryan McKinny, whose most recent appearances here were as Gunther in Götterdämmerung (2017), will debut the role of Giovanni's servant, Leporello. Donna Elvira will be sung by Melody Moore, whose Dorabella in HGO's 2014 Così fan tutte was a "standout"(Houston Press). Tenor Ben Bliss, a Metropolitan Opera Martin E. Segal Award winner, will sing Don Ottavio in his HGO debut. Kristinn Sigmundsson, who also appears in the season-opening Flying Dutchman, will portray the Commendatore.

Romanian conductor Cristian M?celaru, who made his operatic debut with HGO's 2010 production of Madame Butterfly and was recently appointed music director of the Cabrillo Festival, leads the HGO Orchestra and Chorus.

The Phoenix: World-renowned bass-baritone Luca Pisaroni and baritone Thomas Hampson bring Lorenzo da Ponte to life in world premiere by Tarik O'Regan and John Caird (Apr. 26-May 10) (Seeking the Human Spirit presentation)

collaboration with librettist Lorenzo da Ponte produced three of opera's greatest masterpieces. But opera lovers may not realize that the adventures of Don Giovanni's title character bore more than a passing resemblance to Da Ponte's own colorful life. Forced to leave Venice on charges of "public concubinage," Da Ponte embarked on a journey that led him from Vienna to London and eventually to America, where he went from selling groceries in Philadelphia to selling books in New York, teaching Italian, and eventually becoming a professor at Columbia College and founding the city's first opera company. Da Ponte's ability to reinvent himself led Mozart to call him "the phoenix," which is also the name of the great opera house in Venice (La Fenice), where Da Ponte grew up. In Grammy-nominated composer Tarik O'Regan and award-winning librettist/director John Caird's new opera, an elderly Da Ponte stages a new opera in New York City based on his own memoirs. With a character list that includes Mozart, famed mezzo-soprano Maria Malibran, and members of Da Ponte's family including his son, Lorenzo, The Phoenix reveals Da Ponte's tumultuous and truly operatic odyssey as a lifelong search for identity.

Bass-baritone Luca Pisaroni returns to HGO as Da Ponte's son, Lorenzo, after a star turn as the "ideal devil" (Houston Press), Méphistophélès in Faust (2016). The distinguished American baritone Thomas Hampson, who is also Pisaroni's father-in-law, makes a much-anticipated HGO debut as the older Lorenzo da Ponte. Based in Europe, Hampson's illustrious career has included performances as Don Giovanni along with other lyric baritone roles as well as extensive work as a recitalist specializing in both German Romantic and American songs. Canadian-Tunisian mezzo-soprano Rihab Chaieb, who sang The Fairy Prince in Opera Philadelphia's 2017 world premiere of The Wake World with an "agile mezzo" (Philadelphia Inquirer), will make her HGO debut in the roles of Maria Malibran, Mozart, and Da Ponte's wife, Nancy. Canadian tenor Joseph Kaiser will also sing multiple roles including those of Emperor Joseph II and Giacomo Casanova. He gave "appealing, refined" (New York Times) performances as Walter in HGO's American premiere of Weinberg's The Passenger in Houston and New York (2014). The parts of Da Ponte's niece Giulietta and three other soprano roles will be taken by HGO Studio alumna Lauren Snouffer, who charmed audiences and critics as the young Addie Mills in HGO's 2017 world premiere The House without a Christmas Tree.

John Caird will direct The Phoenix, and Patrick Summers will conduct.

British and American composer Tarik O'Regan's first opera, Heart of Darkness, premiered in 2011 at the Royal Opera's Linbury Theater and won an NEA Artistic Excellence Award. Another vocal work, Threshold of Night(2009), earned two Grammy nominations. Now in the first season of a three-year residency with the Pacific Chorale, he serves on the composition faculty of Rutgers University and is senior advisor to the Center for Ballet and the Arts at New York University. He previously held the Fulbright Chester Schirmer Fellowship at Columbia University; a Radcliffe Institute Fellowship at Harvard; and positions at Trinity and Corpus Christi Colleges in Cambridge, the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, and Yale.

John Caird's long association with HGO as a stage director most recently includes a 2010 production of Tosca that returned in the fall of 2015 and a 2012 staging of La bohème that will be remounted in the fall of 2018. The winner of multiple awards as a theater director, he has also written, co-written, and adapted several musical theater works and earned a 2016 Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Book of a Musical for Daddy Long Legs. He is an honorary associate director of the Royal Shakespeare Company, a regular director with the Royal National Theatre of Great Britain, and the principal guest director of the Royal Dramatic Theatre, Stockholm (Dramaten).

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