Houston Grand Opera's Opera To Go! Presents Free World Premiere Performances

Houston Grand Opera's (HGO) Opera to Go! presents the world premiere of Monkey & Francine in the City of Tigers, with music by rising composer Kamala Sankaram and libretto by David Johnston, February 2 and 3, 9:30 and 11 a.m. both days, at Heinen Theater, 3517 Austin St., Houston. Performances are free. The 45-minute family opera is inspired by Indian and Chinese mythology and includes music influenced by Bollywood. A hilarious fable, Monkey & Francine in the City of Tigers demonstrates the power of teamwork as a monkey prince and his brainy sister outwit a hungry crocodile and escape from the City of Tigers. The opera is a co-commission of HGO's HGOco arm with American Lyric Theater, which presented a partially staged performance in New York City earlier in January. Seen and Heard International noted, "the libretto was sophisticated and fresh, while the music was witty and eclectic. You tapped your toes and found yourself singing along."

"Though we envisioned this opera for children, the whole family will love it," says Carleen Graham, director of HGOco. "Kamala and David have created a new classic for 21st-century families."

In addition to the free public performances, an Opera to Go! tour of the opera is scheduled from January 29 through May 18, 2018. Dates are still available. Opera to Go! presents fully staged, high-energy operas in schools, libraries, and community centers in the Greater Houston area. Performances, sung in English, are approximately 45 minutes long and are designed for today's young audiences. They are recommended for grades two through eight but often appeal to adults as well. Teachers receive a study guide in advance to help students gain context about the operas. For questions and information about booking an Opera to Go! performance, please call 713-546-0231 or email OperaToGo@hgo.org For financial assistance, schools or nonprofits should contact Anina Moore at the Texas Commission on the Arts at 512-936-6573. Visit www.arts.texas.gov for more information.

Praised as "strikingly original" (New York Times), composer Kamala Sankaram has received commissions from Beth Morrison Projects, HERE Arts Center, Opera on Tap, and Anthony Braxton's Tri-Centric Orchestra, among others. She is the recipient of a Jonathan Larson Award from the American Theater Wing and has received grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, MAP Fund, Opera America, Foundation for Contemporary Arts, Meet the Composer, the Augustine Foundation, the Anna Sosenko Trust, and the Asian Women's Giving Circle. Residencies and fellowships include the MacDowell Colony, the Watermill Center, the Citizens, HERE Arts Center, CAP21, Con Edison/Exploring the Metropolis, the Hermitage, and American Lyric Theater. As a performer, Sankaram has been hailed as "an impassioned soprano with blazing high notes" (Wall Street Journal).

David Johnston is an award-winning playwright, librettist, and screenwriter. His plays have been performed and read at The New Group, Moving Arts, The Neighborhood Playhouse, HB Playwrights Foundation, and Ensemble Studio Theatre. New York productions with Blue Coyote Theater Group include Coney; Conversations on Russian Literature; a new adaptation of The Oresteia (Time Out Best of 2007); Busted Jesus Comix (GLAAD nominee 2005, London, Los Angeles, DC Cap Fringe); A Bush Carol, or George Dubya and the Xmas of Evil; and Effie Jean in Tahiti (the latter two with music and lyrics by Stephen Speights). Current projects include the Czech Republic premiere of Busted Jesus Comix in Prague, May 2016; a new film directed by Kevin Newbury with music by Jimmy Lopez, Epiphany V; a new play-in-development, Pelicans; and Monkey & Francine in the City of Tigers. Since 2012, David has been the executive director of Exploring the Metropolis, Inc., the only New York City-based nonprofit focused exclusively on workspace issues for performing artists, organizations, and facilities.

HGOco connects HGO's creative resources with the diverse and vibrant Houston community. The "co" in HGOco stands for company, community, and collaboration. HGOco's innovative and engaging programs take place throughout the Houston area-in schools, parks, community landmarks, alternative performance spaces, and at the Wortham Theater Center, providing a range of opportunities for Houstonians of all ages to seek, engage, and learn through the inspiring art of opera.

Monkey & Francine in the City of Tigers

Kamala Sankaram, composer/David Johnston, librettist

February 2 and 3, 9:30 and 11 a.m. both days

Heinen Theatre

Houston Community College Central campus

3517 Austin St, Houston, TX 77007

Admission is FREE

A co-commission with American Lyric Theater

Houston Grand Opera (HGO) is one of the largest, most innovative, and most highly acclaimed opera companies in the United States. HGO was the only American finalist for Opera Company of the Year at the 2017 International Opera Awards. In fulfilling its mission to advance the operatic art to serve an ever-evolving audience, HGO has led the field in commissioning new works (64 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 engagement initiative, HGOco, has served as a model for other arts organizations.

The NEXUS Initiative is HGO's multi-year ticket underwriting program that allows Houstonians of all ages and backgrounds to enjoy opera without the barrier of price. Since 2007, NEXUS has enabled more than 250,000 Houstonians to experience superlative opera through discounted single tickets and subscriptions, subsidized student performances, and free productions.

HGO has toured extensively and has won a Tony, two Grammy awards, and three Emmy awards. It is the only opera company to win all three honors.

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