Houston Symphony Receives NEA Grant for Opera-in-Concert WOZZECK, Set for March 2013

The Houston Symphony will receive $35,000 from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) in support of its March 2013 production of a semi-staged version of Alban Berg's opera Wozzeck. The Symphony's grant is one of 832 awards totaling $23.3 million that the NEA announced today supporting non-profit arts organizations in 47 states plus the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico.

Wozzeck holds special significance for Music Director Hans Graf, who has conducted the opera in both fully-staged and concert presentations on several occasions.

"Wozzeck is Berg's most poignant and most important work in terms of musical, aesthetic and ethical significance," said Graf. "It is a work of great humanity and deep expression, not just an 'expressionist' opera. I consider it to be the greatest combination of music and theater in the 20th century."

Graf is celebrating his grand finale season with the Houston Symphony in 2012-13. He will step down from the podium after twelve years with the orchestra, making him the longest serving music director in the Symphony's near 100 year history.

Nearly a century after its premiere, the tragic and transcendent Wozzeck still presents a thought-provoking and challenging musical experience for orchestras and audiences alike. The Symphony has chosen to program Wozzeck because it is one of the archetypes of 20th century music and a work whose unflinching exploration of the human condition is as relevant now as the day it was written.

Although Berg's Wozzeck is considered to be one of the most important operas of the modern era, its abstract musical language and emotionally wrenching story are better understood with some advance preparation by the listener. To this end, the Houston Symphony has planned an extensive engagement initiative to prepare audiences and increase understanding about this significant work. Through partnerships with Rice University and the Museum of Fine Arts Houston, several speakers, or "Wozzeck Ambassadors," have been engaged to give lectures, presentations and participate in panel discussions. In advance of the March 1 and 2 performances, more than 20 such events are scheduled for a variety of groups including local high school and college students, existing Symphony patrons and donors and new audiences.<

In addition to the NEA, Wozzeck has also received leadership support from The Cullen Trust for the Performing Arts; The Brown Foundation, Inc.; Mr. Mike Stude; Janice H. Barrow; and Rochelle and Max Levit. Wozzeck is also supported by Margaret Alkek Williams through the Houston Symphony's SoundPlusVision subscription series and The Cullen Trust for the Performing Arts Endowed Fund for Creative Initiatives, part of the Houston Symphony Endowment.

In the 2012-13 Season, the Houston Symphony is in its 99th year as one of America's leading orchestras with a full complement of concert, community, education, touring and recording activities. Under the artistic leadership of Hans Graf, the orchestra's longest serving music director, the Symphony has established a reputation for innovative, powerful performances. With its Centennial Celebration on the horizon in 2013-14, the Houston Symphony is one of the oldest performing arts organizations in Texas whose inaugural performance was held at The Majestic Theater in downtown Houston on June 21, 1913. Today, with an annual operating budget of $28 million, the full-time ensemble of 87 professional musicians is the largest performing arts organization in Houston, presenting more than 280 concerts for 300,000 people annually. For tickets and more information, visit www.houstonsymphony.org or call 713-224-7575.