Jay Hunter Morris Stars in Houston Grand Opera's A CHRISTMAS CAROL World Premiere Tonight
American tenor Jay Hunter Morris will replace Anthony Dean Griffey in Houston Grand Opera's world premiere production of A Christmas Carol, it was announced today by HGO Artistic and Music Director Patrick Summers. Mr. Griffey has withdrawn for health reasons. The 90-minute opera, commissioned by HGO from composer Iain Bell and librettist Simon Callow, is written for a single singer performing the role of The Narrator. A Christmas Carol runs from tonight, December 5 through 21, 2014, at the Wortham Theater Center, and is suitable for ages 12 and up.
"As disappointed as I am by Tony's cancellation," said Maestro Summers, "all of our thoughts go to his speedy recovery and quick return to his indelible performances. I am thrilled, though, that Jay Hunter Morris has valiantly agreed to step into this tour-de-force role. Jay is one of opera's most thrilling singing actors and he will, like Tony, bring us a unique and uplifting experience."
Said Mr. Morris, "I add my name to the long list of fans wishing Tony the very best and looking forward to many more unforgettable performances."
A Christmas Carol launches HGO's cycle of new holiday-themed commissions and adds to the company's longstanding tradition of creating and premiering important new operas. The score is the work of composer Iain Bell, of whose first opera, A Harlot's Progress, the New York Times observed: "Mr. Bell knows how to write for the human voice." Bell based his recasting of Charles Dickens's festive favorite on the author's little-known performance adaptation: an eerie yet ultimately heartwarming one-man show in which a single narrator undertakes all the roles, from Scrooge to the three ghosts he encounters.
The libretto is by director Simon Callow, winner of an Olivier Award for Best Direction and author of Charles Dickens and the Great Theatre of the World; he also directs. Also one of Britain's best-loved actors, familiar from film roles in Amadeus and Shakespeare in Love, Callow has successfully played Dickens on Broadway, in London's West End, and in television's Doctor Who. When he took to the stage with the monodramatic version of A Christmas Carol that forms the basis of his libretto, Callow was heralded as "an absolute master when it comes to Dickens" (Telegraph, U.K.).
Besides performing in the standard opera repertoire with the world's most distinguished companies, Jay Hunter Morris is an enthusiastic proponent of new opera. He has sung Captain Ahab in Jake Heggie and Gene Scheer's Moby-Dick at the Adelaide Festival, San Diego Opera, and San Francisco Opera (released on DVD and telecast on PBS's Great Performances). He has also created a number of roles for world premieres, including Captain James Nolan in John Adams and Peter Sellars's Doctor Atomic at San Francisco Opera, Marky in Howard Shore and David Henry Hwang's The Fly at The?a?tre du Cha?telet in Paris, and Unferth in Elliott Goldenthal and Julie Taymor's Grendel at L.A. Opera. Next summer at The Santa Fe Opera, he will create the role of Teague in the world premiere of Jennifer Higdon and Gene Scheer's Cold Mountain, directed by Leonard Foglia. Jay Hunter Morris appeared at HGO in 2000 as Canio/Pagliaccio in Pagliacci.
A Christmas Carol's opening run will be led by Warren Jones, former assistant conductor of the Metropolitan Opera and "a musician par excellence no matter what he is interpreting" (Cleveland Plain Dealer).
About Houston Grand Opera - Since its inception in 1955, Houston Grand Opera has grown from a small regional organization into an internationally renowned opera company. HGO enjoys a reputation for commissioning and producing new works, including 54 world premieres and seven American premieres since 1973. In addition to producing and performing world-class opera, HGO 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 has toured extensively, including trips to Europe and Asia, and has won a Tony, two Grammy awards, and two Emmy awards-the only opera company to have won all three awards.
Through HGOco, Houston Grand Opera creates opportunities for Houstonians of all ages and backgrounds to observe, participate in, and create art. Its Song of Houston project is an ongoing initiative to create and share work based on stories that define the unique character of our city and its diverse cultures. Since 2007, HGOco has commissioned sixteen new works along with countless innovative community projects, reaching more than one million people in the greater Houston metropolitan area. The NEXUS Initiative is HGO's multi-year ticket underwriting program that allows Houstonians of all ages and backgrounds to enjoy world-class opera without the barrier of price. Since 2007 NEXUS has enabled more than 175,000 Houstonians to experience first-quality opera through discounted single tickets and subscriptions, subsidized student performances, and free productions.
Iain Bell and Simon Callow: A Christmas Carol (world premiere of new HGO commission)
Dec. 5, 7m, 9, 11, 14m, 16, 17, 19, 20, 21m, 2014
Conductor: Warren Jones*
Director: Simon Callow*
Set and Costume Designer: Laura Hopkins*
Lighting Designer: Mark McCullough
The Narrator: Jay Hunter Morris (except Dec. 17 and 20) Kevin Ray+: Dec. 17, 20