Houston Grand Opera Presents YOUR NAME MEANS THE SEA, 5/21-26

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Houston Grand Opera presents its 43rd world premiere, a newly commissioned chamber opera by Azerbaijani composer Franghiz Alizadeh. Your Name Means the Sea opens on May 21, 2011 at the Cullen Theater in the Wortham Theater Center, with additional performances on May 24 and 26.

Commissioned as part of the HGOco Song of Houston: East + West project, Your Name Means the Sea unites two cultures, two countries and one love in a tale about Denise, a young American painter and Seymur, a young singer from Baku, Azerbaijan.

This story of love that crosses an ocean, culture and language is told through two musical forces: a Western quartet made up of strings and flute supports the story of Denise and her father while the evocative sound of Tar, Kemancha and traditional Mugam singing tell the story of Seymur and his mother.

As the attraction builds between the young lovers, Denise and Seymur, the barriers of ocean, culture and language are overcome both textually and musically through the deft weaving of traditional sounds joining two sides of the world. The role of Denise is sung by Houston soprano Laura Botkin and her father is sung by American baritone John Packard. Two traditional Mugam singers sing the roles of Seymur and his mother, tenor Babek Niftaliev and mezzo-soprano Malakkhanim Eyubova.

HGOco Director, Sandra Bernhard said; "Franghiz Alizadeh's compositional style embodies sounds of both eastern and western music. This exemplifies the very heart of Song of Houston, that through storytelling and music, we forge and strengthen our understanding and appreciation of our differences while celebrating and acknowledging our common humanity."

The world premiere of this short chamber opera will take place during a 90-minute program that will include compositions by Franghiz Alizadeh as well as a presentation of traditional Mugam music by musicologist Jeffrey Werbock before the opera. Two more performances of the opera will take place on May 24 at Turquoise Centre, 9301 West Bellfort Avenue, and May 26 at Rothko Chapel, 3900 Yupon Street.

East + West was developed as part of HGOco Song of Houston project, an ongoing initiative that commissions works based on stories that define the unique character of our city. HGO General Director Anthony Freud, who commissioned the work, said "Your Name Means the Sea, the second East + West chamber opera, tells a beautiful story of art and culture. Houston and Baku have been sister cities for more than 35 years, and by commissioning celebrated Azerbaijani composer, Franghiz Alizadeh, Houston Grand Opera celebrates that bond. HGO is passionate about ensuring the continued relevance and excitement of our art form in Houston and beyond. East + West allows us to do this by creating new works by, with and for Houston's vibrant and diverse Asian populations."

The Houston-Baku Sister City Association (HBSCA) was one of the first of the 16 sister cities of Houston, organized under the umbrella of Sister Cities International to foster a non-profit citizen diplomacy network seeking stronger cultural and economic ties at the municipal level. The resolution was signed by Houston City council in 1976, and in 1979 HBSCA was formed under an agreement between the city mayors of Baku (oil capital of the former Soviet Union) and Houston, Texas (the energy capital of the US). The agreement aims at the establishment and development of friendly relations and cultural collaboration to further the mutual interest in all areas of activity of both Baku and Houston.

In the fall of 2009 HGOco and HBSCA discussed the initial plans for the creation of an opera. HBSCA further contributed to this collaborative effort by providing HGO with a deeper insight into the Azerbaijan culture, history and traditions and arrangements for introductions to the famous Azerbaijani composer Franghiz Alizadeh and other relevant contacts in Azerbaijan. HBSCA has been instrumental in establishing new connections for HGO that will facilitate presenting the production to a wide audience in the Houston Metropolitan area.

To complement the opera there will be an art project curated by renowned Texan visual artist, Geoff Winningham. The art works, by students on both sides of the Pacific will be shown at the Museum of Fine Arts Houston(MFAH) for a short exhibition starting May 27.

Please note: the world premiere was originally scheduled to take place at Miller Outdoor Theatre but was relocated to the Cullen Theater in order to provide a more intimate environment for the traditional instrumentation. HGO will present Puccini's Madame Butterfly onstage at Miller Outdoor Theatre on Friday May 20 and Sunday May 22, 2011.

For more information about other Song of Houston projects, visit the HGOco website at www.HGOco.org

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