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Houston Grand Opera (HGO) was founded in 1955 through the joint efforts of Maestro Walter Herbert and Houston cultural leaders Mrs. Louis G. Lobit and Edward Bing. With a current operating budget of $20 million, the company is based in downtown Houstonmarker at the Wortham Theater Centermarker, a facility.

Regarded as one of the world’s principal commissioners and producers of new operas, HGO has given thirty-nine world premieres and six American premieres since 1973. It has received a Tony Award, two Grammy Awards, two Emmy Awards, and a Grand Prix du Disque — the only opera company in the world to have won all four honors. HGO cultivates a varied repertoire of traditional, rare, contemporary, and new opera.

HGO was among the first companies in the world to use supertitles: starting in 1984, HGO adopted them for all foreign-language operas, later extending the practice to works in English as well. HGO was also the first American opera company, in 1995, to simultaneously project a live performance onto a giant screen outside the theater, dubbing the event a "Plazacast": the public was invited free of charge to Ray C. Fish Plaza, just outside the Wortham Theater Center, to view the simulcast of a sold-out performance of Rossini’s La Cenerentola, starring Cecilia Bartoli.

Houston Grand Opera’s mission is to contribute to the cultural enrichment of Houston and the nation by producing and performing opera; and by creating a diverse, innovative, and balanced program of performances, events, and community and education projects that reach the widest possible public. The HGO Board meets three times each year and is broken into three parts: an Executive Committee, a Board of Governors, and a Board of Trustees. Anthony Freud became HGO's third general director and the company’s first CEO in March 2006. He was general director of Welsh National Opera from 1994 to 2005. At HGO, he heads an executive management team that includes music director Patrick Summers and executive director Ann Owens.

The Houston Grand Opera Studio program, which marked its 30th anniversary in 2007, trains singers and pianist/coaches with extraordinary potential for professional careers in opera. Co-founded in 1977 by David Gockley, HGO’s general director from 1972 to 2005, and composer Carlisle Floyd, the program remains one of the most prestigious artist-in-training programs worldwide. Singers Joyce DiDonato, Bruce Ford, Denyce Graves, Greer Grimsley, Eric Halfvarson, Ana María Martínez, and Susanne Mentzer all attended the HGO Studio before establishing successful careers.

To broaden the company’s presence in the community, HGO in 2007 established HGOco, an initiative designed to break down barriers to the arts by creating opportunities for observation, participation and creation. The “co” in HGOco represents a focus on company, community, connection and collaboration. With the combined resources of the entire company, HGOco extends HGO’s reach through partnerships with kindred organizations. These efforts include all of HGO’s education and community-focused activities. On average, HGO’s education and outreach programs yearly reach more than 175,000 students, families, and community members. HGOco’s touring group, Opera to Go!, presents shortened versions of traditional and new repertoire for more than 50,000 children and families at schools and community centers throughout greater Houston . At the Wortham Theater Center, HGOco offers local elementary, middle, and high school students the opportunity to enjoy mainstage presentations through its Student Matinee and High School Night performances. Training and development for young voices is offered through four programs including the High School Voice Studio, the Children’s Chorus, and Opera Camp. Through Song of Houston, an ongoing project of HGOco, the company partners with community leaders and organizations to offer a series of workshops, projects and events that promote the telling of stories about Houston and Houstonians in words and music. The first new work to result from Song of Houston was "The Refuge," a large-scale piece of musical theater that drew national attention.

HGO reaches more than 5,000,000 people each year through a variety of performances, community activities, special events, broadcasts, and recordings. The company has toured extensively, including trips to Europe and Asia.

Premiered works

World premieres

- Brief Encounter, Andre Previn and John Caird, 2009

- Sleeping Beauty, Edward Charles Winkler, 2008 (OTG)

- Last Acts (Three Decembers), Jake Heggie and Gene Scheer, 2008

- The Refuge, Christopher Theofanidis and Leah Lax, 2007

- Send (who are you? I love you), Michael John LaChiusa, 2006

- Strega Nona, Mary Carol Warwick and Mary Ann Pendino, 2006 (OTG)

- Lysistrata, or the Nude Goddess, Mark Adamo, 2005

- The Princess and the Pea, Mary Carol Warwick and Mary Ann Pendino, 2005 (OTG)

- Salsipuedes, a tale of Love, War and Anchovies, Daniel Catán and Eliseo Alberto / Francisco Hinojosa, 2004

- The End of the Affair, Jake Heggie and Heather McDonald, 2004

- The Velveteen Rabbit, Mary Carol Warwick and Kate Pogue, 2004 (OTG)

- The Little Prince, Rachel Portman and Nicholas Wright, 2003

- Sibanda!, Michael Remson, 2003 (OTG)

- The Emperor’s New Clothes, Mary Carol Warwick and Kate Pogue, 2001 (OTG)

- Cold Sassy Tree, Carlisle Floyd, 2000

- Resurrection, Tod Machover and Laura Harrington with additional materials by Braham Murray, 1999

- Little Women, Mark Adamo, 1998 (HGOS)

- Cinderella in Spain/Cinderella en España, Mary Carol Warwick and Kate Pogue, 1998 (OTG)

- Jackie O, Michael Daugherty and Wayne Koestenbaum, 1997 (HGOS)

- Florencia en el Amazonas, Daniel Catán and Marcela Fuentes-Berain, 1996

- The Tibetan Book of the Dead, a liberation through hearing, Ricky Ian Gordon and Jean-Claude van Itallie, 1996 (HGOS)

- Puppy and the Big Guy, Sterling Tinsley and Kate Pogue, 1995 (OTG)

- Harvey Milk, Stewart Wallace and Michael Korie, 1995

- The Outcast (fully realized version), Noa Ain, 1994

- The Dracula Diary, Robert Moran and James Skofield, 1994 (HGOS)

- TEXAS!, Mary Carol Warwick and Kate Pogue, 1993 (OTG)

- The Achilles Heel, Craig Bohmler and Mary Carol Warwick, 1993 (TOT)

- Desert of Roses, Robert Moran and Michael John LaChiusa, 1992

- ATLAS: an opera in three parts, Meredith Monk, 1991

- The Passion of Jonathan Wade (new version), Carlisle Floyd, 1991

- New Year, Sir Michael Tippett, 1989

- Where’s Dick?, Stewart Wallace and Michael Korie, 1989 (TOT)

- The Making of the Representative for Planet 8, Philip Glass and Doris Lessing, 1988

- Nixon in China, John Adams and Alice Goodman, 1987

- A Quiet Place, Leonard Bernstein and Stephen Wadsworth, 1983

- Starbird, Henry Mollicone and Kate Pogue, 1980 (TOT)

- Willie Stark, Carlisle Floyd, 1981

- Bilby’s Doll, Carlisle Floyd, 1976

- The Seagull, Thomas Pasatieri and Kenward Elmslie, 1974

American premieres

- Akhnaten, Philip Glass, 1984

- La donna del lago (new critical edition), Gioacchino Rossini, 1981

- The Panther, Philip Glass, 1981 (HGOS)

- Robinson Crusoé, Jacques Offenbach, 1977 (TOT)

- Rinaldo (stage premiere), George Frideric Handel, 1975

OTG = work was premiered by Opera to Go!

TOT = work was premiered by Texas Opera Theater, HGO’s former touring company

HGOS = work was premiered by Houston Grand Opera Studio

Tours

Houston Grand Opera productions have toured to Broadway, the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, the Lincoln Center Festival, the Edinburgh Festival, the American Music Theater Festival and The Mann Center, and to San Francisco, Boston, Philadelphia, Seattle, Detroit, Los Angeles, San Diego, Washington D.C. and numerous other U.S. cities. Internationally, HGO productions have traveled to Paris, Milan, Berlin, Cairo, Zurich, Genoa and Palermo, and to Japan, Canada and Israel.

Recordings, television and radio appearances

Audio Recordings

- Three Decembers: Last Acts, Albany, 2008

- The Refuge, Albany, 2008

- Cold Sassy Tree, Albany, 2005

- Of Mice and Men, Albany, 2004

- Florencia en el Amazonas, Albany, 2002

- Resurrection, Albany, 2002

- Little Women, Ondine, 2001

- Jackie O, Argo/Decca, 1997

- Song of Majnun, Delos, 1997

- The Dracula Diary, Catalyst/BMG, 1994

- ATLAS: an opera in three parts, ECM, 1992

- Nixon in China, Nonesuch, 1988

- Treemonisha, Deutsche Grammophon, 1982

- Porgy and Bess, RCA, 1976

Nationally Televised Productions

- Little Women, PBS’s Great Performances, August 2001

- La Cenerentola, PBS’s Great Performances, April 1996

- Nixon in China, PBS’s Great Performances, April 1988

- Aida, PBS’s Great Performances, October 1987

- Treemonisha, PBS, February 1986

- Willie Stark, PBS’s Great Performances, October 1981

Videocassette Recordings

- La Cenerentola, London/Decca, 1996

- Treemonisha, Kultur Video, 1982

Radio Broadcasts

- WFMT Radio Network, 2007–present

- Australian Broadcast Corporation broadcasts HGO’s performances, 2003

- European Broadcast Union broadcasts HGO’s performances, 2002–present

- New York City’s WQXR broadcasts HGO’s performances, 2002–present

- NPR’s World of Opera broadcasts HGO’s performances nationally, 1999–2007

- KUHF 88.7FM broadcasts HGO’s seasons locally, 1996-1999

- KRTS 92.1FM broadcasts HGO’s seasons locally, 1987-1995

Awards

Emmy Awards

- Hitting the High Cs, Marion Kessell and Rick Christie, 1998

- Nixon in China, John Adams and Alice Goodman, 1987

Grammy Awards

- Nixon in China, John Adams and Alice Goodman, 1987

- Porgy and Bess, George Gershwin and DuBose Heyward, 1976

Tony Awards

- Porgy and Bess, George Gershwin and DuBose Heyward, 1976

- Grand Prix du Disques

- Porgy and Bess, George Gershwin and DuBose Heyward, 1976

Wortham Theatre Center

In 1987, Houston Grand Opera officially moved to the Wortham Theater Center, HGO’s $72 million home. The sum was raised entirely from private funds during a major downturn in Houston’s economy. In 1997, improvements were made to the Wortham Theater Center that included the addition of 180 seats in the main orchestra section and the expansion and reconfiguration of the orchestra pit. Another major renovation and expansion of the orchestra pit was completed in 2005.

HGOco

There is a compelling need for a sustained and broadly diverse arts organization that makes community collaboration a chief priority. HGO has responded to this dilemma with HGOco, a far-reaching initiative that seeks to break down barriers to the arts by creating opportunities for observation, participation and creation. Through collaborative artistic projects, the company can engage many members of our community who have traditionally remained outside the reach of Houston Grand Opera.

These programs are included under the umbrella of HGOco:

HGOco Programs for Music Professionals

Houston Grand Opera Studio
Co-founded in 1977 by David Gockley (HGO’s general director from 1972 to 2005) and composer Carlisle Floyd, Houston Grand Opera Studio is a nationally acclaimed training and performance program dedicated to the advancement of young artists with the potential for major careers in the opera/music theater profession. The program serves as a model for other apprenticeship programs in the United States. Among the distinguished alumni of the Houston Opera Studio who now enjoy major careers are Joyce DiDonato, Ana María Martínez, Richard Paul Fink, Bruce Ford, Denyce Graves, Jan Grissom, Eric Halfvarson, John Keyes, Marquita Lister, Susanne Mentzer, Lee Merrill, Erie Mills, Eugene Perry, Herbert Perry, Marietta Simpson, Mark Thomsen, Margaret Jane Wray, Raymond Very and Stella Zambalis. Laura Canning will become program director of the Studio in August 2008, succeeding baritone Hector Vásquez; Kathleen Kelly is the Studio’s music director.

The Eleanor McCollum Competition for Young Singers
(formerly the Eleanor McCollum Auditions and Awards program) was established in 1989 to identify young singers and award career development grants to promising young artists. The competition secures a pool of candidates for the Houston Grand Opera Studio. Each year HGO auditions more than 400 singers throughout the U.S. for the opportunity to compete in Houston for awards and cash prizes. Semi-finals are held over the course of three days, followed by three days of intensive auditions and interviews leading to the finals Concert of Arias gala evening.

HGOco Programs for Students

Storybook Opera


HGOco’s teaching artists animate children’s stories and mathematical concepts through spoken word and music.Stories performed include:

Westward Ho, Carlotta by Candace Fleming,Opera Cat by Tess Weaver,The Dog Who Sang at the Opera by Jim West & Marshell Izen, andAlma, la Gata de la Ópera by Tess Weaver.

High School Night at the Opera and Student Matinees


This program offers heavily discounted performances of a main stage production exclusively for Houston area students and their teachers.

Opera to Go!


A collaboration with a local professional touring company, Opera to Go! presents fully staged “portable” operas in English for students in grades K–12. Opera to Go! performances reach over 50,000 students each year through performances given for school groups and for the public. Performed works include children’s versions of Hansel and Gretel, How Nanita Learned to Make Flan, Cenicienta en España / Cinderella in Spain, Butterfly Opera, and Romeo and Juliet.

Teacher Workshops


HGOco’s Teacher Workshops allow local teachers to attend HGO dress rehearsals and then develop ideas to incorporate opera and the arts into their curricula. Teachers receive TEA Continuing Education hours for attending the workshops.

Children’s Chorus


Appearing this season in productions of Puccini’s Tosca and Tchaikovsky’s The Queen of Spades, HGO’s Children’s Chorus provides an outstanding opportunity for young, talented singers from the Houston area to perform in mainstage productions alongside leading artists.

Though final casting is dependent on the artistic needs of each production, children between the ages of 8 and 14 audition for HGO’s Children’s Chorus, under the direction of Karen Reeves.

Opera Camps


HGOco offers summer day camps for students. Participants are taught proper vocal technique, music theory, stage movement, ensemble performance and other facets of opera stagecraft. Each camp culminates with solo and ensemble performances for the public. In The Opera Experience, campers in grades 4-9 learn music fundamentals and improve their singing using Broadway-style songs. In Create an Opera, campers grades 3-6 create their own opera based on a popular children’s book. Finally, in The Art of Opera, campers grades 7-12 enhance vocal and dramatic skills in a fully-staged opera or music theater work.

High School Voice Studio


This year-long program for promising young singers includes private weekly voice lessons, masterclasses, vocal coachings from Houston Grand Opera staff, and performances. In addition to the vocal instruction, participants gain a “behind the scenes” look at a professional opera company by attending off- and on-stage rehearsals and shadowing production personnel backstage during performances. Participants receive assistance with applications and auditions for college vocal programs.

In addition to improving vocal skills, the program is designed to enhance self-esteem, find healthy means of expression, teach rigorous standards of achievement, and reward disciplined commitment.

Auditions take place each April and are open to juniors entering their senior year who attend high school in the greater Houston area.

HGOco Programs for the Community

Song of Houston


Houston’s past, present, and future set the perfect stage for HGOco's ground-breaking Song of Houston, an ongoing series of new works that shares the stories of Houstonians who define the unique character of our city.

Song of Houston makes opera relevant through stories that engage hearts and minds through collaborative community and educational projects that push the limits of the traditional arts and incorporate music-making, photography, creative writing and visual art.

The Refuge 2007-2008


The first commissioned work of Song of Houston, The Refuge, brought together stories from Houston's Mexican, Central American, Indian, Pakistani, Soviet-era Jewish, African and Vietnamese communities in an ambitious and historic new work.

Composed by Christopher Theofanidis with a libretto by Leah Lax, The Refuge tells the stories of extraordinary individual journeys to - and in - Houston. The Refuge was not only a song of Houston; it was a portrait of contemporary America, and a celebration of the experiences that unite us all.

In conjunction with The Refuge and through creative collaborations with 58 local, national and international organizations including National Geographic, Doctors Without Borders, Writers in the Schools, Inprint, Museum of Fine Arts, Houston and others, HGOco developed a series of community and school projects that explored cultural identity.

The Blues: Now and Then 2008-2009


Song of Houston’s Now and Then, a celebration of the blues in Houston, was developed in the heart of Houston’s Third Ward in 2008/09 as a collaboration between Houston Grand Opera, Golden Age Hobby House, University of Houston Creative Writing Program, Shepherd School of Music Composition Department, Inprint, Project Row Houses, Houston Blues Society and SugarHill Recording Studios.

Traditional blues music by Texas Johnny Brown and The Quality Blues Band, combined with new works by John L. Cornelius, II, Ethan Frederick Greene and Andrew Nishikawa, created an unforgettable legacy of new work based on stories from the past.

The Neff Project 2008-2009


Students of Houston’s Pat Neff Elementary School undertook a year-long curriculum-based exploration of the distinct character of their Sharpstown community.

The resulting, school-wide “book report” was a delightfully diverse Hooray for Neff Festival, celebrating the stories and people of Sharpstown through visual art, song, dance, quilts, photography exhibits and original writing.

Mexico 2010


In conjunction with the anniversaries of Mexican Independence and Revolution in 2010, Song of Houston will explore the enduring bonds and divisions between Mexico and the United States and celebrates the incredible migration of the Monarch butterfly.

Mexico 2010 will include the world premiere of a butterfly-themed new work for middle and high school students, available for performances in schools and community centers.

Inspired by the Monarch's migration, HGOco and Rice University’s Center for Education bring together educational partners, community organizations and other collaborators to provide curriculum-based activities for teachers and students, create butterfly habitat gardens throughout the city and increase awareness about issues of ecology and conservation.

East + West 2010-2014


This groundbreaking, four-year program will celebrate Houston as a meeting place for Eastern and Western cultures. A series of chamber operas will explore the stories of first and second-generation immigrants, people displaced by war, as well as their folklore and cultural inheritance.

The Genevieve P. Demme Archives and Resource Center

In 1989, Houston Grand Opera became the first performing arts organization in Houston and the second major U.S. opera company to establish its own archives and resource center. The facility preserves valuable materials from throughout the company’s history. The archive houses of institutional records including programs, artist files, production records, audio and video recordings, financial records and photographic images in a wide range of formats. The Archives and Resource Center is named for Genevieve P. Demme, a longtime member of the board of trustees and historian of Houston Grand Opera Association.

Nexus initiative

The Nexus Initiative is a ground-breaking audience development program that will allow more Houston community members to experience the joy of live performance. Funded by a consortium of Houston's visionary corporate leaders, Nexus provides $10 tickets to eligible groups attending HGO for the first time, such as students (elementary through graduate school), community, church, service and cultural organizations, and senior citizens. The Nexus initiative also underwrites selected subscription packages in the Orchestra, Grand Tier and Balcony, allowing HGO to keep subscription prices affordable for new audiences. The Nexus Initiative has received leadership support from Anadarko Petroleum Corporation, Chevron and KPMG LLP.

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