Lifetime Trustee Catherine Merchant was first appointed to the HGO Board of Trustees by founder Elva Lobit in 1960, although her involvement with HGO began two years earlier. It was then that she attended her first HGO board meeting with her friend Lois Townsend, who was singing the role of the Marschallin in the company's production of Der Rosenkavalier in the 1958–59 season. Catherine volunteered to work backstage for the production, becoming the company's very first props manager.
The following season, she worked on Die Fledermaus and even staged and directed the show for the Arkansas State Opera in 1961, when it was rare for a woman to hold such a position with an opera company. In 2005, Catherine had the pleasure of being backstage at HGO once again, where she was able to meet Susan Graham and Laura Claycomb, two of the stars of this year's production. She has now come full circle as a Production Funder for this season's Die Fledermaus.

Having graduated from Texas Woman's University with a degree in voice and instruments, Catherine was later invited to study productions at the famous Glyndebourne and Bayreuth opera festivals in England and Germany, respectively. While at Glyndebourne in the summer of 1959, she was able to observe the process of the festival's founder and artistic director, famed stage director Carl Ebert, in the last productions before his retirement. At Bayreuth, she had the unusual privilege of watching a performance of Parsifal from a backstage light tower, and was also allowed to sit in the orchestra pit under the stage during a performance of Lohengrin.
Catherine's favorite opera composer is Mozart and her most memorable opera at HGO was the 1959 production of Die Walküre, when she became friends with Wagnerian soprano Margaret Harshaw. Her favorite singer is Renata Tebaldi, whom she saw perform many times in opera and concert.
After retiring from being behind the scenes, Catherine volunteered in the Houston Grand Opera archives and events planning departments. In addition to supporting HGO, she is a member of the Daughters of the Republic of Texas and contributes to the Houston Symphony, where she began volunteering in 1947, even donating a contrabassoon after many instruments were destroyed during Tropical Storm Allison.
With such a connection to the opera––from working props backstage to staging and directing––Catherine is thrilled to be involved with Die Fledermaus once again.