• Kern Hammerstein: Show Boat
    Photography by Felix Sanchez

  • Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein II: Show Boat – NEW PRODUCTION!
    Brown Theater | Sung in English

    Houston Grand Opera is proud to present a new production of the American masterpiece Show Boat, Jan. 18 – Feb. 9, 2013. Filled with memorable hits such as “Ol’ Man River” and “Can’t Help Lovin’ Dat Man,” the new production will be directed by Francesca Zambello, with HGO Artistic and Music Director Patrick Summers conducting.

    This landmark work by Jerome Kern, with lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II, is based on the book by American novelist Edna Ferber. The show gave American musical theater and opera a new expression—one with powerful subject matter, astonishing musical variety, and an unmistakably American voice. With its unsurpassed and wiser-than-words book, this epic romantic musical charts the lives of white theater folk and a Mississippi black community over three generations, revealing the racial and social changes that were shaping the country.

    While acting on her father’s show boat, The Cotton Blossom, Magnolia Hawkes falls for the irresistible gambling cad, Gaylord Ravenal. Magnolia and Gaylord take over the main roles of the show and fall in love. They eventually marry and move to Chicago, but when his gambling luck runs out, Gaylord leaves. Magnolia moves on with her life—ultimately becoming a major star. Meanwhile, Magnolia’s friend, the tragic singer Julie La Verne, is forced to leave the Cotton Blossom when her race is revealed. Crushed as she is by Southern bigotry, she is still able to give Magnolia the gift of hope and belief when they meet later in their lives.

    At the center of the vivid chronicle is the impressionable young Magnolia Hawkes, sung by American mezzo-soprano Sasha Cooke. Recently, Cooke sung the role of Kitty Oppenheimer in the Metropolitan Opera’s premiere of John Adams’ Doctor Atomic. The New Yorker proclaimed a “fresh, vital portrayal, bringing a luminous tone, a generously supported musical line, a keen sense of verbal nuance, and a flair for seduction.”

    Gaylord will be sung by Canadian tenor Joseph Kaiser. Born in Montreal, Quebec, he won second prize in Plácido Domingo’s Operalia competition in 2005, and made his Metropolitan Opera debut in 2007 as Roméo in Roméo et Juliette. The New York Times commented: “Mr. Kaiser has an ardent, youthful and warm tenor voice…keen musical intelligence and elegantly stylish phrasing. Tall, handsome and agile, he has an appealing stage presence.” He recently debuted with Opéra National de Paris as Lensky in Eugene Onegin. This year, he returned to Covent Garden as Tamino in Die Zauberflöte and to the Munich Festival as Don Ottavio in Don Giovanni.

    Julie La Verne will be sung by American soprano Melody Moore. A 2007 Adler Fellow and former Merola Opera Program participant, Moore is one of America’s exciting new talents. She has been acclaimed for her “remarkably controlled voice that goes from meltingly soft to the height of emotion and projection without strain.” (San Francisco Classical Voice.)

    Singing the role of Queenie, the boat’s cook and surrogate mother to Magnolia, is American mezzo-soprano and HGO Studio alumna Marietta Simpson. She has sung under many of the world’s great conductors as well as performing at the world’s most prestigious festivals, including Tanglewood, Glyndebourne, Bregenz in Austria, Edinburgh Festival, and New York’s Lincoln Center Festival. Of her portrayal of Maria in Porgy and Bess for Lyric Opera of Chicago, Opera News wrote, “Marietta Simpson’s earthy Maria was appropriately feisty and warmly maternal.”

    Atlanta native Morris Robinson sings Joe. Robinson has enjoyed a meteoric rise in the opera world. After finishing the Metropolitan Opera’s Lindemann Young Artist Development Program, he made his debut at the Metropolitan Opera in Fidelio. Reviewing his concert at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the New York Times praised the singer’s “big, sonorous bass voice, with a strong, slightly steely top and a sepulchral bottom.” Robinson’s first album, Going Home, was released on the Decca label. Robinson will also sing in HGO’s production of Don Giovanni.

    Director Francesca Zambello, known for her psychologically probing interpretations of the theater and operatic repertoire, made her operatic debut at HGO with Fidelio in 1984. Since then, she has staged productions at major houses throughout Europe and America. Fluent in five languages, she takes special interest in new theater works and innovative opera productions for wider audiences. Zambello said, “Show Boat is about people who live in the theater world, and the river tells the story. It will give audiences an understanding of the world we come from—politically, socially, and economically, as well as a love for our own traditions of music-making.”

    A co-production with Lyric Opera of Chicago, San Francisco Opera, and Washington National Opera.

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