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About Us

About Houston Grand Opera

Houston Grand Opera (HGO) is one of the largest, most innovative, and most highly acclaimed opera companies in the United States. HGO was the only American finalist for Opera Company of the Year at the 2019 International Opera Awards.

In fulfilling its mission to advance operatic art to serve an ever-evolving audience, HGO leads the field in commissioning and producing new works (73 world premieres to date) and in training and nurturing promising young artists and administrators.

The company 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's pioneering Community and Learning initiative has served as a model for other arts organizations.

The NEXUS Initiative is HGO's multi-year ticket underwriting program that allows Houstonians of all ages and backgrounds to enjoy opera without the barrier of price. Since 2007, NEXUS has enabled more than 250,000 Houstonians to experience opera through discounted single tickets and subscriptions, subsidized student performances, and free productions.

HGO has toured extensively and has won a Tony, two Grammy awards, and three Emmy awards. It is the only opera company to win all three honors.

Mission, Vision & Values

The Vision and Mission of Houston Grand Opera

The mission of HGO is to enrich our diverse community through the art of opera. We will do so by creating, curating, exploring, and producing outstanding experiences centered around the human voice

The Core Values of Houston Grand Opera

    • We believe opera has a vital role to play in the lives of an audience hungry for art, beauty, and meaning. Diversity is no longer just a poetic reference, but a joyous cultural reality the company fully embraces. HGO will honor the classic masterworks but also evolve the art form to serve future generations.
    • We believe our creative dreams for Houston Grand Opera are vital to the cultural pulse of this city and add immeasurably to the quality of life of its many communities. All cultures use words and music to tell their distinct stories, and we have the ability to use opera as a connector to join those communities.
    • HGO seeks to be a global leader in the evolution of the art form, by inspiring it, developing it, training people to deliver it, documenting it, and most importantly, composing it. We will identify and train the next generation of gifted artistic, creative and leadership talent who will create opera’s future.

History of HGO

Houston Grand Opera (HGO), located in Houston, Texas, is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit founded in 1955 by Houstonians Elva Lobit, Edward Bing, and Charles Cockrell, with German-born impresario Walter Herbert as its first conductor and director. HGO's inaugural season featured two performances of two operas, Salome (starring Brenda Lewis in the title role) and Madame Butterfly. David Gockley succeeded Walter Herbert as general director in 1972 and remained in the post until accepting the general directorship at San Francisco Opera in 2005.

Gockley was succeeded at Houston Grand Opera by Anthony Freud, previously the general director at Welsh National Opera. When Freud resigned his post at HGO in 2011 to take the general directorship of Lyric Opera of Chicago, he was succeeded by joint leaders Patrick Summers, who had been music director at HGO since 1998, and Perryn Leech, who joined the company in 2006 and became chief operating officer in 2010. Summers served as artistic and music director, with Leech as managing director. In 2021, after Leech resigned and became general director of Canadian Opera Company, Khori Dastoor joined HGO as general director and chief executive officer, with Summers continuing in his post as artistic and music director. Oversight of the HGO Association is provided by a board of directors; a body of trustees also supports the organization.

The company now presents six to eight productions per season and has an operating budget of $27 million. Houston Grand Opera performances are held in the Wortham Theater Center, a venue with two performance spaces: the Alice and George Brown Theater and the smaller Roy and Lillie Cullen Theater. Their combined capacity is more than 3,300. HGO performed all of its 2017–18 season at the “HGO Resilience Theater,” a temporary space the company created in an exhibit hall at Houston’s George R. Brown Convention Center after the Wortham Theater Center was closed due to flooding from Hurricane Harvey in August 2017. The Wortham Theater Center reopened September 2018.

HGO leads the field in commissioning and producing new works, almost exclusively from American composers, including 73 world premieres. HGO has also staged seven American premieres.

The Houston Grand Opera Studio, founded in 1977, was one of the earliest comprehensive young artist training programs in the United States. It provides advanced training and professional opportunities to outstanding young artists, many of whom have gone on to establish international careers.

Through its Community and Learning initiative, HGO partners with educational and community organizations to provide a variety of artistic experiences to the greater Houston area and the Gulf Coast region.

Houston Grand Opera is supported by an active auxiliary organization, the Houston Grand Opera Guild, established in October 1955.

The company has received a Tony Award, two Grammy Awards, and three Emmy Awards, and is the only opera company in the world to win all three honors.

Awards

National MultiCultural Institute “Leading Lights” Award, 2009 for HGOco, Song of Houston

Emmy Awards
HGO: The Ring Cycle, Sculpting With Time Productions (Alex Douglas and Whitney Douglas), regional Emmys for directing and photography, 2017

Hitting the High Cs, Marion Kessell and Rick Christie, 1998Nixon in China, John Adams and Alice Goodman, 1987
 
Grammy Awards
Nixon in China, John Adams and Alice Goodman, 1987Porgy and Bess, George Gershwin and DuBose Heyward, 1976
 
Tony Award
Porgy and Bess, George Gershwin and DuBose Heyward, 1976

Grand Prix du Disques
Porgy and Bess, George Gershwin and DuBose Heyward, 1976

Premieres

HGO World Premieres through the 2022-23 Season:

74  Another City, Jeremy Howard Beck and Stephanie Fleischmann, March 2023

73  The Impresario of Oz, Mark Buller and Charles Anthony Silvestri, 2022

72  The Snowy Day, Joel Thompson and Andrea Davis Pinkney, 2021

71  Katie: The Strongest of the Strong, 2020

70  Marian’s Song, Damien Sneed and Deborah D.E.E.P. Mouton, 2020

69  El Milagro del Recuerdo/The Miracle of Remembering, Javier Martínez and Leonard Foglia, 2019

68  A Rose (Star-cross’d Episode 3), Kamala Sankaram and Misha Penton, 2019

67  NOW (Star-cross’d Episode 2), Avner Dorman and John Grimmett, 2019

66  The Phoenix, Tarik O’Regan and John Caird, 2019

65  Boundless (Star-cross’d Episode 1), Avner Dorman and Stephanie Fleischmann, 2018

64  Monkey & Francine in the City of Tigers, Kamala Sankaram and David Johnston, 2018

63  The House without a Christmas Tree, Ricky Ian Gordon and Royce Vavrek, 2017

62  Some Light Emerges, Laura Kaminsky and Mark Campbell/Kimberly Reed, 2017

61  It's a Wonderful Life, Jake Heggie and Gene Scheer, 2016

60  After the Storm, David Hanlon and Stephanie Fleischmann, 2016

59  What Wings They Were: The Case of Emeline, John L. Cornelius II and Janine Joseph, 2016

58  Prince of Players, Carlisle Floyd, 2016

57  The Puffed-Up Prima Donna, Mark Buller and Charles Anthony Silvestri, 2016

56  O Columbia, Gregory Spears and Royce Vavrek, 2015

55  The Pastry Prince, Mark Buller and Charles Anthony Silvestri, 2015

54  A Christmas Carol, Iain Bell and Simon Callow, 2014

53  River of Light, Jack Perla and Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni, 2014

52  A Coffin in Egypt, Ricky Ian Gordon and Leonard Foglia, 2014

51  Bound, Huang Ruo and Bao-Long Chu, 2014

50  Rapunzel, Mary Carol Warwick and Alvaro Saar Rios, 2014

49  The Memory Stone, Marty Regan and Kenny Fries, 2013

48  Past the Checkpoints, David Hanlon and Joann Farías, 2013

47  From My Mother’s Mother, Jeeyoung Kim and Janine Joseph, 2012

46  New Arrivals, John Glover and Catherine Filloux, 2012

45  The Bricklayer, Gregory Spears and Farnoosh Moshiri, 2012

44  The Clever Wife–a Chinese Folktale, Mary Carol Warwick and Hugh Behm-Steinberg, 2012

43  Your Name Means the Sea, Franghiz Alizadeh, 2011

42  Courtside, Jack Perla and Eugene Chan, 2011

41  Cruzar la Cara de la Luna / To Cross the Face of the Moon, José “Pepe” Martinez and Leonard Foglia, 2010

40  A Way Home, Ethan Frederick Greene and Irene Keliher, 2010

39  Brief Encounter, André Previn and John Caird, 2009

38  Sleeping Beauty, Edward Charles Winkler, 2008

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

36  The Refuge, Christopher Theofanidis and Leah Lax, 2007

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

34  Strega Nona, Mary Carol Warwick and Mary Ann Pendino, 2006

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

32  The Princess and the Pea, Mary Carol Warwick and Mary Ann Pendino, 2005

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

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

29  The Velveteen Rabbit, Mary Carol Warwick and Kate Pogue, 2004

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

27  Sibanda!, Michael Remson, 2003

26  The Emperor's New Clothes, Mary Carol Warwick and Kate Pogue, 2001

25  Cold Sassy Tree, Carlisle Floyd, 2000

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

23  Little Women, Mark Adamo, 1998

22  Cinderella in Spain/Cinderella en España, Mary Carol Warwick and Kate Pogue, 1998

21  Jackie O, Michael Daugherty and Wayne Koestenbaum, 1997

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

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

18  Puppy and the Big Guy, Sterling Tinsley and Kate Pogue, 1995

17  Harvey Milk, Stewart Wallace and Michael Korie, 1995

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

15  The Dracula Diary, Robert Moran and James Skofield, 1994

14  TEXAS!, Mary Carol Warwick and Kate Pogue, 1993

13  The Achilles Heel, Craig Bohmler and Mary Carol Warwick, 1993

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

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

10  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

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

Willie Stark, Carlisle Floyd, 1981

Bilby's Doll, Carlisle Floyd, 1976

1  The Seagull, Thomas Pasatieri and Kenward Elmslie, 1974

 

In addition to operas, HGO has premiered these smaller-scale works: 

14  In Our Care, D.J. Sparr and Janine Joseph, 2021

13  Songs for Murdered Sisters, Jake Heggie and Margaret Atwood, 2021

12  Rodeo Songs; songs by Desmond Ikegwuonu, Samuel Hunter, Mark Buller, Daniel Webbon, and Brent Michael Davids; texts by Desmond Ikegwuonu, Samuel Hunter, Mark Buller, Daniel Webbon, Andrea White, Kelly Finn, and Juanita Pahdopony; 2020

11  Sheltered Garden, Jamie Leidwinger, with text by The American Boy Scouting Manual, Alice Duer Miller, H.D., and Kathleen Kelly, 2018

10  After Harvey, Emma Wine and Rukmini Kamalangalam, 2018

Harmony of Trees, Austin Brake, 2018

Veterans Songbook; songs by Mark Buller, Henry Darragh, Nicholas Davies, Clare Glackin, George Heathco, Madeline Styskal, Mary Carol Warwick, Kate Wasserman, and Ryan Adam Wells; texts by John Sandel, Sally, Doris Forte, Monique Rodriguez, Christina Valenzuela, Nick Bassitt, Oskar Yetzirah, Sarah Rollings, Nealy, Chrissy Bassitt, Larry Rider, Mario Cook, Anthony J. Butina, Leah Lax, and Anonymous; 2017

Overboard, Mark Buller and Leah Lax, 2017

This Book, Jake Landau and Alfonsina Stormi, 2016

5  Power, David Hanlon and Schola Gbashah, 2015

On This Muddy Water, D.J. Sparr and Janine Joseph, 2014

The Ninth November I Was Hiding, David Hanlon, 2013

The Kashmere Cycle, John L. Cornelius II, 2012

Pieces of 9/11, Jake Heggie and Gene Scheer, 2011

 

HGO American Premieres

The Passenger, Mieczyslaw Weinberg, 2014

Akhnaten, Philip Glass, 1984

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

The Panther, Philip Glass, 1981

Robinson Crusoé, Jacques Offenbach, 1977

Rinaldo (stage premiere), George Frideric Handel, 1975

Hugh the Drover, Ralph Vaughan Williams, 1973

 

Recordings

Audio Recordings

O'Regan/Caird: The Phoenix,  Pentatone, 2020

Gordon/Vavrek: The House without a Christmas Tree, Pentatone, 2018

Heggie/Scheer: It’s a Wonderful Life, Pentatone, 2017

Gordon/Foglia: A Coffin in Egypt, Albany, 2014

Heggie/McNally: Dead Man Walking, EMI, 2012

Martinez/Foglia: Cruzar la Cara de la Luna/ To Cross the Face of the Moon, Albany, 2011

Previn/Caird: Brief Encounter, 2011

Heggie/Scheer: Three Decembers, Albany, 2009

Theofanidis/Lax: The Refuge, Albany, 2008

Floyd: Cold Sassy Tree, Albany, 2005

Floyd: Of Mice and Men, Albany, 2004

Catán/Fuentes-Berain: Florencia en el Amazonas, Albany, 2002

Machover/Harrington: Resurrection, Albany, 2002

Adamo: Little Women, Ondine, 2001

Daugherty/Koestenbaum: Jackie O, Argo/Decca, 1997

Sheng: Song of Majnun, Delos, 1997

Moran/Skofield: The Dracula Diary, Catalyst/BMG, 1994

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

Adams/Goodman: Nixon in China, Nonesuch, 1988

Joplin: Treemonisha, Deutsche Grammophon, 1982

Gershwin/Heyward: Porgy and Bess, RCA, 1976

 

Video Recordings

Adamo: Little Women, Naxos, DVD, 2010

Rossini: La Cenerentola, London/Decca,VHS and DVD, 1996

Joplin: Treemonisha, Kultur Video, VHS, 1982

Archives

In 1989, Houston Grand Opera established the Genevieve P. Demme Archives and Resource Center, named in honor of a longtime member of the board of trustees and historian of Houston Grand Opera Association. The facility preserves valuable materials from the company's history. The archive houses 3,500 linear feet of institutional records including programs, artists files, production records, audio and video recordings, financial records, and photographic images in a wide range of formats.

Houston Grand Opera Archives and Resource Center is an organizational archive. Public research is by appointment only. Some record series are restricted. For research requests or questions pertaining to Houston Grand Opera history, contact Archive Director Brian Mitchell at 713-546-0238 or bmitchell@hgo.org.

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