Nov. 27, 2023

O’ Wortham Tree, How Lovely Are Thy Branches?

The 33rd annual Tree Lighting at Wortham Theater Center ushers in the season.

November 22, 2023—From the moment the doors to the Wortham Theater Center opened to the public, the Christmas spirit burned bright. Poinsettias rested on every surface as far as the eye could see, the Grand Foyer rang with the Mercury Chamber Orchestra’s live renditions of holiday classics, and the Wortham tree, adorned in red and gold, stood waiting to be lit and officially kick off the holiday season.   

It was the 33rd annual Wortham Tree Lighting hosted by Houston First, and families from across Houston gathered to celebrate the spirit of the season with Houston Grand Opera, The Houston Ballet, Mercury Chamber Orchestra, and DACAMERA. Glittering displays from the organizations enticed passersby into their midst as people played games, decorated crafts, and even competed to win free tickets to the opera.   


As the ceremony began, Khori Dastoor, HGO’s General Director and CEO, took to the stage to address the crowd. “What a festive day! This time of year is all about family and togetherness, which has inspired us at HGO as we’ve programmed our offerings this season,” she said. “What a treat to celebrate the season with you all as we officially light the Wortham tree!” 

Soon after, the Sugar Plum Fairy swept in. With a wave of her wand and some help from the crowd, she lit up the 26-foot tree in a dazzling display of light.  


With the event in high gear, food stations doled out hot chocolate as a reprieve from the cold, spooning dollops of whipped cream into steaming cups. There were even festively shaped cookies, which is probably why Santa Claus himself stopped by for a bite! Children of all ages flocked to see the jolly old man, waiting patiently in line to whisper their wishes into his ear.  


Then, the biggest treat of all: parents and their little ones sat themselves in front of the stage to hear from two of HGO’s Butler Studio artists, soprano Meryl Dominguez and pianist Marco Rizzello, as they performed holiday hits including O’ Holy Night, Jingle Bell Rock, and “My Favorite Things” from The Sound of Music.  

If you’re worried you missed out on the magic and music, don’t be! Explore the holiday displays at Sugar Plum Plaza, which is what we’re calling the Wortham’s Fish Plaza for the duration of the season. Better yet, treat yourself or a loved one to the gift of opera this holiday season by visiting  

Photo Credit: Egidio Narvaez

New This Season! Explore downtown Houston’s latest attraction: a captivating series of interactive music boxes created by LeMonde Studio and presented by the Houston Theater District in partnership with Lynn Wyatt Square, Market Square Park, and Trebly Park. Make music with these larger-than-life creations, among them a giant Nutcracker, a guitar slide, massive boombox, a banjo, and more, each with its own unique soundtrack. There are different boxes throughout downtown to discover, so get out there!  

about the author
Amber Francis
Amber Francis is Communications Coordinator at Houston Grand Opera.