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Brown Theater


Oct. 20 - Nov. 3, 2023

The Women Who Won the War 

The Civil War is raging, and the country is burning. Men are slaughtering each other on the battlefield, but it is two women who possess the deadliest weapon of all: intelligence, made more powerful by its invisibility. Who would guess that Elizabeth Van Lew, from a prominent Confederate family, is running a secret pro-Union spy ring? That Mary Jane Bowser, born into slavery in the Van Lew household, not only has been taught to read and write, but is also possessed of a photographic memory? The HGO-commissioned world-premiere opera Intelligence, inspired by the little-known true story of these two unlikely spies, unfolds as Elizabeth sends Mary Jane to live in the Confederate White House. As Mary Jane uncovers the secrets of the Confederacy to share with Union military commanders, she also uncovers the secrets of her own history and identity. Shared through a fusion of music, words, and  dance, this new American epic is the creation of a powerhouse trio: composer Jake Heggie, librettist Gene Scheer, and director/choreographer Jawole Willa Jo Zollar, founder of Urban Bush Women. The production features eight dancers from UBW and a sensational cast led by mezzo-soprano Jamie Barton as Elizabeth, with soprano Janai Brugger making her anticipated company debut as the brilliant Mary Jane. Acclaimed conductor Kwamé Ryan takes the podium for his HGO debut.  

Music by Jake Heggie 

Libretto by Gene Scheer  

Conceived by Jake Heggie, Gene Scheer, and Jawole Willa Jo Zollar  

Produced in Collaboration with Urban Bush Women

  • Price Range
    $20 - $210
  • Age
    Appropriate for all ages.
  • Running Time
  • Language
    Sung in English with projected English text

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Cast & Creative


Jamie Barton

Elizabeth Van Lew

Janai Brugger

Mary Jane Bowser

J‘Nai Bridges


Caitlin Lynch

Callie Van Lew

Nicholas Newton


Michael Mayes

Travis Briggs

Joshua Blue


Courtney J. Cook

Urban Bush Women Company Dancer

Loren Davidson

Urban Bush Women Company Dancer

Kentoria Earle

Urban Bush Women Company Dancer

Roobi Gaskins

Urban Bush Women Company Dancer

Symara Johnson

Urban Bush Women Company Dancer

Bianca Leticia Medina

Urban Bush Women Company Dancer

Love Muwwakkil

Urban Bush Women Company Dancer

Mikaila Ware

Urban Bush Women Company Dancer

Creative Team

Jake Heggie


Gene Scheer


Kwamé Ryan


Jawole Willa Jo Zollar


Mimi Lien

Set Designer

Carlos Soto

Costume Designer

Clair Hummel

Costume Realizer and Designer of Dancer Costumes

John Torres

Lighting Designer

Wendall K. Harrington

Projection Designer

Rasean Davonté Johnson

Projection Designer

Vincent Thomas

Associate Choreographer

Jim Johnson

Dialect Coach

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Houston Grand Opera Orchestra

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Upcoming Productions

Production Sponsors

Premier Guarantor
  • Sara & Bill Morgan

Grand Guarantors
  • The Edgar Foster Daniels Foundation

  • Mellon Foundation

  • Carol Franc Buck Foundation

Grand Underwriters
  • ConocoPhillips

  • Jay Hiemenz

  • Boulware & Valoir / Meg Boulware

  • Terrylin G. Neale

  • Allyson Pritchett

  • Kit Reynolds

  • Margaret Alkek Williams

  • OPERA America / The Opera Fund

  • Michelle Klinger and Ruain Flanagan

  • Brenda Harvey Traylor

  • Kiana Caleb

  • Elaine Decanio

  • David Wolff

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