La favorite

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07:30 PM
02:00 PM
07:30 PM
07:30 PM
02:00 PM
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Sung in French with projected English translation


Appropriate for all ages

Running Time

2 hours and 50 minutes
1 intermission


La favorite
Secret love bound by silence.

HGO Premiere

Once the most performed opera of its time, this bel canto drama features some of the most challenging arias ever written. Woven into Donizetti’s now–rarely performed La favorite is a classic love triangle among a noblewoman, king, and warrior.

Opera powerhouse and HGO Studio alumna Jamie Barton and international star Lawrence Brownlee return to Houston for this HGO premiere.

Sung in French with projected English translation.

Léonor de Guzman   Jamie Barton
Fernand   Lawrence Brownlee
Alphonse XI   Jacques Imbrailo
Balthazar   Federico De Michelis
Don Gaspar   Christopher Bozeka
Inès   Elena Villalón
Conductor   Patrick Summers
Director   Kevin Newbury
Set Designer   Victoria Tzykun
Costume Designer   Jessica Jahn
Lighting Designer   D.M. Wood


Houston Grand Opera Orchestra and Chorus
Richard Bado, Chorus Master
The Sarah and Ernest Butler Chorus Master Chair


A co-production with The Metropolitan Opera


In the Monastery of St. James, the monks are making their way to worship. Superior Balthazar, father of the Queen of Castile, enters with Fernand. Fernand confesses that he wishes to renounce his novitiate because he has fallen in love with a beautiful, but as yet unknown, lady. His faith in God remains, but he wishes to leave the monastery in search of her. Balthazar angrily sends Fernand out of the monastery, warning him of the dangers of the outside world. He predicts that Fernand will one day return to the cloisters, a disappointed if wiser man. Fernand finds his lady, Léonor, and declares his love for her while still unaware of her real identity. He is met by Inès, Léonor’s companion, who impresses him with the need for secrecy. Léonor enters. She tells him that their love can only lead to sorrow and that they must not meet again before handing him a document to help him in his future. Shortly after, the arrival of Castilian King Alphonse XI is announced and Léonor leaves. Fernand is left believing that Léonor’s social rank must be so high that she could never stoop to marry him. Reading the document she has left him, he finds a commission in the army—an opportunity for advancement and for him to gratify his highest ambitions.


Alphonse, with the help of Fernand, who is now a military officer, has defeated the Marinids and taken Alcazar. In conversation with the courtier Don Gaspar, Alphonse expresses his pleasure at Fernand's bravery. Alone, the king expresses his love for Léonor and his desire to divorce the Queen and marry her. He realizes this will provoke the opposition of his powerful father-in-law, Balthazar, who is ultimately backed by the Pope. Léonor enters and expresses her anguish at remaining his mistress rather than his Queen. King Alphonse suspects that he is losing her affection. Don Gaspar enters with news that a letter has been discovered revealing that Léonor has a lover. She makes no denial, but at that moment Balthazar enters, a Papal Bull in hand, and threatens King Alphonse with an interdict if he does not abandon his plans for the royal divorce.



Alphonse is to honor Fernand for his role in the war. He asks Fernand what reward he would like and Fernand asks to marry the woman who has inspired him in his bravery. Alphonse asks who she is, and Fernand indicates that it is Léonor. The king is astonished to learn that Fernand is his successful rival. In an abrupt change of mind, he orders Fernand and Léonor to marry within one hour. Léonor is left with mixed feelings of apprehension and delight. She decides that Fernand must be informed about her past and sends Inès to him with a letter confessing her true identity. However, unknown to Léonor, Inès is arrested before she can see him. Fernand only learns the truth after the wedding ceremony. Considering himself dishonored by the King, he leaves Léonor and entrusts himself to Balthazar.


Balthazar's daughter, the Queen, has died of jealousy and grief, and her body has been sent to him at the Monastery of St. James. Prayers are being said for her repose. Fernand is preparing to enter his new religious life. Léonor enters in a state of exhaustion and faints before the cross. At first Fernand rejects her, but eventually moved by her love and sincerity, he is willing to give himself to her once more, but it is too late. Léonor collapses once more and dies in his arms.


Jamie Barton
Léonor de Guzman
Jacques Imbrailo
Alphonse XI
Don Gaspar


Patrick Summers
Kevin Newbury
Set Designer
Jessica Jahn
Costume Designer
D.M. Wood
Lighting Designer
Richard Bado
Chorus Master

* HGO debut
** HGO Studio Artist
*** Former HGO Studio Artist
Production Sponsors