The House without
a Christmas Tree

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Sung in English with projected text


Appropriate for all ages

Running Time

1 hour and 12 minutes
no intermission


Healed by the holiday spirit.


Addie Mills is smart and energetic, just like the mother she never knew. Addie has no idea why her father resents the holidays so intensely, refusing even to allow a Christmas tree in the house. But when she brings home a tree she won in a school contest, it paves the way for a miracle of sorts—her father’s broken soul is transformed. 

The House without a Christmas Tree, a world premiere opera by Ricky Ian Gordon and Royce Vavrek, is based on the original story by Gail Rock and the beloved 1972 television movie of the same name.

Based on The House without a Christmas Tree by Gail Rock.
Music by Ricky Ian Gordon.
Libretto by Royce Vavrek.

Cast and Creative Team

Adelaide "Addie" Mills Lauren Snouffer
James "Dad" Addison Mills III Daniel Belcher
Grandma Mills Patricia Schuman
Miss Thompson / Helen Mills
/ Adelaide Mills
Heidi Stober
Conductor Bradley Moore
Director  James Robinson
Set Designer  Allen Moyer
Costume Designer  James Schuette
Lighting Designer  Christopher Akerlind
Sound Designer Andrew Harper
Juvenile Chorus Director Karen Reeves

Houston Grand Opera Orchestra and Juvenile Chorus

Setting: New York City, 1982, and Clear River, Nebraska, 1962


During the holiday season in 1982, Adelaide Mills, a writer living in New York, recalls a special Christmas in Clear River, Nebraska, where she grew up. We see the events of Christmas 1962 unfold:

Young “Addie” lives with her father and her paternal grandmother. As long as Addie can remember, Dad has refused to allow a Christmas tree in the house. Addie suspects he doesn’t want to spend money on a tree, but Grandma knows the true reason—her son has shut down emotionally since the loss of his wife, Addie’s mother.

At school, Addie’s teacher, Miss Thompson, improvises a contest to determine which of her two treeless students—Addie and Gloria Cott—can take home the fully decorated class tree before the holiday break begins. Addie wins and brings the tree home. She watches for Dad’s reaction: he softens as he relives warm memories of his last Christmas with his wife, but when he notices Addie observing him, he suddenly explodes and tells her the tree must go. When Grandma and Dad are asleep, Addie takes the tree to Gloria Cott’s house, rings the bell, and runs away.

But Dad has undergone a change of heart. When he, Grandma, and Addie return to the house after the annual Christmas pageant, Addie is amazed to find a large Christmas tree in the living room. Dad crowns it with a star made by Addie’s mother—the same star that now adorns the top of the grown-up Adelaide’s tree in New York.


Lauren Snouffer
Addie Mills
Daniel Belcher
James Addison Mills III (“Dad”)
Patricia Schuman
Grandma Mills
Heidi Stober
Miss Thompson/Helen Mills/Adelaide Mills
Megan Mikailovna Samarin
Carla Mae
Elisabeth Leone
Gloria Cott
Billy Wild


Ricky Ian Gordon
Royce Vavrek
Bradley Moore
Set Designer
Costume Designer

* HGO debut
** HGO Studio Artist
*** Former HGO Studio Artist
2017-18 Season Brochure
Season Sponsors

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