Sarah Frumkin, HGO Communications Intern
On May 22, 2017, Houston Grand Opera (HGO) proudly announced the most ambitious artistic community initiative in its history: Seeking the Human Spirit (STHS). The six-year (2017–23) initiative strives to emphasize spiritual themes in opera, and thus expand and deepen Houstonians’ connections to opera and to art. It is to be launched in fall 2017.
HGO and its six partner organizations (Houston Methodist and its Center for Performing Arts Medicine; Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; The Jung Center; the Rothko Chapel; Sacred Sites Quest; and the Women’s Home/Institute for Spirituality and Health) plan to create complementary activities. These activities are designed to provide participants with an enriched experience of opera and the arts. The public will have access to some of these activities, while groups like hospital patients, women overcoming homelessness, and young people pursuing interfaith projects will participate in others along with attending the opera performances.
STHS, conceived by Patrick Summers, HGO’s artistic and music director, comprises three mainstage operas each season united by a single theme. In 2017–18, the STHS works will be tied to the theme of Sacrifice: Verdi’s La traviata (October 20–November 11, 2017); the world premiere of Ricky Ian Gordon and Royce Vavrek’s The House without a Christmas Tree (November 30–December 17, 2017); and Bellini’s Norma (April 27–May 11, 2018)). The 2018–19 mainstage operas, tied to the theme of Transformation, will include Wagner’s The Flying Dutchman (fall 2018); Catán’s Florencia en el Amazonas (winter 2019); and the world premiere of The Phoenix (spring 2019) by Tarik O’Regan and John Caird.
New works will be an important part of STHS. Mentioned above, the world premiere of Ricky Ian Gordon and Royce Vayrek’s The House without a Christmas Tree is based on the story by Gail Rock, which was also turned into a popular 1970s TV special. The House without a Christmas Tree involves a precocious young girl who does not understand her father’s resentment of the holidays and longs for a beautiful Christmas tree. The Phoenix, another new work, stars Luca Pisaroni and Thomas Hampson, respectively, as the young and grown Lorenzo da Ponte—the librettist for some of Mozart’s greatest operas. Future seasons of STHS will include productions of Handel’s Saul, Donizetti’s La favorite, R. Strauss’s Salome, Wagner’s Tannhäuser, and a world premiere by Adam Guettel based on H. G. Wells’s The Invisible Man.
Patrick Summers explains his inspiration to create STHS: “Opera takes the human spirit in this grand cathartic way and sings back to you. I wanted us to explore a set of pieces that have some vein of spirituality as their artistic core, and invite partners here in the Houston community to help us ignite a set of conversations about what art is for that will be meaningful to audiences and to the broader community.”
HGO invites you to participate in this exciting initiative. You can learn more on our website and our Facebook page (@houstongrandopera), which also offers a brief video.