BY PATRICK SUMMERS | Artistic & Music Director, Margaret Alkek Williams Chair

YOU CAN come home again.

The choice of Ana María Martínez as Houston Grand Opera’s new artistic advisor was an easy one. I need only describe the feelings of making music with her to explain it, and I’ve had that privilege for many years, having joyously conducted many performances with her. Her voice is a wonder, and she uses it like a painter’s palette, effortlessly coloring every phrase with elegance. Her dramatic and musical instincts are deep, and she never stops her search for more. The range of what she has performed in her career, much of it seen at HGO, is rare in a single soprano: the Mozart heroines, world premieres, Rusalka, Rosina, Carmen, Adina, both of the soprano roles in Catán’s Florencia en el Amazonas, Mimì, Liù, and many others, but few would ever equal her Madama Butterfly, which was a considerable artistic risk at the time that she was bravely willing to take, premiering the role at HGO before taking her delicate Cio-Cio-San all over the world. All of these qualities will converge in her artistic advisor role.

These are things any keen observer might know about Ana María, but there is much more to her. She is one of the most empathic persons I’ve ever encountered, and she carries all of the accompaniments of great empathy: she truly listens to people, she has keen powers of observation and shrewd analysis. Her intelligence is off the charts, and she lives and works with the highest integrity. These qualities are as inspiring as they are rare, and Ana María has long been one of the most inspiring people in my artistic life.

As an artist myself, I am always in search of new ideas, new ways of thinking, and, most importantly, new ways of deepening the experience of this art we all so love. I wanted more than just a casting consultant, a position many opera companies employ; I wanted a real artistic partner, a consultant to trade and test ideas with, someone who would have a perspective on the art that I could never have, and someone who I knew would challenge my own thinking. Ana María’s appointment, along with that of our new principal guest conductor, Eun Sun Kim, who also begins in the 2019–20 season, together bring a unique future perspective on our rapidly changing world.

At HGO we want to inspire the future of opera, and one of the most obvious ways we do that is through casting performers of the highest level in all of our productions. In her new role, Ana María will be a part of all casting conversations. She will be available for consultation and coaching for our Studio artists and as an expert judge for Concert of Arias—and as one of our most distinguished Studio alums, she brings a long history with her. She will hear singers all over the world as her own singing career continues to take her everywhere. She will report to me on productions, directors, and conductors she thinks would be interesting for Houston. She will help the company raise money. Ana María will be a Spanish-speaking voice for our wonderful company, as we must always remember that we reside in the most diverse city in the United States, and 38 percent of our neighbors speak Spanish at home. We want to continue to embrace our community by having an opera company with the fullest possible range of artistic choices that reflect who we are as a city and a region.

Home is the place where you are understood the most, where you are listened to, and where they love you the most. Ana María, as artistic advisor for Houston Grand Opera, is home.

Ana Maria Martinez

Photo by Candace Moore