Nestled in the heart of Texas is one the grandest American opera companies. Houston Grand Opera presents world-class stars, fantastic productions and a great mixture of traditional opera and contemporary works. Founded in 1955, Houston Grand Opera has become one of the top destinations for opera singers and opera lovers alike. For its 2010-2011 season Houston Grand Opera presents a season filled with grand operas by Mozart, Puccini, Donizetti and Strauss along with masterpieces by Britten and Heggie.
Opening the 2010-2011 season on October 22 is Puccini’s Madama Butterfly. Grammy-Award winning soprano and graduate of the prestigious Houston Grand Opera Studio Ana Maria Martinez, returns to Houston Grand Opera making her role debut as Cio-Cio San. Her recent performances include Nedda (Pagliacci) and Marguerite (Faust) at Lyric Opera of Chicago, the title role in Rusalka by Dvorák and a concert tour with tenor Andrea Bocelli. Up and coming Maltese tenor Joseph Cajella makes his HGO debut as Pinkerton. After his appearance at Houston Grand Opera, he can be seen at the Metropolitan Opera as Rodolfo (La Bohème), the Duke (Rigoletto) and Edgardo (Lucia di Lammermoor.)
Also making debuts are mezzo-soprano Lucy Schaufer as Suzuki. She has appeared as Suzuki with the Metropolitan Opera, Hansel (Hansel and Gretel) and Cherubino (Le Nozze di Figaro) with Los Angeles Opera and has sung multiple roles with the Cologne Opera. National Finalist in the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions, baritone Levi Hernandez debuts as Sharpless. He has already debuted with the opera companies of Los Angeles, San Francisco and Boston. Future engagements for this young baritone include covering the role of Sid (La Fanciulla del West) at the Metropolitan Opera and Leporello in Opera Theatre of Saint Louis’ Don Giovanni.
October 29th offers Benjamin Britten’s great opera Peter Grimes and stars one of the greatest interpreters of the title role is American tenor Anthony Dean Griffey. He recently performed the role of Peter with San Diego Opera and Western Australian Opera. Returning to Houston Grand Opera to sing Ellen Orford is British soprano Katie Van Kooten. She made her HGO debut last season as Helena in Britten’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream and also made her Metropolitan Opera debut as Magda (La Rondine.) Making his Houston Grand Opera debut is baritone Christopher Purves as Captain Balstrode. He will also be seen as Beckmesser (Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg) at the Glyndebourne Festival and Redburn (Billy Budd) at Netherlands Opera.
Jake Heggie’s American opera Dead Man Walking, based on the film of the same name arrives at Houston Grand Opera on January 22. International superstar (and graduate of the Houston Opera Studio) Joyce Di Donato, returns to the role of Sister Helen Prejean at HGO. This busy mezzo-soprano has a full calendar with appearances at the Deutsche Oper, Berlin (debut) as Rosina (Il Barbiere di Siviglia), the Teatro Real, Madrid as Octavian (Der Rosenkavalier) and as Isolier (Le Comte Ory) and the Composer (Ariadne auf Naxos) at the Metropolitan Opera. Baritone Phillip Cutlip sings the troubled Joseph de Roucher, while operatic legend Frederica Von Stade reprises the role she created as Joseph’s mother. The mezzo-soprano still maintains an active singing career even though these will be among her last operatic performances. Rounding out the cast is the extraordinary Canadian soprano Measha Brueggergosman who makes her Houston Grand Opera debut as Sister Rose. This gifted young singer balances her time between studio recordings, recitals, orchestra engagements and operatic appearances.
Madness reigns supreme when Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor opens on January 28, 2011. Russian coloratura soprano Albina Shagimuratova returns to Houston Grand Opera where she was a member of the Houston Opera Studio to sing the title role. Recent triumphs include a successful debut at the Metropolitan Opera as the Queen of the Night (Die Zauberflöte.) This season she sings the Queen of the Night for debuts at La Scala and the Staatsoper Hamburg. Making his HGO debut is American tenor Dmitri Pittas who maintains an active schedule both in the United States and abroad. Recent debuts include Alfredo (La Traviata) at the Deutsche Oper Berlin and Seattle Opera and Rodolfo (La Bohème) at the Semperoper in Dresden. Singing the role of Lucia’s bother, Enrico is HGO Studio alum Scott Hendricks. The baritone has appeared with the Oper der Stadt Köln, Washington National Opera, Opéra National du Rhin and San Francisco Opera. Future engagements include the Metropolitan Opera and the Bregenzer Festspiele.
Comedy, intrigue, schemes and unearthed secrets can only mean that Mozart’s comic gem Le Nozze di Figaro is on tap to open April 15, 2011. The cast features Metropolitan Opera regular bass-baritone Patrick Carfizzi in the title role. Slovak soprano Adriana Kučerová makes her Houston Grand Opera debut as Figaro’s bride-to-be Susanna. The soprano has already appeared at some the top opera houses in the world including La Scala, the Opéra de Bastille and the Maggio Musicale Fiorentino. Also making HGO debuts are Italian bass-baritone Luca Pisaroni (Glyndebourne Festival, Salzburg Festival) as the Count and American soprano Ellie Dehn (The Metropolitan Opera, Le Grand Théâtre de Genève) as the Countess. Returning to HGO to sing Cherubino is French mezzo-soprano and former Houston Grand Opera Studio member Marie Lenormand (L’Opéra-Comique, Paris; Glimmerglass Opera)
To close the season is Richard Strauss’ Ariadne auf Naxos, which opens April 29. American soprano Christine Goerke sings the title role. This season she can also be seen as Leonore (Fidelio) at Opera Boston, Kundry (Parsifal) at the Teatro Regio di Torino and sings Britten’s War Requiem with the Saito Kinen Orchestra at Carnegie Hall. Siberian tenor Alexey Dolgov returns to HGO after his debut as Cavaradossi (Tosca.) Recent engagements include singing the role of Lenksi (Eugene Onegin) on tour with the Bolshoi Opera and the Duke (Rigoletto) with the Washington National Opera. Singing one of her signature roles is mezzo-soprano Susan Graham who brings her well-loved Composer to the stage. She returns to the Metropolitan Opera this season to sing the title role of Iphigénie en Tauride. Singing the fiendishly difficult role of Zerbinetta is American coloratura soprano Laura Claycomb who sings Lucia (Lucia di Lammermoor) at Pittsburgh Opera, Gilda (Rigoletto) at the Dallas Opera then joins the San Francisco Symphony on tour.
Houston Grand Opera also offers two other special mainstage performances. For one night only (November 13, 2010), HGO presents a concert performance of Cruzar la Cara della Luna (To Cross the Face of the Moon,) the first mariachi-inspired opera with music by José “Pepito” Martínez and text by Leonard Foglia. Opening March 13 will be the annual Houston Grand Opera Studio opera. This year’s offering is Mozart’s Cosí Fan Tutte and stars this year’s crop of Studio members.
For its 56th season, Houston Grand Opera is pulling out the all the stops with great singers, fantastic productions and dynamic repertoire choices ensuring that opera lovers in Houston and beyond get to experience all the glitz and glamour associated with great opera.