Houston Grand Opera Announces its 2023-24 Season

CNN/Stylemagazine.com Newswire | 3/21/2023, 3:36 p.m.
HGO’s New Season to Feature Six Operas, Including a Highly Anticipated World Premiere, Wagner’s Final Masterpiece, a New Staging of …

Houston Grand Opera (HGO) is proud to announce its 2023-24 season, featuring a season-opening, world premiere opera based on a little-known true story of the Civil War, Intelligence; the company’s first presentation of Wagner’s Parsifal since 1992; a new staging of The Sound of Music co-produced by HGO and the Glimmerglass Festival; and popular classic operas Falstaff, Madame Butterfly, and Don Giovanni.


2023-24 | HGO Season Announcement

Houston, are you ready? This 2023-24 season, we are letting the voice of TRUTH take the stage.   


Houston, are you ready? This 2023-24 season, we are letting the voice of TRUTH take the stage. HGO.org/Subscribe

“Next season’s theme surrounds finding truth within art,” says HGO General Director and CEO Khori Dastoor. “These operas are united by the complexity of their musical languages, the maturity of their themes, and the immutable truths contained within their stories. Only in opera do we see the truthful representation of multiple art forms, multiple points of view, and a wide diversity of perspectives co-existing in one moment. That complexity is the essence of the human condition. Opera can be ridiculous at times, but it is always honest.”

“The dreams of next season, with its mix of newness and comforting familiarity, will be brought to life by a roster of artists and creatives so prodigiously talented, it truly takes your breath away,” says HGO Artistic and Music Director Patrick Summers. “These are monumental works of art, whether they were gifted to us by history’s great geniuses or the most brilliant creators of the current day. From the great new American story of Intelligence; to the burst of truthful human laughter that ended Verdi’s long and historic career, Falstaff; to the familiar Italian operas influenced by dozens of other cultures, Madame Butterfly and Don Giovanni; to the more ancient mystical beauties of Parsifal—there is a journey for everyone.”

For the first time in its history, HGO will open its 2023-24 season with a world premiere: the company-commissioned opera Intelligence, created by acclaimed composer Jake Heggie, librettist Gene Scheer, and director/choreographer Jawole Willa Jo Zollar, 2021 MacArthur Fellow and founder of the Urban Bush Women, the renowned Brooklyn dance company that centers the perspective of Black women.

Shared through a fusion of music, words, and dance and inspired by historic events, Intelligence tells the story of two women—Elizabeth Van Lew, from a prominent Confederate family, and Mary Jane Bowser, born into slavery in the family’s household—who form a secret pro-Union spy ring. As they change the course of history together, Mary Jane uncovers secrets of her own history and identity. The sensational cast will be led by mezzo-soprano and Sarah and Ernest Butler Houston Grand Opera Studio alumna Jamie Barton as Elizabeth and soprano Janai Brugger in her company debut as Mary Jane. They will be joined by eight dancers from the Urban Bush Women in their HGO debut, with acclaimed conductor Kwamé Ryan also making his company debut at the podium.

The other opera from HGO’s fall repertoire is Verdi’s comic masterpiece, Falstaff, which recounts the drunken misdeeds of Shakespeare’s beloved, down-on-his-luck knight, who crosses the wrong women in a harebrained scheme to pay off his debts. The stellar cast features four beloved company favorites: baritone Reginald Smith, Jr. as Falstaff, soprano Nicole Heaston as Alice, baritone Blake Denson as Ford, and soprano Andrea Carroll as Nannetta. Paula Suozzi directs the production, and maestro Patrick Summers conducts.

The company will launch its winter repertoire with Wagner’s revered masterpiece, Parsifal, in a colorful production from Tony Award-winning director John Caird. The opera takes audiences on a mystical journey as a group of knights tries to protect the Holy Grail and their wounded king, who can only be healed by the titular protagonist and the Holy Spear. HGO Principal Guest Conductor Eun Sun Kim will lead a cast of extraordinary Wagnerians—including tenor Russell Thomas as Parsifal, soprano Christine Goerke as Kundry, bass Kwangchul Youn as Gurnemanz, and bass-baritone Ryan McKinny as King Amfortas—for this major operatic event.

Next, Puccini’s beloved tragedy, Madame Butterfly, returns to HGO, with Jordan Braun directing the revival of Tony Award winner Michael Grandage’s acclaimed production. The opera’s diverse cast will be led by internationally sought-after soprano Ailyn Pérez, who returns to Houston as Cio-Cio-San, opposite tenor Yongzhao Yu as Pinkerton in his role debut, with mezzo-soprano Sun-Ly Pierce as Suzuki, bass-baritone Michael Sumuel as Sharpless, bass William Guanbo Su as the Bonze, and tenor Rodell Rosel as Goro. Maestro Patrick Summers conducts.

HGO’s spring repertoire opens with Mozart’s sublime tragicomedy, Don Giovanni. Conducted by the world-renowned Dame Jane Glover, the production will be led by superstar Italian bass-baritone Luca Pisaroni as the opera’s titular womanizing antihero opposite sensational soprano Andriana Chuchman in her role debut as Donna Anna. They will be joined by a powerhouse cast that includes bass-baritone Ryan McKinny as Leporello, tenor Kang Wang in his company debut as Don Ottavio, and mezzo-soprano Sasha Cooke as Donna Elvira. Greg Eldridge directs the revival of Kasper Holten’s innovative production.

Closing the season is acclaimed director Francesca Zambello’s vibrant new staging of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s The Sound of Music, co-produced by HGO and the Glimmerglass Festival. The world-class HGO Orchestra and Chorus will propel the timeless tale and its outstanding cast, which includes Grammy-winning mezzo-soprano Isabel Leonard as Maria and baritone Alexander Birch Elliott as the Captain. HGO’s Richard Bado takes the podium to conduct this classic family-friendly production.

Dastoor continues, “The caliber of performers and the resources these operas require, their pure scope, their wild ambition—the season will require marshaling our full creative forces in service of epic storytelling. We cannot wait to share these incredible and historic performances with the diverse community we serve.”

During the 2023-24 school year, HGO will present composer Faye Chiao and librettist Anton Dudley’s company-commissioned opera Katie: The Strongest of the Strong, which made its digital world premiere in 2020. The 45-minute opera celebrates women’s strength and confidence through the inspiring true story of protagonist Katie Sandwina, a circus strongwoman who defied expectations and went on to help lead the U.S. suffrage movement in the early 1900s. The opera will tour community spaces and schools throughout the season.

On February 2, 2024, HGO will present the 36th annual Concert of Arias, the live final round of the Eleanor McCollum Competition for Young Singers, which brings young singers from around the world to Houston. The company holds this popular event each year to identify candidates for the company’s internationally acclaimed emerging artist training program, the Sarah and Ernest Butler Houston Grand Opera Studio.

In 2024 HGO will present the fifth annual Giving Voice, its popular celebration of Black artists in opera created by international tenor Lawrence Brownlee. Details including presenting partners, date, and location will be announced at a later date.

From February 16 to 18, 2024, the HGO-commissioned chamber opera The Big Swim, created by composer Meilina Tsui and librettist Melisa Tien, will make its world premiere. The new work—which shares the story of the Jade Emperor and the Great Race between the 12 animals that became the symbols of the Lunar New Year calendar—will be presented at the Asia Society Texas Center as part of its Lunar New Year festivities.

This season HGO is offering a variety of subscriptions, from flexible three-opera packages to the full six-opera season. Full subscriptions start as low as $90. Subscriptions to the 2023-24 season are now available at HGO.org. Single tickets will be available later this summer.

Subscribers to the company’s 2023-24 season will receive a host of expanded benefits, including a 25 percent discount on additional tickets, first access to all HGO performances, free tickets to the company’s popular Butler Studio Showcase, special deals at the HGO Boutique and downtown-area restaurants, entry to win tickets to special HGO events and parties, and a monthly subscriber newsletter.

The company continues to encourage younger audiences to experience the art form through several opportunities, including its popular Opening Nights for Young Professionals (ONYP) subscription series; and tickets starting at $25 for all productions.

HGO’s mainstage season will comprise 34 mainstage, 2 student, and 2 free performances of six productions. Additional details of the upcoming HGO productions are provided below, and more information is available at the company’s website: HGO.org. All repertoire, dates, pricing, productions, and casting are subject to change without notice.