Exploration, wonder and discovery take center stage when the Houston Grand Opera performs O Columbia, an original opera production chronicling mankind’s exploration from the earth to the moon and beyond at Revention Music Center on Wednesday, September 23 and Thursday, September 24.
HGOco, the Grand Opera’s community outreach initiative, sought submissions from composers nationwide in spring 2014 for an original composition that specifically resonates with contemporary Houston. After going through multiple submissions, HGOco opted for O Columbia, penned by composer Gregory Spears and libretto Royce Vavrek. The ensemble show will feature opera artists from the HGO Studio and a chorus including several active singers in the Houston community.
The three-act opera encompasses various emotional journeys, starting with Sir Walter Raleigh’s New World exploration then transitions to a young Houston girl’s imagined communication with a Columbia space shuttle astronaut. The show’s final act imagines a future mission to the far reaches of the solar system.
The production team collaborated with a group of 20 NASA community members, including astronauts, engineers and shuttle mission trainers, to develop O Columbia. The experts were even involved in the music workshops in order to truly capture the emotions and experiences within space exploration.
The NASA influence certainly is a strong homage to Houston heritage, but HGOco also wanted a production that had universal motifs pertaining to loss and exploring the unknown that anyone from around the world can connect with.
“The space theme can connect with many people,” says Brittany Duncan, Program Director of HGOco. “It takes you back to a sense of childhood wonder and imagination.” Duncan hopes that other opera companies from around the world will pick up O Columbia after its premiere this month.
O Columbia is one of three opera productions from HGOco that focuses on modern life in the Houston area. The next original show chosen is The Root of the Wind is Water, which will center on how tropical storms affect the lives of Galveston locals. The production is tentatively scheduled to premiere in May 2016.
Sep. 23 & Sep. 24. 8. $20. Revention Music Center, 520 Texas Ave. 713-230-1600. houstongrandopera.org