You binge-watched The Crown on Netflix. You got caught up with The Handmaid’s Tale on Hulu. You loved The Man in the High Castle on Amazon. In fact, if it was streaming, it was in your queue. Now, just when you were wondering what else to watch, along comes Houston Grand Opera to solve your dilemma.
Wait, HGO? Yup.
The Bayou City’s renowned opera company pragmatically tries to develop new audiences for an intimidating art form, in part by bringing opera to them where they live and inviting them to be part of creating the stories. Those initiative are spearheaded by HGOco, the opera’s education and community engagement arm that's not coincidentally the brains behind this new streaming endeavor, Star Cross’d—a series that, unsurprisingly, compiles short opera pieces exploring the theme of star-crossed love. Each episode even includes a line from that most famous star-crossed love story of all, Romeo and Juliet.
The first installment, "Boundless," begins streaming Friday, April 20. The 15-minute opera is the story of Alma, a middle-aged woman who begins a relationship with Luc, a man 16 years her junior. It’s based on a true story by Houston resident Aryana Rose, who presented the piece at an event held by The Moth storytelling series.
“I don’t know of anything like this out there,” says Mark Thomas, the tenor who sings the part of Luc. “To me, it’s groundbreaking in the way the Met Operas in HD were in terms of bring opera to the screen.”
Thomas says he was attracted to the idea of an episodic opera, brought alive on TV. Unlike the Met series, however, each of the pieces of Star Cross’d was designed specifically for the small screen. Thomas believes the series shouldn't only help make opera more accessible for audiences, but also showcase the art form in a way they’re already comfortable with: watching in your living room in your PJs.
“Opera really can be about giving a voice to different things in society,” he says, “and this is the story of a kind of forbidden love. I really love the entire concept.”
Shot across Houston, "Boundless" is what Thomas calls “powerful and poignant.” The production team used a house near Rice University as well as The Parador, an extravagant Museum District venue.
Star Cross’d will eventually include three more selections, and HGO is encouraging writers with a compelling tale to record their stories for consideration. They only requirement is entries contain a line from Romeo and Juliet. Submissions are accepted on a rolling basis, and you can learn more here.