The Wortham is Back, Baby! (For a New Season of Opera)

Houston Grand Opera announced its 2018–2019 season and confirmed a return to its artistic home.

By Morgan Kinney January 22, 2018

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We can hear the Puccini already!

The post-Harvey news about the Wortham Theater Center began with the vague (if concerning) recognition of "storm-related damage." Then officials announced 12 feet of water penetrated the basement and ruined vital infrastructure, including, as the Houston Chronicle reported, flood damage to "layers of walls that they did not know existed." Early estimates projected a re-opening of the Theater District arts venue by May 15, 2018 in a "best-case scenario," although it was later announced the building would not be ready until September 1. Now, the whole saga feels near completion as of Friday, when Houston Grand Opera announced its full 2018—2019 season and underscored a much-anticipated return to its artistic home at the Wortham.

Perhaps fittingly, there's been a tragic element to the opera's current setup. HGO salvaged its 2017–2018 season by jury-rigging a so-called Resilience Theater within the George R. Brown Convention Center. But, as critics have delicately noted, the acoustical and logistical limitations of the venue have been an albatross around the company's neck. Sets are still sumptuous and performers remain as talented as ever, but the nagging question has always been What would this sound like in a real venue?

So, even with several months of convention hall opera left, it's a relief to learn of HGO's ambitious and exciting 2018–2019 lineup that balances stalwart favorites such as Puccini and Wagner against a world premiere of Tarik O’Regan/John Caird’s The Phoenix. The season kicks off at the Wortham with The Flying Dutchman, the gothic romance so iconic it inspired a particularly dada Spongebob episode, followed by a revival of the much-loved La bohème, the Puccini opera that furnished the (very) loose framework for Rent.

Later, the HGO-commissioned Florencia en el Amazonas—the first Spanish-language opera commissioned by a major American opera company—will take audience members on a South American journey. Georges Bizet's The Pearl Fishers will make its HGO debut, unleashing the French composer's vibrant tale of romantic conflict on the "exotic" island of Sri Lanka. And finally, Mozart's Don Giovani, the classic tale of a libertine who gets his comeuppance, is paired with The Phoenix, a world premiere exploring the whirlwind life of Lorenzo da Ponte, the very librettist who penned the semi-autobiographical tale that is Don Giovani.

Check out the full lineup below. 

Houston Grand Opera 2018–2019 Season

The Flying Dutchman – October 19–November 2, 2018

La bohème – October 26–November 11, 2018

Florencia en el Amazonas – January 18–February 3, 2019

The Pearl Fishers – January 25–Feb. 8, 2019

Don Giovanni – April 20–May 5, 2019

World premiere: The Phoenix – April 26–May 10, 2019

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