Star Cross'd

Turns Out Online Opera Is a Good Idea

Houston Grand Opera's Shakespeare-inspired web series picked up a Telly Award.

By Holly Beretto July 23, 2019

When Houston Grand Opera launched Episode One of its Star-Cross’d opera series, “Boundless,” last April, it was, for many, an entirely new way to experience the art form.

The serialized video project is based on the personal stories of Houstonians and how their lives mirror the themes in Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. The first edition told the story of a middle-aged woman at a crossroads in her life, who begins a relationship with a man 16 years younger.

That opera was a co-production between HGO’s HGOco division and North Carolina-based Junction Road Pictures, and was shot entirely on location in Houston's Museum District. And apparently, folks thought it was good: "Boundless" just won a Telly Award in the Non-Broadcast General – Cultural category. The award honors excellence in video and television across all screens.

“It was truly a team effort involving creative and visionary people to take this true story from a local Houstonian and transform it into an opera,” says Carleen Graham, the director of HGOco, HGO’s education and outreach arm. “With the popularity of the online series, we hope that Star-Cross’d speaks to younger viewers about opera in a fresh way.”

Part of the idea was to simply ensure opera evolves with an increasingly online populace, but the video format enables artistic innovations, too. 

“The viewer will find it a more intimate experience than sitting in a hall with a large group of people,” Graham says. “The suspension of disbelief that is needed in the theater is not as apparent in the intimate film versions. Also, folks can watch it when they want and how many times they want.”

All of the episodes in the series were crafted from stories Houstonians sent into HGO. Episode two, “Now,” debuted last month to coincide with Houston Pride and follows two couples where one partner undergoes a gender transition. Episode three, “A Rose,” is set to premiere in October and tackles class divides between newlyweds. As for episode four? Well, stay tuned.

“We would love to be able to produce additional episodes if funding permits,” says Graham.

You can stream Star Cross'd on YouTube here.

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