In the world of opera, vibrancy, creativity, and captivating storytelling has always served as the backdrop to medium’s luxurious, acoustically resonant halls and stages. But as the pandemic unfurled, those once-packed venues emptied and their lights dimmed, leaving the operatic community to cope with an ominously unscripted future. Like many opera companies statewide, the Houston Grand Opera tapped into its own creativity to create avenues so Bayou City supporters could still have access to opera.
But it hasn’t stopped there. After creating HGO Digital—a virtual platform for viewers to watch different operatic works—the company united with Austin Opera, The Dallas Opera, Fort Worth Opera, and OPERA San Antonio to create the Texas Opera Alliance. This strategic initiative allows for all five companies to financially and artistically champion opera in Texas through collaborative investments, new innovative digital material, and production partnerships.
It's clear that unity serves as the root to this alliance, for the partnership will work to cross-promote its members’ digital programming and content to diversify and strengthen viewership. And no, that’s not a conflict for these companies.
"We're not in competition with each other at all," says HGO managing director Perryn Leech. “We're all here to celebrate opera in our own communities, and each of those communities looks slightly different. As we go into the future, the alliance will continue to grow, and we will continue to collaborate more and more with each other."
Only a few weeks after forming the partnership, the Texas Opera Alliance announced its first collaborative project, the Teen Opera Club of Texas for adolescents ages 13–19. Similar to HGO's own Opera Club, this new initiative will allow teens to learn about and engage with the different facets of the art form, including production and design; conducting operatic orchestras; operatic performance; and the creation of new works, for free, while also hearing from administrative and creative professionals within the field.
The club kicked off its first gathering last month, when members watched HGO’s 69th world premiere, Katie: Strongest of the Strong, and participated in a special Q&A with the cast of the opera, after the performance. Members will continue to meet monthly on platforms such as YouTube, Zoom, and Squad for virtual gatherings and watch parties, thereby strengthening the digital presence TOA hopes to build within its first year. During its second gathering, scheduled for November 19, OPERA San Antonio’s General and Artistic Director E. Loren Meeker will take members on a behind-the-scenes adventure of her production of Janáček's fairytale, The Cunning Little Vixen.
Though this launch is recent, Leech believes that this expanded effort will allow teens to build organic, life-long friendships with others who also have a soft spot for opera.
“Opera is pretty much a niche art form,” says Leech. “So, if you’re an opera-loving teen in Houston, maybe you know two or three other people who share your passion, whereas if you go around a huge state like Texas, suddenly, you’ll realize that it’s not something that’s completely weird. There’s plenty of other people out there who love music, love the human voice, and love opera.”