Harvey’s classical fallout: Houston Symphony cancels opening concerts; HGO to make announcement soon

Fri Sep 01, 2017 at 4:22 pm
By Steven Brown

The Wortham Theater Center, home of Houston Grand Opera, was flooded in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey. Photo: ABC News

The Houston Symphony has canceled its first performances of the 2017-18 season, including the opening-night gala featuring mezzo-soprano Susan Graham due to the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey.

The orchestra and Houston Grand Opera are among the many local classical groups struggling with the hurricane’s epic flooding. The downtown Theater District, home to the city’s main performing venues, borders Buffalo Bayou, the main waterway that carries Houston-area rainwater toward the Port of Houston and Gulf of Mexico. When the bayou overflowed during the storm, water filled the streets around Jones Hall for the Performing Arts where the orchestra performs, and Wortham Theater Center, HGO’s home.

“The full extent of the storm’s impact is unknown and will not be fully assessed for some time,” said a statement released by the orchestra Thursday night.

While the symphony’s musicians and staff all came through the storm safely, some had to evacuate their homes. The flooding inundated the underground parking garage that serves Jones Hall, the Wortham Center and other venues. Water also got into the basement of Jones Hall but the stage and auditorium came through unscathed.

Still, with no place for Jones Hall concertgoers to park, the orchestra has canceled the following programs: the pops series opener, “Ella at 100,” an Ella Fitzgerald tribute Sept 1-3; the opening-night concert featuring Graham on Sept. 9; The annual Fiesta Sinfonica concert scheduled for Sept. 10; and an outdoor concert Sept. 6 in the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion in The Woodlands, a Houston suburb.

Houston Symphony offices will open Tuesday September 5. People who want to exchange tickets for the canceled concerts or make other arrangements can do so then. Go to  houstonsymphony.org or call 713-224-7575.

As of now, the orchestra hopes to open its season Sept. 14-17 with the first program of its classical series, which includes Mahler’s Symphony No. 4, conducted by music director, Andres Orozco-Estrada.

“We are eager to begin the cleanup and recovery process, and to provide an outstanding 2017-18 Season of concerts and community programs,” board president Janet F. Clark said in a statement. “As Houston’s orchestra, we look forward to helping our city to heal, bringing the people of our community together through the inspiring power of music.”

The Wortham Center, immediately alongside Buffalo Bayou, suffered more serious damage than Jones Hall, said Houston Grand Opera. In a statement artistic director Patrick Summers and managing director Perryn Leech said that “Water surged over the storm defense” and damaged the surface of the stage in the Brown Theater, site of HGO’s mainstage productions,. Floodwaters in the front-of-house areas receded but left dirt behind. The center’s basement “is completely full of flood water.”

Before the storm hit, HGO staff moved musical instruments and costumes for the season’s first two productions — Verdi’s La Traviata and Handel’s Julius Caesar — to higher floors where they were out of danger. Still, the costume and wig shop were badly damaged in the basement flooding.

“Our great city and region are continuing to suffer from the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, and we know that we are facing a long recovery together,” Summers and Leech said. HGO hopes to reopen its offices on Tuesday and expects to issue an update on its season plans imminently. Go to houstongrandopera.org or call 713-228-6737.

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