“Dutchman,” “Pearl Fishers” and a Mozartian premiere in Houston Grand Opera’s 2018-19 season

Fri Jan 19, 2018 at 12:01 am
By Steven Brown

Thomas Hampson will make his Houston Grand Opera debut in the 2018-19 season, starring in the world premiere of Tarik O’Regan’s “The Phoenix.”

Richard Wagner’s The Flying Dutchman will sail into Houston after a two-decade absence during Houston Grand Opera’s 2018-19 season, which also will include HGO’s first-ever staging of Bizet’s The Pearl Fishers and the world premiere of a work based on the life of Mozart’s librettist Lorenzo da Ponte.

Centering on da Ponte’s years in the United States at the end of his life, The Phoenix will be the work of British composer Tarik O’Regan and librettist-director John Caird. HGO will present it in tandem with Mozart and da Ponte’s Don Giovanni, in a staging by Danish director Kasper Holten.

The company also made it official that they will return to the Wortham Theater Center for the entire 2018-19 season beginning next fall. The company was displaced from their home venue this season due to flooding damage from Hurricane Harvey.

Daniel Catan’s Florencia en el Amazonas, which HGO premiered in 1996, will return in an enhanced production by original director Francesca Zambello. And the company will bring back director Caird’s 2012 production of Puccini’s La Boheme.

HGO plans to stage all six operas in its longtime home, Houston’s Wortham Theater Center, which was knocked out of commission for the entire 2017-18 season by Hurricane Harvey.

“Our 2018-19 season is most movingly expressed by The Phoenix, because in this important season we are a phoenix of a company, rising not from ashes but from the inundation of Hurricane Harvey that so violently moved us out of our beloved Wortham Theater for a year,” HGO’s artistic and music director, Patrick Summers, said in a statement.

The Phoenix (opening April 26, 2019) takes its title from Mozart’s nickname for da Ponte, who had a knack for reinventing himself. Though composer O’Regan and librettist Caird invented some of the scenario’s details, the opera zeroes in on an actual event.

“The real-life Da Ponte staged the first opera produced by New York’s first opera company, [which] he founded 50 years before the founding of the Metropolitan Opera,” Summers said in a followup email. The opera on that occasion: Don Giovanni. That’s why HGO is pairing the new work with Mozart’s saga of the womanizing antihero (opening April 20, 2019).

The Phoenix, Dutchman (opening Oct. 19) and Florencia (opening Jan. 18, 2019) are part of “Seeking the Human Spirit,” HGO’s multi-year exploration of the universal themes that opera explores. The program focuses next year on transformation, as embodied in the three opera’s central characters.

“Dutchman, Florencia, and Lorenzo da Ponte transform themselves in diverse and utterly captivating ways, most especially in Florencia, which embodies the theme of transformation more magically and unexpectedly than any opera ever written,” Summers said. “I can’t wait to perform it again.”

The Phoenix will star veteran baritone Thomas Hampson, in his HGO debut, as da Ponte and bass Luca Pisaroni–Hampson’s real-life son-in-law, Summers noted–as da Ponte’s son. Pearl Fishers (opening Jan. 25, 2019) will feature tenor Lawrence Brownlee and baritone Mariusz Kwiecen as the friends divided by their love for the same woman.

The lovers Mimi and Rodolfo in La Boheme (opening Oct. 26) will be played by soprano Nicole Heaston, the endearing Adina in last season’s production of The Elixir of Love, and Italian tenor Ivan Magri as Rodolfo.

Rich-voiced soprano Ana Maria Martinez, an HGO favorite, will portray Florencia. Canadian baritone Philippe Sly will make his HGO debut as Don Giovanni, heading a cast that will include soprano Ailyn Perez as Donna Anna and Ryan McKinny as Leporello. And Polish baritone Andrzej Dobber, who played Scarpia in HGO’s 2015 staging of Tosca, will portray the Dutchman.


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