Houston Grand Opera (affectionately called HGO by locals) is located in the Wortham Theater Center in Downtown Houston. The architecture of the performance hall is such that no seat in the entire 17,000-square-foot house is more than 138 feet from the stage, and huge state-of-the-art plasma and projection screens improve the line of sight for all audience members. Among other modern innovations, the Houston Opera was one of the first in the United States to provide English language supertitles for foreign productions, and now also does for English language performances. Houston Opera events include its broadcasting of productions over National Public Radio in Europe and Australia. In addition to opera, other events include Houston Ballet productions.
The Houston Grand Opera has enormous stature in the world of professional fine arts performances, a testament to the city’s wealthy neighborhoods and towns and the dedication of its citizens to the creation of a world class entertainment reputation. The Houston Opera has won a Tony Award (for excellence in theater) for its adaptation of Porgy and Bess, two Grammys (for outstanding achievements in the music industry), and two Emmys (for televised productions). The company has also won a Grand Prix du Disque, the premier French award for musical recordings.
This is nightlife with class. Nonetheless, single Houston Grand Opera tickets are amazingly reasonable. Some Houston Opera events are free. In 1995, the Houston Grand Opera became the first to simultaneously broadcast a live event, which was broadcast on a giant screen outside the theater. This was dubbed a “Plazacast,” and occurred in the Ray Fish Plaza, which is a lovely outdoor events venue that hosts concerts and is, like Rockefeller Center in New York City, turned into an ice rink during the Christmas holidays. The Plazacast was free to the public.
The Houston Opera was created in 1955 and was the brainchild of impresario Walter Herbert who was born in Germany and trained in Vienna. He was also a world champion contract bridge player, designing a bridge play that bears his name—the Herbert Convention.
Some Houston Opera events are not in Houston at all. The company tours around the world in such prestigious venues as the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington DC, the Lincoln Center in New York City, and many other cities in the United States. The company has also performed internationally—from Paris and Berlin to Cairo and Japan. HGO also has extensive community outreach, presenting shortened versions of traditional and new repertoire at local schools and community centers that reach more than 50,000 children and families throughout the metropolitan area each year. They sponsor teachers’ workshops, a children’s chorus, student matinees, voice studios for promising young singers, and even an opera summer camp. If you want to be entertained by great music and learn about the history of Houston and Texas, there are a series of programs highlighting the history of the city, including the “Song of Houston.” Some luxury vacation packages will include tickets to the Houston Opera.
Image: Greater Houston CVB, Dan Rest