Houston Grand Opera’s 2020-21 Season Features Lineup of Seven Productions, Including Opera Favorites and Company Premieres

The company presents the world premiere, The Snowy Day; two HGO premieres, Breaking the Waves and The Sound of MusicWerther, for the first time in over 40 years;the return of Parsifal; and two opera favorites, Carmen and Cinderella

Houston Grand Opera (HGO) upcoming 2020–21 season will be featuring a repertoire of beloved classics, company premieres, and a much-anticipated world premiere.

The 66th season opens with audience favorite Carmen. American mezzo-soprano Isabel Leonard makes her HGO and role debut as Carmen in the revival of Rob Ashford’s acclaimed 2014 production of Bizet’s classic. She is joined by tenor Andrea Caré as Don José, bass-baritone Christian Pursell as Escamillo, and Anita Hartig as Micaela, all making their HGO debuts. The production will be conducted by HGO Principal Guest Conductor Eun Sun Kim.

Following Carmen in the fall is Massenet’s introspective masterpiece Werther. HGO Studio alumni Arturo Chacón-Cruz in the title role, Ana María Martínez as Charlotte, and Joshua Hopkins as Albert reunite for this work that has not been performed at Houston Grand Opera in over 40 years. Artistic and Music Director Patrick Summers conducts this production by Francisco Negrin.


The company’s 71st world premiere continues the holiday opera series with Joel Thompson, composer, and Andrea Davis Pinkney’s, librettist, opera adaptation of The Snowy Day, based on the beloved children’s picture book by Ezra Jack Keats. The retelling of the iconic story of Peter, a little boy waking up to a snow day in New York City, will have audiences reminiscing about childhood wonder. Soprano Julia Bullock will make her HGO debut as Peter. 


The winter repertoire features the powerful Wagner drama Parsifal, and Donizetti’s whimsical CinderellaRussell Thomas, who makes his HGO and role debut as Radames in Aida in the 2019–20 season, also makes a role debut as the title character in Parsifal.

He is joined by the incomparable Christine Goerke as Kundry, last seen at HGO in her triumphant performance as the title character in Elektra in 2018. HGO Studio alumnus Ryan McKinny as Amfortas, Kwangchul Youn making his HGO debut as Gurnemanz, and Andrea Silvestrelli as Klingsor complete the Knights of the Grail.

In a revival of HGO’s acclaimed 2007 production of Cinderella directed by Joan Font, mezzo-soprano Emily D’Angelo makes her role debut as Angelina alongside tenor Jack Swanson as Prince Ramiro and baritone Sean Michael Plumb as Dandini. Music Director of Opera Philadelphia Corrado Rovaris conducts. All four artists make their HGO debuts in the production.


HGO closes the season with two company premieres, Missy Mazzoli and Royce Vavrek’s Breaking the Waves and the classic musical The Sound of Music by Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II. Breaking the Waves, based on the 1996 Lars von Trier award-winning film of the same name, is a co-production with Opera Ventures, Scottish Opera, and Théâtre national de l’Opéra Comique in association with Adelaide Festival. Premiering at the Edinburgh Festival in 2019, the production received rave reviews. Leading the HGO cast is HGO Studio alumna Lauren Snouffer in the role of tragic heroine, Bess. She is joined by Alexander Birch Elliott as her husband Jan, Michelle Bradley as her mother, and Zoie Reams as her sister-in-law Dodo. The production is led by director Tom Morris, whose acclaimed production of War Horse had long runs at the National Theatre in London and on Broadway. Nicole Paiement conducts the HGO premiere in her company debut.

The Sound of Music will conclude the season with eight performances plus two student matinees. In her HGO debut, Jeanine De Bique sings the role of the musically inspired novice turned governess, Maria, and Michael Mayes as Captain von Trapp returns to HGO after an acclaimed run in the 2019–20 season’s Rigoletto. Soprano Katie Van Kooten performs as the Mother Abbess. HGO’s Chorus Master Richard Bado conducts, Francesca Zambello directs, and Eric Sean Fogel choreographs and serves as associate director for this classic piece of musical theater.

“I couldn’t be more excited for next season. Faith and its consequences are an exciting thread through the year, and an inquisitive audience member is given a perfect opportunity to explore the range of what opera can say to the 21st century,” says Artistic and Music Director Patrick Summers. “The two centerpieces of the season are undoubtedly Wagner’s massive Parsifal, one of the greatest works ever conceived for a live medium, and The Snowy Day, a delightful and moving new opera from a phenomenally gifted young composer just emerging into his creative life. The dreams for this season have been large, and I’m overwhelmingly grateful to be realizing them and bringing them to our amazing public. Dive in!”


Four mainstage operas—Carmen, The Snowy Day, Parsifal, and Breaking the Waves—are part of Seeking the Human Spirit, HGO’s six‐year multidisciplinary initiative designed to highlight the universal spiritual themes raised in opera and to enable a wider segment of the Houston community to experience opera’s beauty, emotional power, and potential to heal.

The initiative, which began in the fall of 2017, includes at least three mainstage operas each season, one of which is a new work, united by a single theme. The theme of the 2020–21 season will be “faith.”

To date, over 30 partner organizations have joined HGO’s Seeking the Human Spirit initiative, with a commitment to create programs and events that provide context to the operas by enhancing and enriching our community’s experience of the themes. Information about the 2020–2021 collaborations will be announced in spring 2020, and details can be found at HGO.org/STHS.


In addition to the mainstage performances, HGO will present its 69th world premiere, Songs for Murdered Sisters, a song cycle with music by Jake Heggie and original poems by Margaret Atwood. The project was conceived by and will be performed by baritone Joshua Hopkins with the composer at the piano. The premiere will take place at the Rothko Chapel on September 10, 2020.

HGOco is Houston Grand Opera’s celebrated initiative connecting the company to the community with over 320 creative, civic, and learning events reaching nearly 80,000 Houstonians annually. HGOco commissions new chamber works that tell stories relevant to Houston or highlight important educational themes. During the 2020–2021 season, HGO’s 70th world premiere is the HGOco-commissioned Katie: The Strongest of the Strong. The opera is about strongwoman and immigrant Katie Sandwina, who toured with P.T. Barnum before becoming a suffragette and business owner. Composed by Faye Chiao to a libretto by Anton Dudley, this 45-minute, action-packed Opera to Go! production will tour schools and community venues from September 2020 through May 2021.

In March 2021, HGOco will present HGO’s 72nd world premiere, Turn and Burn, A Rodeo OperaPart of the Song of Houston initiative, the 75-minute chamber opera is composed by Nell Shaw Cohen to a libretto by Megan Cohen. The production will be directed by Leslie Swackhamer. The story, created from interviews with rodeo athletes and generous access courtesy of the Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo, centers on a small-town barrel-racing champion and an ambitious young executive who aim for a big win at the rodeo. Set in a colorful world of bucking broncs and carnival rides, the premiere offers a feminist perspective on contemporary rodeo culture.


This season, HGO continues to encourage younger audiences to experience the art form through several opportunities, including its popular Opening Nights for Young Professionals (ONYP) subscription series. Subscriptions start as low as $100 for seven operas and include exclusive season extras. In addition to ONYP, HGO offers two affordable ticket initiatives: Pay Your Age program and NEXUS ticket‐underwriting program.

Launched just five years ago, the Pay Your Age program gives those 24 and under the opportunity to pay the price of their age for a single ticket. The multiyear NEXUS initiative provides a limited number of $15 tickets for first‐time operagoers and student groups to all HGO performances. Both the ONYP subscription series and the affordable ticket initiatives have made opera more accessible to new audiences in the greater Houston area and beyond.


Subscriptions to the 2020–21 season are now available at HGO.org. Single tickets will be available later this summer. More information is available at the company’s website: HGO.org. All repertoire, dates, pricing, productions, and casting are subject to change without notice.