Houston Grand Opera presents world premiere The Phoenix to close out 2018—19 season

Bass baritone Luca Pisaroni sings the role of Lorenzo da Ponte, Jr. and the young Lorenzo da Ponte in Houston Grand Opera’s world premiere of Tarik O’Regan’s The Phoenix, the final offering in the 2018 –19 season, running Apr. 26 through May 10 at the Wortham Theater Center. Photo by Felix Sanchez.

The production is part of HGO’s Seeking the Human Spirit initiative

WhatHouston Grand Opera closes out the 2018 –19 season with the world premiere of composer Tarik O’Regan and director John Caird’s The Phoenix, featuring world-renowned baritone Thomas Hampson, HGO’s Lynn Wyatt Great Artist winner, as well as beloved bass-baritone Luca Pisaroni. The production is part of HGO’s Seeking the Human Spirit initiative, which reflected the theme of “transformation” for this season. In The Phoenix, Mozart’s notorious librettist is reborn. Lorenzo da Ponte led a scandalous life that rivaled the stories he committed to paper, including some of his most popular operas: Don GiovanniCosì fan tutte, and The Marriage of Figaro. After becoming a priest and poet in Venice, Da Ponte was banished when it was discovered that he had connections to many brothels and a secret family with two children. Fortunately, he was introduced to Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart in Austria and flourished as a librettist. His new-found fame gained him access to the upper echelons of European society. Yet after much success, Da Ponte found himself bankrupt and needing to flee once more. He sought refuge in America where he made a modest living as a grocer before rising again to establish New York City’s first opera company in 1833. The Phoenix reveals Da Ponte’s tumultuous and truly operatic odyssey as a lifelong search for identity.

Who:    The distinguished American baritone Hampson, who is also Pisaroni’s father-in-law, makes a much-anticipated HGO debut as the older Lorenzo da Ponte. Based in Europe, Hampson’s illustrious career has included performances as Don Giovanni and other lyric baritone roles, as well as extensive work as a recitalist specializing in both German Romantic and American songs. Pisaroni returns to HGO as Da Ponte’s son, Lorenzo, after his role debut as Méphistophélès in HGO’s Faust (2016). Opera War Horse noted, “the spirited Veau d’Or and the Serenade…were flawless and sung with a self-assuredness that one might have believed this was his 100th Mephistopheles rather than his role debut.” Canadian-Tunisian mezzo-soprano Rihab Chaieb, who sang the Fairy Prince in Opera Philadelphia’s 2017 world premiere of The Wake World with an “agile mezzo” (Philadelphia Inquirer), will make her HGO debut in the roles of Maria Malibran, Mozart, and Da Ponte’s wife, Nancy. Canadian tenor Joseph Kaiserwill also sing multiple roles, including those of Emperor Joseph II and Giacomo Casanova. He gave “appealing, refined” (New York Times) performances as Walter in HGO’s American premiere of Weinberg’s The Passenger in Houston and New York (2014). The parts of Da Ponte’s niece Giulietta and three other soprano roles will be taken by HGO Studio alumna Lauren Snouffer, who charmed audiences and critics as the young Addie Mills in HGO’s 2017 world premiere, The House without a Christmas Tree. Soprano Elizabeth Sutphen (“an impressive coloratura soprano – New York Times) makes her HGO debut as Faustina, as well as in other roles. HGO’s Patrick Summers will conduct.

British and American composer O’Regan’s first opera, Heart of Darkness, premiered in 2011 at the Royal Opera’s Linbury Theater and won an NEA Artistic Excellence Award. Another vocal work, Threshold of Night (2009), earned two Grammy nominations.

Caird’s long association with HGO as a stage director includes a 2010 production of Tosca that returned in the fall of 2015 and a 2012 staging of La bohème that was just remounted this past fall. The winner of multiple awards, including the Laurence Olivier Award for Best Director and several Tony Awards as a theater director, he has also written, co-written, and adapted several musical theater works and earned a 2016 Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Book of a Musical for Daddy Long Legs.

When:         Friday, Apr. 26, at 7:30 p.m.               

                        Sunday, Apr. 28, at 2 p.m.

                        Saturday, May 4, at 7:30 p.m.

                        Tuesday, May 7, at 7:30 p.m.

                        Friday, May 10, at 7:30 p.m.


Where:        Wortham Theater Center, 501 Texas Ave.                                                                                                                  


Tariff:          Tickets range from $20 to $270. For more information and to buy tickets, visit HGO.org or call the box office at 713-228-6737.

About Houston Grand Opera

Houston Grand Opera (HGO) is one of the largest, most innovative, and most highly acclaimed opera companies in the United States. HGO is the only American finalist for Opera Company of the Year in the 2019 International Opera Awards. In fulfilling its mission to advance the operatic art to serve an ever-evolving audience, HGO has led the field in commissioning new works (65 world premieres to date) and in training and nurturing promising young artists and administrators. The company contributes to the cultural enrichment of Houston and the nation through a diverse and innovative program of performances, community events, and education projects that reaches the widest possible public. HGO’s pioneering community engagement initiative, HGOco, has served as a model for other arts organizations.

The NEXUS Initiative is HGO’s multi-year ticket underwriting program that allows Houstonians of all ages and backgrounds to enjoy opera without the barrier of price. Since 2007, NEXUS has enabled more than 250,000 Houstonians to experience superlative opera through discounted single tickets and subscriptions, subsidized student performances, and free productions.

HGO has toured extensively and has won a Tony, two Grammy awards, and three Emmy awards. It is the only opera company to win all three honors.