Opera in the Heights to Reschedule Opening Production of 2017-18 Season

La Fille Du Régiment (The Daughter of the Regiment) Postponed; Rescheduled as Opening Production for 2018-19 Season


HOUSTON (September 2, 2017) -- Opera in the Heights (Oh!) regrettably announces the postponement of its opening production for the 2017-18 Season. La Fille Du Régiment (The Daughter of the Regiment) is rescheduled as the opening production for the 2018-19 Season. At this time, exact dates are pending and will be included in the 2018-19 Season announcement.

Opera in the Heights presents Little Women, one of the most treasured American operas

Mark Adamo’s production returns to Houston after 17 years
(March 31 through April 8)

(HOUSTON) March 9, 2017 — Opera in the Heights (Oh!) presents Mark Adamo’s Little Women as the final offering of its 21st season, opening Friday, March 31. Based on Louisa May Alcott's classic novel, Mark Adamo's Little Women follows the four beloved March sisters, Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy, in an ensemble-driven opera set in the wake of the Civil War. Little Women is a coming-of-age story, with the discovery of love and loss, and reluctant acceptance of change.

"With an eminently tuneful, colorful score set to his own libretto, Adamo honors and illuminates the essence of these beloved characters and their relationships,” says Eiki Isomura, Artistic Director for Opera in the Heights.

Since commissioned and premiered by Houston Grand Opera in 1998, Adamo’s Little Women has been produced by Glimmerglass Opera, New York City Opera, and over seventy other companies across the world. Opera in the Heights is proud to bring one of the most celebrated American operas back to Houston since its landmark television production 2001.

Stage Director Dashiell Waterbury said, "Little Women has never been more relevant, with its simple message about courage and grace. Lambert Hall is the perfect venue to experience Adamo's warm and energetic setting of the story. The intimacy of the theater puts the audience in the middle of the March household, where four ordinary girls find extraordinary strength in the face of life's challenges, leaving us all a little stronger for having joined them."

Performance Dates and Times
There will be four performances of Little Women presented at Lambert Hall (1703 Heights Boulevard, Houston, 77008):

• Friday, March 31, 2017, at 7:30 p.m.
• Sunday, April 2, 2017, at 2:00 p.m.
• Thursday, April 6, 2017, at 7:30 p.m.
• Saturday, April 8, 2017, at 7:30 p.m.

Ticket holders are invited to a post-performance “Talk-Back” with the cast following the Sunday matinee.

Following the Thursday evening performance, members of the Young Opera Lovers Organization (YOLO) will gather for a post-performance cocktail hour at Harold’s in the Heights (350 W 19th Street).

The Cast

“With the deeply insightful direction of Dashiell Waterbury, our stellar cast is bringing beauty and honesty to every note and word,” says Eiki Isomura, Artistic Director for Opera in the Heights.

The cast features Monica Isomura (Tisbe in La Cenerentola) as Jo March, Jennifer Crippen (Annio in La Clemenza di Tito) as Meg March, Julie Hoeltzel (Monica in The Medium) as Beth March, and Leigh Whitney Rosh (making her Opera in the Heights debut) as Amy March.

Opera in the Heights Explores New Depths with a Revamped Team


HOUSTON, TX, December 31, 2016-Opera in the Heights, a cornerstone of Houston’s vibrant performing arts community, has appointed Paige Myrick as Executive Director, and Eiki Isomura as Artistic Director, effective January 1, 2017.

Mr. Eiki Isomura, who serves as the company's principal conductor, will assume the role of Artistic Director at Opera in the Heights. The organization has seen a considerable rise in performance standard since the start of Mr. Isomura’s tenure in 2015.  In this role, he will implement and administer all aspects of programming and production. "The Board's reinstatement of the artistic director position speaks volumes about their commitment to our artistic product,” said Isomura. “I am extremely grateful to be given the opportunity to devote all of my attention and energies to Opera in the Heights and to team with the extraordinarily talented Paige Myrick whose work I have admired as an ardent fan of the Houston Chamber Choir.”

Ms. Paige Myrick joins Opera in the Heights after serving in various administrative capacities with The Van Cliburn Foundation, Fort Worth Opera, The Boston Conservatory, Houston Ballet, Houston Grand Opera, and the Houston Chamber Choir. She is also the founder of Circle of Fifths, an audience development partnership among five local Houston arts organizations. “I think opera has the incredible power to bring people together,” said Myrick. “I admire the mission of Opera in the Heights-- providing an accessible and intimate opera experience to its patrons, and a venue for emerging young professional singers in which to perform the art they love. I’m eager to build upon OH’s vital role within the community, and see to it that the organization soars to new local and national levels.”

Josh Agrons, Chairman of the Board of OH!, stated that “We are delighted to have a leadership team in place to take Opera in the Heights to the next level, to preserve and enhance the quality of our art, and to provide management strength and leadership.”

Opera in the Heights will continue its 21st season with performances of Bizet’s Les Pêcheurs de Perles on February 3rd, 9th, and 11that 7:30 pm and February 5th at 2:00 pm at Lambert Hall located at 1703 Heights Blvd. Tickets are available at www.operaintheheights.org or call (713) 861-5303.

Opera in the Heights' 2016-2017 Season Launches with the Support of Hundreds of Passionate Supporters

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                                          

Opera in the Heights' 2016-2017 Season Launches with the Support of Hundreds of Passionate Supporters

Houston, TX (August 19, 2016) - Opera in the Heights (Oh!) announces that the company has met its ambitious fundraising goal of $85,000. The 2016-17 season will go forward as planned!! Another $65,000 of fundraising is targeted to facilitate planning and executing the 2017-18 season.

In a Town Hall meeting held earlier this week to update benefactors and community members on the status of its funding efforts and to garner support, Executive Director Mariam Khalili made a presentation laying out the financial challenges Oh! has faced in the last year. This includes the loss of $65,000 from a major benefactor that has refocused its foundation’s giving priorities, along with decreases in grants from other foundations. Part of this is a reflection of the energy industry downturn in Houston.

Held at Lambert Hall, approximately 55 people attended the meeting, which opened with an aria from La Bohème by Amanda Kingston-Beetle, along with her impassioned speech about the importance of Oh! to the careers of young, emerging artists like herself. Kingston-Beetle explained how critical Opera in the Heights has been to advancing her career as an opera singer by giving her a stage to share her talents and passion for the art-form with appreciative audiences.

“This year, Opera in the Heights has experienced one of the greatest challenges of its 21-year existence,” says Mariam Khalili, the company’s Executive Director. “We are humbled by the support of so many. In just 1 month our community pulled together to make this upcoming season a reality. I must express my deep appreciation to our ‘Oh! angels’,” Khalili continues. “We still have a long way to go to raise an additional $65,000 to ensure the financial health of our organization but we are thrilled to officially announce the start of our 2016-2017 season! Opera in the Heights employs approximately 100 artists during the season, providing not only a paycheck, but incredible opportunities to perform in a nurturing and intimate environment, in front of opera-goers both seasoned and new. Our singers are also the leading force behind our education outreach, where they help Oh! to make a difference in the lives of students across Houston.”

Khalili then introduced Perryn Leech, Houston Grand Opera’s (HGO) Managing Director, who articulated how important Oh! is to the arts community in Houston by providing these unique and rich opportunities for young artists. “These young artists don’t start their professional careers at HGO, but at Opera in the Heights,” he says. “They work unbelievably hard just to get a chance to do their art, and we must all push their agenda.”

Leech went on to say that Houston Grand Opera is the big brother in town and wants to see Oh! not only survive, but thrive. “Opera in the Heights is a vital part of the Houston arts scene. We all want the company to continue in its mission, as it makes us all better. The arts are life-changing, and we must support them, including arts programming in schools.”

Khalili outlined several future initiatives to improve Oh!’s bottom line, including increasing the number of board members from 9 to 20 by July 2017. Highly stressed was the importance of maintaining the level of individual giving the company has received each year; those who are struck by the beauty they see on stage are encouraged to invite friends to a performance and consider giving a gift to further support the company.

The company is proud and excited to launch the season on August 31, with their annual kick-off party, Overture, hosted by Tommie Vaughn Ford.  Guests will enjoy intimate performances from Oh! Stars while mingling and enjoying light bites provided by Harold’s in the Heights and local brews by Town in City Brewing Company.  Tickets are available now.

If you’ve never seen an Opera in the Heights production, now is the time. The 2016-17 season kicks off in September with Strauss’s Die Fledermaus, with shows on Sept. 16, 18, 22 and 24. Tickets to Overture and season performances are available online at www.operaintheheights.org or by calling the box office at 713-861-5303. The diverse season also includes Puccini’s La Bohème, Bizet’s Les Pêcheurs de Perles or The Pearl Fishers and Mark Adamo’s Little Women, adapted from the book by Louisa May Alcott; and during the holidays, Oh!’s ConciertOh! de Invierno.





15k in 15 Days Recap - A Smashing Success!

We are blown away by the outpouring of support from our loyal patrons and donors during the 15k in 15 Days campaign. The campaign originated when the Oh! Board of Directors pledged to match every donation dollar for dollar - up to $15,000 - over the course of 15 days in an effort to jump start our overall fundraising initiative. Friends of Oh! completely rocked this challenge, raising over $33,000 which launched Oh! to a total of $48,865 (including the match) at the end of the 15th day!

THANK YOU for your support!

A Letter from the Maestro

A Letter from the Maestro

Dear Friends, 

I hope that this finds you well, as we here at Opera in the Heights look back on our wonderful 20th anniversary season. To commemorate our milestone year, we offered a repertory that celebrated the diverse history and scope of opera, ranging from the seminal work of Gluck to the modern lyricism of Menotti. I am hopeful that you enjoyed this collection of distinct musical styles, all rooted in traditions of rich storytelling.

Opera in the Heights to Host BRAVISSIMO! 2016 - AN EMERALD EVENING Fundraiser

By Opera News Desk
April 25, 2016 

Opera in the Heights (Oh!) announces "Bravissimo! 2016 - An Emerald Evening," the nonprofit organization's major fundraiser of the year, to be held on May 21 at La Colombe d'Or.


This year's event celebrates Oh!'s 20th season and honors the extensive contributions of Josie and Fred Nevill to Opera in the Heights over the past nine years. The emcee for the event is St. John Flynn, who serves as Houston Public Media's Arts & Culture Director, and is an ardent supporter of classical music and opera.

"Josie and Fred are passionate supporters of Oh! and could not be more deserving of this recognition," says Tony Tripodo, "Bravissimo!" co-chair with his wife Heather Tripodo. "Fred is a long-time board member who has taken a hands-on approach to improving and growing our organization. Both he and Josie have generously donated time, energy and money to Opera in the Heights. We are also thrilled to welcome St. John Flynn as our special guest emcee."

Oh!'s Director of Development, Becky Buturovic, has assembled a team of capable young professionals to serve on the gala committee with the Tripodos, also Oh! supporters for many years. These include Carli Baker, Lauren Bryan, Leah Hanson, Alexis Hester, Brittany Koger, Kari Schultz, Dr. Emily Moers and Elizabeth Yarotsky.

"We are excited to introduce a younger crowd to Opera in the Heights through 'Bravissimo!,' " says Buturovic. "I know several of these committee members personally, and they will take our 20th anniversary gala to a new level with their talents and expertise. These young professionals are the future leaders and supporters of Oh!."

Other Oh! board members planning "Bravissimo!" include Josh Agrons, Bo Eagles, Marianne Terrell, Dan Mathena and Will Speer. In addition to an elegant seated dinner and the presentation of the honorees, the evening will include special performances from some of Oh!'s most talented emerging artists. Some of the exciting live auction items for the gala include trips to a fully-staffed villa in Acapulco, Mexico; La Posada Resort in Santa Fe, New Mexico; and Red Willow Lodge in Big Fork, Montana; in addition to a gourmet dinner for six with Maestro Eiki Isomura and a collection of fine wines to stock a wine cellar.

Underwriting opportunities are available for the gala. Sponsorships begin at $5000 and include a table of 10 for the event, as well as several other benefits. Individual tickets begin at $375 each. Proceeds from "Bravissimo!" help Opera in the Heights to enhance the careers of young professional artists and enable those of all ages to enjoy opera at affordable prices. For more details about "Bravissimo!" or to order tickets call 713-861-5303 or email info@operaintheheights.org.

Opera in the Heights is a professional opera company that exists to provide a stage for emerging performers and to bring affordable opera to the Greater Houston Area. All operas are fully staged with an orchestra and presented in the original language with English translation (when applicable) projected above the stage.

Pictured: "Bravissimo!" co-chairs Tony and Heather Tripodo with gala honorees Fred and Josie Nevill. Photo by Deji Osinulu Photography.

For Full Article, Click HERE.


Orfeo at Opera in the Heights a Great Way to Finish the Season

By D.L. Groover
April 12, 2016

Laura Coale as Orfeo, Yunnie Park as Eurydice and Julia Fox as Amore in Opera in the Heights' Orfeo ed Euridice. Photos by Deji Osinulu Photography.

Laura Coale as Orfeo, Yunnie Park as Eurydice and Julia Fox as Amore in Opera in the Heights' Orfeo ed Euridice. Photos by Deji Osinulu Photography.

The set-up:
In the bizarre and fascinating history of opera, composers unexpectedly appear who completely change the course of the art. It doesn't happens overnight, and the musical trailblazer may not even know what he's doing or where he's going, but Christoph Willibald Gluck changed opera forever. He started a revolution.

The execution:
Orfeo (1762) didn't completely transform the royal entertainment after its Vienna premiere, but the work solidified certain ideas Gluck had been tossing around for years. A successful composer of fashionable opera seria, he had grown tired of the demands of the superstar castrati, who only wanted firework showcases for their prodigious vocal talents. Who cared what the vehicles were, the audience was there to see them. They were rock stars, they were Kardashians, only with a lot more talent.

Gluck had written some 35 previous works for the stage, was the Kapellmeister at the Austrian court, had taught Marie Antoinette to play the harpsichord, had traveled to London and Italy. But he was unhappy with the state of the art. Florid singing was one thing, but couldn't it serve the story? And dancing, which he loved, couldn't it, too, be an integral part? An opera didn't have to exist solely for the singers to preen, did it? Why couldn't the orchestra play continuously? Let's make the work a complete whole; where everything works together. What a novel idea! Richard Wagner would later blare forth in numerous pamphlets and treatises to call this a Gesamtkunstwerk, a total melding of everything that makes a stage drama – music, book, sets, lighting, dance, performance.

In 1760 Paris, this idea was absolutely alien and cause for alarm, especially espoused by a German. Opera patrons rebelled. There were fist fights in the audience during Gluck's Iphigenia (1774), much like the pandemonium caused by Diaghilev for his Paris production of Stravinsky's Firebird in 1910. Keep everything how we've always done it, the old guard shouted. What do you mean there's no repeat or another flashy song or more ornamentation? We go to the opera to applaud our favorites and be seen. Who cares about the story, or if the music expresses anything? Do you like my waistcoat?

Gluck would have none of this. Somehow he knew what the moribund art form needed. With his librettist Ranieri Calzabigi (a best bro of Casanova), without whom he wouldn't have dared this audacious step, Gluck forged ahead with his ideas of the perfect opera. Eventually, the audience came around. Unfortunately, it wasn't in his lifetime, but that's the fate of explorers and dare devils.

Stately and austere, Orfeo ed Euridice, by all scholarly accounts the oldest standard in the opera rep, has everything Herr Gluck wanted. What luscious melodies! What drama personified! Even two ballets! Sure, it's based on Greek legend – the bane of opera seria – but this time the music really does express what's going on in the characters' inner minds. It sounds like what they're feeling. How refreshing. Not one to completely buck the system, Gluck used an alto castrati in the role of Orfeo in Vienna, but for the Paris version in 1774 he changed Orfeo to a tenor (the Paris audience didn't like their males altered). In the famous 1859 revival, composer Hector Berlioz transposed Orfeo to a contralto (or mezzo), and that's the way it's been sung ever since.

Gluck's Orfeo is a blast of fresh air. It will always be. It's a classic of its kind, albeit an early exemplar, but a classic nonetheless. It is simple and pure, ravishing in its simplicity, pure melody and pure expression. Opera in the Heights produces a lovely rendition, formal and clean, updating the antique but not making it too cluttered to harm the old opera's impact. OH, under Leslie Swackhamer's compressed direction, turns Gluck into gold.

Under maestro Eiki Isomura, the orchestra has never sounded so focused. The woodwinds, especially flutist Wendy Bergin, who has that iconic solo in the famous “Dance of the Blessed Spirits,” are clean and immaculate. And the lovely passage that introduces the “Elysian Fields” interlude is especially striking in its delicate shimmer of bird calls and rushing water. Down the line, this is ensemble playing of fine caliber. Choreographer Krissy Richmond overlays the opera with an ease of movement that befits Gluck's refined classical style.

But the evening belongs to mezzo Laura Coale, a former OH chorus member, who sings Orfeo with stunning clarity and emotional heft. Holy Gluck, where have you been, Ms. Coale? If this isn't a star turn, I don't know what is! She's phenomenal – with a powerful, expressive, radiant, and unfettered voice. There's not a falter, waver, quaver, quiver to her. A lovely actor to boot, she looks great in a tuxedo. Her Euridice, soprano Yunnie Park, while no Oscar winner, has a rich, smooth finish to her voice, like delicious hollandaise. She makes the most of her glorious Act II temper tantrum, when she chides Orfeo for not looking at her. Little does she know that Orfeo, under Love's command, may not glance at her as he leads her out of the Underworld or else she will go back from whence she came. Amore, the only other leading role in the opera, is slyly portrayed by soprano Julia Fox. Foxy she is, as she vocally winks at us as she expounds Love's deepest meaning while looking at us askance. Dressed to the nines in spectacular wings and Grecian bling (thank you, costumer Barry Doss), Fox seems to know more about the sexy mysteries of love than anyone else on stage. What word would the Greeks have for her?

The verdict:
The OH chorus is ultra-fine, too, smooth and lustrous, which is saying something because they've been so consistently good all season. Maestro Isomura deserves our thanks. OH ends its 20th anniversary season (!) on a particularly high note. Bravo to all!

Orfeo ed Euridice continues on April 14 and 16 at Opera in the Heights, 1703 Heights Boulevard. For more information call 713-861-5303 or visit operaintheheights.org. $13-$63.

For Full Review, Click HERE.

Opera in the Heights Takes on the Greek

By Sarah Douglass

IN ITS LATEST PRODUCTION, Opera in the Heights puts its own twist on the 1889 opera Orfeo ed Euridice. Stage director Leslie Swackhamer opted to forgo Grecian influences and traded togas for tuxedos.

“[My costume] is vaguely inspired from 1930 films and pictures of Marlene Dietrich in male drag in a tuxedo, and that’s the look they’re going for,” says lead opera singer, Laura Coale.

The monochromatic set uses black, white and greys to add to the Art Deco–like atmosphere. Playing with strong shadow effects and rolling staircases, Opera in the Heights adds visual depth to one of the oldest Greek myths about death.

“We’re using lighting to give off the different areas and emotion and the set. We’ve never done this at Opera in the Heights, so it’s really cool,” explains Coale. “There’s rigging where we can hang big pieces of fabric that will move and can detach, so you can do lighting on them and have big shadow effects.”

The venue that seats about 300 is connected to a church and once served as a sanctuary. The intimate space gives each audience member a seat directly in all the action.

“You could literally be sitting right underneath the stairs, you know. So there are no bad seats in the house. We have a balcony and that’s great too because you get kind of a bigger picture, but the sound is still the same,” Coale says.

Unlike traditional opera houses, the orchestra is not hidden in a pit. Instead, the audience members get a full look at the production. “They are off to the side, so you get full view of them as well, which is kind of cool,” Coale says.

Keeping true to the original script, the opera is preformed in Italian. Playing Orfeo, Coale began preparations in late August by translating every word with the intent of knowing exactly what is being sung at every moment.

“I kind of talk it through in my own language what I’m saying and then I talk it through again in Italian, so it becomes almost second nature. The music also helps to connect it to the text, so I have a deeper meaning and it’s easier to memorize,” adds Coal, an alum of University of Houston’s Vocal Performance program.

April 8, 14 & 16 at 7:30. April 10 at 2. $13–63. Opera in the Heights, 1703 Heights Blvd. 713-861-5303. 


For Full Article, Click HERE.

'Orfeo ed Euridice' is a 'visceral experience,' says opera director

By Don Maines
April 6, 2016

Orfeo ed Euridice" is an opera that "puts the pedal to the metal," says its dynamic director, Leslie Swackhamer.

"It is straight-ahead storytelling," said Swackhamer, a Lynn Park resident, who directs the show's April 8-16 performances as the final offering of the 20th anniversary season of Opera in the Heights (Oh!).

The group's venue, Lambert Hall, said Swackhamer, "is so intimate the music literally vibrates in your body. The music is fantastic, and it's a visceral experience you can't get in a bigger opera house."

"Orfeo ed Euridice (Orpheus and Eurydice)" is based on an ancient Greek myth in which a man, refusing to accept that his beloved is dead, strikes a bargain with the gods to allow him to journey through the underworld to retrieve her. The catch is that he can't look at her until they are both safely back among the living.

More Information

Want to go?

What: "Orfeo ed Euridice"

Where: Lambert Hall, 1703 Heights Blvd.

When: 7:30 p.m. April 8, 14 and 16; 2 p.m. April 10

Details: 713-861-5303,www.operaintheheights.org

"Somebody being so obsessed that he would go to Hell and back is very romantic," said Swackhamer.

The director's own husband, Ten Eyck Swackhamer, squired her across country when she decided to leave her career as a high-powered Washington, D.C. trial lawyer to study directing in Seattle, Washington.

"Practicing law made me money but it didn't make me happy," said the director. "We cut ties to stability and packed up and moved."

Swackhamer had grown up in Bradenton, Florida, as "a nerdy redhead" with dreams of becoming a brain surgeon.

However, when she arrived at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia, she "fell in love with the study of history" while also pursuing theater as a hobby.

Swackhamer was playing the mayor's daughter in a production of "The Music Man" when its choreographer fell ill and Swackhamer was asked to replace her.

"Afterward, the director took me aside and said, 'You really have the directing gene.'"

When she moved to Houston 10 years ago, where her husband is general manager of the Alley Theatre, Swackhamer "pretty quickly" gravitated toward Stages Repertory Theatre.

"It is my artistic home," she said.

However, to Houston fans, Swackhamer's hits shows at Stages, such as "The Great American Trailer Park Musical," might have eclipsed her national reputation as a director of operas.

Following "Orfeo ed Euridice," for example, Swackhamer is inked to direct "Madame Butterfly" at both the San Francisco Opera House and the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in the nation's capital.

"About 30 or 40 percent of my work is opera," she said.

"Travel is tricky," she added, explaining that she and her husband have a daughter, Sarah, who is a sophomore at Duchesne Academy of the Sacred Heart in Houston.

"Her interests are debate and robotics," said her mother.

Swackhamer previously directed "Don Giovanni" and "Macbeth" at Opera in the Heights, which she said "has reconnected with our mission" by casting "young talent" in major roles in "Orfeo ed Euridice."

Swackhamer also enjoys new play development and theater administration, including her work the past five years as executive director of the Susan Smith Blackburn Prize, the Houston-based international competition for female playwrights.

In press material, Oh! principal conductor Eiki Isomura said that Christoph W. Gluck's Orfeo ed Euridice was "a game-changer" for opera.

"At a time when the art form had become a vehicle for vocal display, Gluck sought to integrate all the aspects of the medium, stripping away anything he considered superfluous, in service of authentic storytelling," said Isomura. "It proved a powerful model for opera as a total art form, influencing generations of progressive composers ranging from Mozart to Wagner."

Swackhamer said "one whole section takes place in Hell. It is breathtaking."

"I'm excited to have (veteran Houston choreographer) Krissy Richmond work on movement and dance, which is so pivotal in this opera," said Swackhamer. "She is a consummate artist, having been a principal dancer with the Houston Ballet, and going on to enjoy an international career. A Houston treasure, she brings elegance and creativity to everything she touches."


For Full Article, Click HERE.