In the News 2015-2016

Opera in the Heights hits all the right notes with magical musical evening for supporters

 Elizabeth Yarotsky, Carli Baker, Natalie Murdock, Lauren Bryan.  Photo by Deji Osinulu Photography

Elizabeth Yarotsky, Carli Baker, Natalie Murdock, Lauren Bryan. Photo by Deji Osinulu Photography

You don't typically find a coterie of young professionals heavily populating a gala committee. But when Opera in the Heights  (Oh!) development director Becky Buturovic went about to fill the committee for the Bravissimo gala in the spring, she cast her net across the sea of the organization's younger supporters.

The committee was introduced at a music-filled reception at Boulevard Realty, which happens to be located only a block down Heights Boulevard from Lambert Hall, where Oh! performs. Oh! board member Marianne Terrell and Kenny Terrell hosted the soirée. 

The gathering also served to announce that Josie and Fred Nevill are gala honorees, set to take the spotlight at La Colombe d'Or on May 20. That announcement was made by  Tony Tripodo, who chairs the gala with his wife, Heather Tripodo.

Tenor James Chamberlain (Canio in Oh!’s I Pagliacci) hit all the right notes as he provided operatic entertainment for the crowd, singing from three operas:Carmen, Tosca and Turandot. Pianist Catherine Schaeffer provided the musical accompaniment.

Gala steering committee members include Carli Baker, Molly Blanchard, Lauren Bryan, Leah Hanson, Alexis Hester, Brittany Koger, Natalie Murdock, Kari Schultz, Dr. Emily Walding, and Elizabeth Yarotsky. 

Oh! executive director Mariam Khalili and principal conductor Eiki Isomura joined the group.

For full article, click HERE.

ConciertOh! de Invierno

By Olivia Flores Alvarez

Octavio Moreno has performed many times with Opera in the Heights, but the ConciertOh! De Invierno concert hits a personal note. The Latin American zarzuelas (opera-like, with both sung and spoken sections), boleros and música navideña (Christmas music) on the program are the music Moreno grew up with in Mexico. “This is what I grew up listening to,” he tells us. “This music is what pushed me to pursue a musical career. Even today, I try to do some of this music whenever I can; it’s too beautiful for me to let go. It’s music that I feel it deep in my heart, in my soul.

 

“Also, I love romantic music and two of the two arias [I sing] are very romantic.” Opera in the Heights Executive Director Mariam Khalili approached Moreno and a few other singers with the idea for the concert a few months ago. The organization had done a similar event several years ago and when the subject of a holiday concert came up, Khalili suggested ConciertOh! Along with Moreno, the lineup of performers includes Claudia Chapa, James Rodriguez, Arnold Yzaguirre, Patrick Contreras and pianist Brian Suits.

Moreno switches roles for a few songs, going from singer to accompanist when he picks up a guitar in the second half of the show. “I play on ‘Granada’ for Patrick. [Playing guitar,] that’s an obscure part of my life, one that I really enjoy.”

Does a zarzuelas concert being performed by an American opera company surprise Moreno? “Actually, no. Opera in the Heights isn’t a Latin American organization, but it also isn’t an Italian organization or a German organization; nevertheless, they’re doing Italian opera and German opera. I think we, the whole world, has gotten to a point where pretty much everything is everybody’s. In a country like this, where you can look around and see Irish people, Africans, Germans all in one place, adding a program like this makes sense.”

7 p.m. Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Lambert Hall, 1703 Heights. For information, call 713-861-5303 or visit operaintheheights.org. $25.

 

ORGANIZER DESCRIPTION: Join Opera in the Heights (Oh!) for ConciertOh! de Invierno, a special holiday concert highlighting some of Oh’s most outstanding Hispanic artists in a way that that allows them to show off different styles of music. Oh!’s concert series will feature traditional zarzuelas, boleros and música navideña (Christmas music) that have broad appeal. (Zarzuela is a Spanish lyric dramatic opera genre alternating between spoken and sung scenes, and bolero is slow tempo Latin music.)

For Full Article, Click HERE.

BWW Blog: Baritone James Rodriguez on Opera in the Heights' CONCIERTOH! DE INVIERNO

By Guest Blogger: James Rodriguez

Opera in the Heights continues to celebrate its 20th anniversary season with CONCIERTOH! DE INVIERNO, a Spanish language and music holiday concert. The concert features Oh! favorites Claudia Chapa, Octavio Moreno, and James Rodriguez along with special guest appearances by Arnold Yzaguirre, Brian Suits, and Patrick Contreras.

Baritone James Rodriguez gives us a look into his musical background and how it influences his performance in CONCIERTOH! DE INVIERNO.

  Above: Baritone James Rodriguez as Tonio   in Oh's production of I PAGLIACCI last season.   This December he'll perform   for Oh's Spanish language holiday concert,    CONCIERTOH! DE INVIERNO.    Photo by Deji Osinulu Photography

Above: Baritone James Rodriguez as Tonio
in Oh's production of I PAGLIACCI last season.
This December he'll perform
for Oh's Spanish language holiday concert,
CONCIERTOH! DE INVIERNO.
Photo by Deji Osinulu Photography

Every summer for the last five years, I have presented a recital of songs and arias back home in Fort Worth. Much of this audience is made up of family and friends from all over Central and South America. It was only last year (at the request of one of my mother's friends) that I sang my first group of Mexican folksongs arranged by Edward Kilenyi. The audience loved them.

I have to be honest; my experience with performing music in Spanish has been primarily through the operatic works of the late Mexican composer, Daniel Catán. I have explored very little in the way of art song or zarzuela; therefore, you can imagine my surprise when I was contacted by Opera in the Heights to sing on their holiday concert, which will feature songs, boleros, zarzuelas, and Christmas music all sung in Spanish. This was the perfect opportunity to finally explore music written in my native language.

After various meetings, repertoire was selected and my solo selections include three Kilenyi folksongs ("Mi sueño," "Noche serena," and "Pregúntale á las estrellas") and "Amor, vida de mi vida" from the zarzuela, Maravilla by Federico Moreno Torroba. This aria was introduced to me this summer and has quickly become one of my favorites because it is a showstopper for the baritone voice! Other ensemble numbers include "Blanca Navidad" and "Navidad y Año Nuevo."

The holiday season is an opportunity to hear great classics such as Messiah and Nutcracker; however, I hope Houstonians will take time out of their busy schedules and stop by Lambert Hall in the Heights during the weekend of December 11 to hear CONCIERTOH! DE INVIERNO. You won't be disappointed!

[Correction: An earlier version of this article stated that James Rodriguez would perform the bolero selection "El Desdichado" by French composer, Camille Saint-Saëns, with mezzo-soprano, Claudia Chapa. The duet has been removed from the program.]

CONCIERTOH! DE INVIERNO. December 11-13, 7 pm. Opera in the Heights, Lambert Hall, 1703 Heights Blvd. $15.

For the Full Post, Click HERE.

Four events turn the Heights into Holiday Central

By Martin Hajovsky on December 2, 2015

...

Moving on to next weekend, Opera in the Heights will salute its Hispanic artists in what they’re calling the “ConciertOh! de Invierno.”

The company is celebrating its 20th season this year, and for the holidays they’ve put together a program featuring zarzuelas, boleros and música navideña (Christmas music) at Lambert Hall, 1703 Heights Boulevard.

The company will showcase singers Claudia Chapa, Octavio Moreno and James Rodriguez, with guest appearances by Arnold Yzaguirre, Brian Suits and Patrick Contreras. Three concerts are scheduled for Dec. 11, 12 and 13, all starting at 7 p.m.

Tickets range from $15-25 with military, student and senior discounts and can be purchased either by clicking here or calling 713-861-5303.

 

For Full Article, click HERE.

Opera in the Heights presents ConciertOh! de Invierno

Opera in the Heights will present ConciertOh! de Invierno, a special holiday music concert series in Spanish highlighting some of Oh!’s most outstanding Hispanic artists in a way that allows them to show off different styles of music. ConciertOh! de Invierno will feature traditional zarzuelas, boleros, and música navideña (Christmas music) that have broad appeal. (Zarzuela is a Spanish lyric dramatic opera genre alternating between spoken and sung scenes, and bolero is slow tempo Latin music).

Oh!’s sensational singers participating in the concert series are Claudia Chapa, Octavio Moreno, and James Rodriguez, with guest appearances by Arnold Yzaguirre, Brian Suits, and Patrick Contreras. Oh! subscribers will recognize Chapa, Moreno and Rodriguez, who have most recently portrayed Madame Flora/Baba in The Medium (Chapa); Rigoletto in Rigoletto (Moreno) and Tonio in I Pagliacci (Rodriguez).

ConciertOh! de Invierno will last approximately 90 minutes, with an intermission and concessions featuring sweet treats, coffee and cocoa provided by Oh!’s guild members. The music appeals to all ages and makes a perfect family outing in the midst of the holiday season.

For Full Article, Click HERE!

BWW Blog: Mezzo-Soprano Claudia Chapa Reflects on OHs THE MEDIUM & THE TELEPHONE

  Mezzo-soprano Claudia Chapa packing heat as Madame Flora   in Opera in the Heights' THE MEDIUM.   © Deji Osinulu Photography

Mezzo-soprano Claudia Chapa packing heat as Madame Flora
in Opera in the Heights' THE MEDIUM.
© Deji Osinulu Photography

Opening night was on the eve of Halloween, so OH! held a costume contest; several of our audience members joined in the fun! I was also in charge of OH!'s Instagram takeover. Check out @operaintheheights to get up close and personal with what happened backstage.

We had a "Talk Back" after the matinee performance on Sunday, which was a chance for the audience members to ask us ANYTHING! It was enlightening to hear what the audience felt after our performance and fun to answer questions about the operas, our backgrounds and (SPOILER ALERT) where the blood comes from when a certain cast member dies.

***

As I reflect on this past weekend, I've determined that my favorite part about making opera is the rehearsals. Of course, performing is up there, but there is something incredibly special about the rehearsal process. Different people with diverse backgrounds and experiences gather to create art that the public will see weeks later.

How amazing is THAT!? All of our musical and acting nuances are cultivated in these rehearsals. The way we interact determines the cast's flow. THE TELEPHONE and THE MEDIUM that we created for Opera in the Heights can never be replicated. The shows on Thursday, November 5th and Saturday, November 7th will be different from the previous weekend. And, that's exciting! LIVE ART!

Post-opening weekend I have a couple of days off until the next show. I'm using this time to prepare for some upcoming gigs I have at the end of the month and a collaboration with classical guitarist Arnold Yzaguirre.

If the previous weekend is any indication of the rest of the run, we are going to have a fantastic finish!

For Full Post, click HERE.

OPERA IN THE HEIGHTS DOES WELL BY MENOTTI'S MUSIC IN ITS DUAL OFFERINGS

BY D. L. GROOVER
FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 6, 2015 

 Photography by Deji Osinulu

Photography by Deji Osinulu

The set-up:
What exactly are they thinking at Opera in the Heights? In this two-opera set, Gian Carlo Menotti's little bauble of an operetta, The Telephone (1947), has been given an insane Halloween gloss so that characters Lucy and Ben appear as Bride of Frankenstein and Frankenstein monster. What the hell?! It's mind-numbingly stupid – and insulting to the composer. But The Medium (1946) is deliciously taut and fragrant, a wonderful homage to the composer. What's going on?

The execution:
That we ultimately forgive director Lynda McKnight's myopic opening production is testament to the skill of Menotti (music and libretto), the fine playing of the chamber orchestra under maestro Eiki Isomura, and the exemplary sweet cast (soprano Julia Engels and tenor Thomas Richards). Fortunately, the comic opera lasts less than 20 minutes, so the shock of having to endure Lucy's Elsa Lanchester lightning-streaked wig or Ben's green skin and those bolts protruding from his neck is fleeting. But what is this? I know it opened on Halloween weekend, but, really, who thought this Munsters-esque look was a good idea?

Written as a curtain-raiser for Menotti's dank dramatic The MediumThe Telephone is a bright little work that's all glimmer and sass. About to leave on a business trip, boyfriend Ben is unable to propose to Lucy because she's constantly on the phone. She's tethered to her “umbilical cord,” as Ben calls it, when he's tangled up in its Laocoön cord. In mini arias, she gossips, gets a wrong number, calls the operator for the precise time, and apologizes to another best friend for gossiping with the first friend, while Ben frets in silence, as time ticks away. Realizing he can't win in person, he phones her from the train station and finally gets her attention. Yes, she will marry him. But will you remember, she teases. Sure, he says, Your face, eyes, lips? No, silly, my phone number.

Menotti had no idea how prescient he was.

Engels sparkles as preoccupied Lucy; Richards fumes as second-in-line Ben; Menotti dazzles. A tasty musical hors d'oeurve, the opera goes by in a flash. Nobody sets conversational speech so nimbly as Menotti. Fresh and piquant, the work's over before you know it.

These were his glory years, the '40s and '50s, when Menotti was considered the young savior of opera. His melodies flowed, his dramatic instincts secure, and almost everyone who had a new television set watched his magnificent NBC Christmas special Amahl and the Night Visitors (1951). This production turned on an entire generation to the glories of opera. (Are you listening, HGO?)

Menotti was the voice of the new verismo, or, perhaps, the old verismo in new guise – passionately singable, lyric, gritty, melodramatic, Italianate. A worthy successor to Puccini and Mascagni, Menotti was supposed to revive moribund, old-fogy opera. But for all his prodigious gifts, he was in the wrong century, and his throwback rococo style didn't suit the fashion of the time. After his early hits, he was branded hopelessly old-fashioned. Although he received two Pulitzer Prizes for Music – The Consul(1950) and The Saint of Bleecker Street (1954) – none of his future work would be so wildly applauded. His last opera was The Singing Child (1993). He was also indirectly responsible for a third Pulitzer: he wrote the libretto for his partner Samuel Barber's opera Vanessa (1958), which won Barber the prestigious award.

The Medium is sleek psychological thriller. Madame Flora (mezzo Claudia Chapa, in full diva mode), a sham seer, hoodwinks her emotionally fragile patrons with fake séances and stage tricks. Daughter Monica (soprano Julie Thornton) supplies the phantom voices while mute Toby (Alex Scheuremann), in love with Monica, supplies the special effects. Flora is haunted by memories not fully enumerated by Menotti, but her unspecified terrors have something to do with surviving the horrors of WW II. Motivation might be nebulous, but Menotti overlays the scant background info with eerie skittering woodwinds, prickly percussion, and Monica's minor key folk tune “The Black Swan,” to instill an atmosphere of creepy European angst. The drama is high-pitched and over-the-top. Pure verismo, the work is out there, as we say.

Who has touched her with an icy hand, Madame Flora demands to know, cutting short the séance. She blames Toby and forces him out of the house. When he sneaks back to get Monica, a drunken Flora, obsessed and hallucinating, shoots him. “I have killed the ghost,” she shouts in triumph.

Jodi Bobrovsky's set design is appropriately moldy and seedy, a New Orleans house decayed and redolent of mildew. When Flora's demons descend, the lights go red and spooky.

Chapa, memorable from OH's past seasons as a bouncy Mistress Quickly in Falstaff and a gleeful witch in Hansel and Gretel, possesses a purring inky mezzo that envelops Menotti's dramatic lines with probing depth and nuance. When she goes bonkers, stand back. As repressed Monica, Thornton turns a bit shrill in the upper register when singing full out, and her voice can get lost even through Menotti's chamber orchestration, but her rendition of “Black Swan” glows with tenderness, like innocence remembered. Although a non-singing role, Scheuremann's Toby is constantly wary and feral, on guard against Flora's unwarranted outbursts and quickly hiding behind the furniture for protection. He's lost his innocence years ago. The clients, who vehemently protest Madame Flora's confession that she's a fraud because they want so desperately to believe their children are in contact with them, are suitably limed by soprano Gwen Alfred, tenor Richards, and mezzo Monica Isomura.

The verdict:
Any Menotti is rare in today's opera rep. A return to his particular brand of full-out theatricality is long overdue, certainly welcome, and a surprising re-discovery.

The Telephone and The Medium continues on November 7 at Opera in the Heights, 1703 Heights Boulevard. For information, call 713-861-5303 or visit operaintheheights.org. $35-$67.

Classical Classroom, Ep 107: Sometimes Menotti, Sometimes Me Nice - With Lynda McKnight

It's a Menotti two-fer! Lynda McKnight from Houston's Opera in the Heights teaches all about the composer Gian Carlo Menotti and two of his short operas, The Medium(not the Patricia Arquette kind), and The Telephone (not the Lady Gaga kind). Learn about this versatile 20th century composer and these two drastically different operas. Also, zombies.

By the way, Opera in the Heights is staging a Medium and Telephone double-header through November 7th! 

Music in this episode:
- Gian Carlo Menotti, The Medium. Chicago Opera Theater recording.
- Gian Carlo Menotti, The Telephone. BBC Radio Broadcast on YouTube.

Audio by Todd "My, My Telephone" Hulslander with psychic readings by Dacia Clay and editing by Mark DiClaudio.

For audio of this "lesson," please click HERE

BWW Blog: Mezzo-Soprano Claudia Chapa Talks OHs THE MEDIUM

Mezzo-soprano Claudia Chapa is Madam Flora
in Opera in the Heights' THE MEDIUM.
Chapa previously appeared at OH! in FALSTAFF
and HANSEL UND GRETEL.

THE MEDIUM and THE TELEPHONE, two mid-twentieth century compositions by Gian Carlo Menotti, make the perfect double act at Opera in the Heights. THE MEDIUM concerns a spooky, alcohol drenched, sham of a séance and THE TELEPHONE-a love affair hampered by technology.

Claudia Chapa, the mezzo-soprano who puts The Medium in THE MEDIUM talks about weathering the storm, literally, and embracing the much deserved rainbow that follows.


Becoming Madam Flora

When Opera in the Heights offered me the title role in THE MEDIUM, I jumped at the opportunity. I've worked with OH! in the past (Dame Quickly in FALSTAFF, The Witch in HANSEL UND GRETEL), so I was excited to perform this complex character in such an intimate setting.

A one sentence synopsis of THE MEDIUM: Madam Flora (or "Baba") is a charlatan who poses as a medium to make THAT MONEY and in one of her "séances" things get real and she loses it. Of course, the characters and storyline are more complex than that, but that's basically the story.

The rehearsal process has been intense for me, Madam Flora/Baba has so much hurt, anger, and pain. Lynda Keith McKnight, our stage director, encouraged us to be genuine on stage. And I'm not going to lie, while Menotti wrote a wicked opera, it was musically hard to learn. But Maestro Eiki Isomura is fantastic to work with. He is very attentive and shepherded us when needed. This role has challenged me musically and emotionally. I love it.

Stormy Weather

I want to start this section with this: Our final dress rehearsal went amazingly! But our previous dress rehearsal was a real mess. Everything that could go wrong did! Side note: Our creative/production team is AWESOME! They are scrappy, they make it happen (even when it seems impossible). Go team!

A big storm swung through by Houston and affecting the lighting system, so our lighting designer dealt with that. THANKS, PATRICIA! Props were breaking, costumes were not fully finished, there was a scheduling conflict causing one of our cast members to leave early. Yet all of these issues highlight how much opera is a team effort. The singers are just the tip of the iceberg. We learned from that dress rehearsal and looked forward to our final orchestra dress.

Sun in the Sky

The energy for our final dress was steady. Everyone had their game faces on and we were ready to create some compelling stage magic. The show goes smoothly!

Once our final dress was done, I felt the energy to be both relaxed and excited! Relaxed because all of the major malfunctions in previous rehearsals had been worked out, and excited because we did it! We have put together a show that makes us proud and we can't wait to perform for y'all! WOOT!

Remaining performances of THE MEDIUM AND THE TELEPHONE are Nov. 5 and 7 at 7:30 pm. For more information, visit www.operaintheheights.org/the-medium-the-telephone.

For more information on Claudia Chapa, visit www.claudiachapa.com.

 

For full post, click HERE.