Art Valet: La clemenza di Tito

By Mitch Cohen

January 29, 2015 

Opera. Sit back down and read, I know most people are a yes or no with opera, and probably aren’t sure why if they’re a no. Me, I’ve been a maybe. However, if you hadn’t noticed by now, I love everything about the Heights, and the Heights just happens to have, a small, very famous opera house, and that got my attention.

Opera in the Heights (OH) is the name, and they also want to pay for half your ticket if you’ve never been to an opera before. How cool is that?

My very talented friend Mariam Khalili has just been promoted to Executive Director of OH, and she invited me to the dress rehearsal for Mozart’s La clemenza di Tito this past Monday evening. My reaction? Awesome! Mariam straightened me out on opera and in particular, what OH is all about.

“Opera in the Heights lives and breathes inside tiny Lambert Hall, a beautiful old church building that sits on Heights Boulevard,” Khalili said. “I would say that 9 out of 10 Heights Boulevard joggers, dog walkers, and bicyclists, have no idea what treasures are produced inside this building they move past daily. OH is one of the best kept secrets around; a secret that should be shared. On the other side of the coin, Opera in the Heights is known nationally and even internationally in the opera world thanks to two different Maestros who gave their artistic gifts to grow the organization over the years, as well as hundreds of artists, staff, and volunteers.”

An internationally recognized organization goes unnoticed in its own backyard? I continued asking questions:

“OH is a non-profit organization that was founded with the idea that Opera should be shared with everyone,” Khalili said. “Imagine delighted children experiencing a live, fully staged opera complete with an orchestra for the very first time. OH provides this experience and so much more for our blossoming Heights community. Over the years Opera in the Heights created a second name for itself by declaring the desire to promote emerging artists and giving them a place to not only build a resume, but to SHINE. OH now serves two major purposes: Making opera accessible and supporting and nurturing emerging artists.”

Watching the performance in the 300 seat theater, is an experience like nothing else. Opera is very emotional and dramatic, so being able to see the singer’s expressions and body language is a major bonus here. Halfway through the performance, and I’m hooked. I ask Mariam if she gets to interact with these amazing singers and musicians.

“I love engaging with our singers and musicians,” Khalili said. “They are all so gifted and such a pleasure to be around! It is always so interesting to me to see their alter egos on stage. I have been completely blown away by their ability to transform into the person that their character embodies.” Khalili continues about the orchestra too, “I have to say that OH is incredibly lucky to have the orchestra we have. These guys and gals don’t get but a few rehearsals in as a group, with the conductor and the singers, and they produce a phenomenal show.”

“Once you fall in love with opera, it is hard to get away from it, and once you experience it in our very intimate theater, you really can’t get it out of your system.” Khalili said of her experience with opera. I have to agree, I’m falling hard for it now.

La clemenza di Tito is one of Mozart’s rarest operas, written during the final year of his life in 1791. I am told that it is also one of the most difficult to perform both for the orchestra and to sing. This was not lost on my inexperience as an opera goer either. An amazing performance by all.

Presuming that you are newbie to opera like me, I left out the details that would have opera fans oohing and aahing. As Khalili pointed out, OH is known nationally and internationally.

La clemenza di Tito runs for two weekends (and a Thursday show) with performance dates of Jan. 30 and 31 and Feb. 5, 6 and 7 at 7:30 p.m. and matinees on Feb. 1 and Feb. 8 at 2 p.m., all at historic Lambert Hall in the Houston Heights.

For new initiates requesting half-price tickets, please call the OH box office at 713-861-5303 or go online at to order, using the code OPERANEWBIE. Regular single ticket prices for the production run from $35-$67, senior tickets are $32-$58, and student tickets are $15-$17 in designated areas.

All operas are fully staged with orchestra and presented in the original language with English surtitles projected above the stage.

Opera in the Heights is located at 1703 Heights Boulevard, Houston, TX 77008. Be sure to visit the website

See the Original Story HERE