20th Anniversary

Opera in the Heights kicks off 20th season

Sept. 11, 2015
By Colin Eatock

After two decades of bringing intrigue, passion and murder to a normally quiet neighborhood, Houston's Opera in the Heights is in a festive mood.

The plucky little opera company opens its 20th season with Ruggero Leoncavallo's "I Pagliacci," on Friday at Lambert Hall.

Tenor James Chamberlain leads the cast as the jealous Canio, opposite soprano Donata Cucinotta as Canio's wife, Nedda. Eiki Isomura conducts, and staging is by Susan Stone Li.

The company has remained loyal to its core artistic mission for 20 years, said Keith Chapman, the company's director of artistic administration.

"Opera in the Heights was created by three local people," he said, "Lois Alba, Bettye Gardner and John Jennings. They started the company so they could give opportunities to young singers to perform on stage. Today, our mission is still exactly the same."

Almost from the beginning, the company has staged operas in their original languages, with costumes, scenery and even a small orchestra. Despite the company's modest budget - less than $1 million for the whole season - it operates on a professional basis, and all artists are paid for their performances.

Chapman - who has been involved with Opera in the Heights since the early days - takes pride in the many young singers who have sung leading roles. Many have been local, but the company also casts a wide net, with national auditions every year in New York.

"We've had singers go on to the Metropolitan Opera, to the San Francisco Opera and to La Scala," Chapman said. "That's one of our greatest achievements. These singers got a chance to start performing with Opera in the Heights."

The company has also remained loyal to its home - Lambert Hall, on Heights Boulevard. The company re-purposed the 1927 brick edifice, originally built as a church, as a small opera house, with seating for 300 people.

"It was John Jennings who discovered this little gem," Chapman said. "He suggested we could turn it into a small, European-style opera house. It's a beautiful old space. It's all plaster and has wonderful surfaces that make the sound bounce around. Singers love to sing in there."

Not even a fire in the hall - set by an arsonist - in 1996 could put a stop to the fledgling company's determination. A quick response from the Houston Fire Department saved the building, and the company raised funds to repair the damage.

Yet even as it celebrates 20 years, Opera in the Heights is re-thinking its artistic priorities, and is deliberately stretching its own comfort zone. The 2015-16 season runs a gamut of styles - from the 20th-century Italian-American composer Gian Carlo Menotti to the pre-classical poise of the German Christoph Wilibald Gluck.

Chapman said the upcoming season is an experience because the company will be presenting 20th-century operas. "Menotti's 'The Medium' and 'The Telephone,' written in the 1940s, are the most modern operas we've done. And we're also reaching back to 1762 for Gluck's 'Orfeo ed Euridyce.'"

"La Cenerentola" - Gioacchino Rossini's operatic version of the Cinderella story - rounds out the season.

At the same time, the company has decided that small is beautiful and has turned to operas that are modest in scale. This shift in direction was made when the company's former artistic director, Enrique Carréon Robledo, left halfway through last season.

The company currently has no artistic director. Rather, it's run by a four-member artistic advisory board.

Conductor Isomura, who will be leading all the productions this season, is on the board. He explains the company's shift in artistic priorities.

"In the past," he said, "Opera in the Heights didn't do enough to distinguish itself from the big show in town - the Houston Grand Opera. So we wanted to focus on works that would allow us to do what only we can do - productions that take advantage of the intimate atmosphere of Lambert Hall."

In Isomura's opinion, "I Pagliacci" - with its small cast and condensed two-act format - is a fine example of the kind of opera that the company does best.

"We knew we wanted to do 'Pagliacci,' he said, "because it's a play within a play. We thought it would be a very special experience for our audience. We've set up the stage in such a way that the audience will really feel part of it."

"And," he adds, "the cast is superb. Rehearsals began two weeks ago - and I think people will be blown away by our singers."


For Full Article, click HERE.

Opera in the Heights to Open New Season with I PAGLIACCI

By Opera News Desk
August 27, 2015

Opera in the Heights (Oh!) kicks off its 20th anniversary season with Leoncavallo's I Pagliacci (The Clowns) on Sept. 18, one of several inspired works in the company's 2015 -2016 repertoire. I Pagliacci runs Sept. 18, 24 and 26 at 7:30 p.m. and Sept. 20 at 2 p.m. and is an enduring tale of jealousy and rage between lovers in a comedy troupe. Art imitates life with fatal results in this iconic tragedy, featuring the famous tenor aria, Vesti la giubba ("Put on the costume").

To create additional excitement for the new season, on Sept. 10 Oh! will host Overture!, a fund raiser/cocktail reception from 6 - 8 p.m. at Tommie Vaughn Ford, 1201 N. Shepherd Dr., which is open to members of the community, with tickets starting at $40. (Funds will help support Opera in the Heights community programs.) Guests will mingle with Oh! conductor Eiki Isomura, take in performances by some of the company's rising stars and enjoy beverages and appetizers.

"I am giddy with excitement, as we have assembled an absolute dream cast for I Pagliacci," says Oh! conductor Eiki Isomura. "It's a remarkable privilege working with such fine artists, and especially with stage director Susan Stone Li, whom I consider to be a visionary."

"Audiences will also be pleased to find how prominently the piece features our extraordinary orchestra and chorus," Isomura continues. "This promises to be something truly special, a powerhouse production worthy of opening the company's 20th anniversary season."

"We hope our subscribers, YOLO (Young Opera Lovers Organization) members and the public will join us for Overture! to experience a taste of what's in store for this season," says Mariam Khalili, Opera in the Heights' Executive Director. "Oh! is known for supporting the careers of emerging artists, such as the ones you will see at our event. Even those who are not familiar with opera should come away with an appreciation for great art and a feel for what we do. It's also a chance to meet other opera lovers."

For Full Article, click HERE

Up-and-coming opera singers transform young professionals party into a tuneful time

By Shelby Hodge
Aug. 11, 2015

Megan and Jake Stroudand, Boran and Becky Buturovic.    Photo by Carl Cramer

Megan and Jake Stroudand, Boran and Becky Buturovic. Photo by Carl Cramer

Opera in the Heights (Oh!) took center stage at Silver Street Studios"Second Saturday" event, transforming the happening from a visual arts party into a performing arts fete. There were multiple aria presentations, costumes on display and chats about the regional opera company that performs in Lambert Hall in the Heights. 

In a special welcome, Flashback FilmsMichael Raak hosted the event for Oh! and held a VIP reception in his Silver Street studio for the Young Opera Lovers Organization or YOLO, the young professional group affiliated with Oh! Adding to the colorful afternoon were FotoFest's I Am a Cameraexhibition and artists studios open for touring.

Young rising opera talents tenor James Chamberlain and soprano Julia Engel, accompanied by pianist Keith Weber, wowed guests throughout the day with their talents while violist Faith Jonesadded to the musical entertainment.

With Oh! approaching the start of its 20th season, the afternoon outing was the perfect vehicle for introducing the company to a broader audience.

Music lovers on the scene included Oh! executive director Mariam Khalili, Tony Tripodo, Marcia and Michael Feldman, Dan Mathena, Corey Powell, Marianne and Kenny Terrell, Patricia Bernstein, Becky and Boran Buturovic, Samuel Chavez, Barbara Henley and Jordan Mathews.


Opera in the Heights kicks off 20th season a month early

by Martin Hajovsky

While Opera in the Heights‘ 20th anniversary season is still a month away, this Saturday you can get a sneak peek of what’s on offer.

Opera in the Heights will feature at Silver Street Studios’ First Saturday event Aug. 8.

OH will kick off the year at Silver Street Studios’ “Second Saturday” at 2000 Edwards, this Saturday, Aug. 8 from 2-5 p.m. Opera in the Heights will share the space with Foto Fest International and its exhibit I Am A Camera, along with open studios for the artists housed at Silver Street.

Filling the schedule will be:

  • Two micro opera performances by Opera in the Heights singers (This will make the entire day for me.)
  • Ice cream truck Chocolate Wasted, and Wokker Texas Ranger, Asian/Texan fusion cuisine truck. (Wait, wait. I get food too?)
  • Karbach Brewing Co. will be on hand with complimentary beverages (Now my cup, it doth runneth over, though not by much as I would never waste Karbach beer that way.)
  • The company is also launching its new YOLO group, which stands for Young Opera Lovers Organization. For more on that, check out the video below.
  • The costume work and set designs by Opera in the Heights designers will be on display.
  • And more! (Because there’s always more.)

That’s a full Saturday right there. But to learn more, and to buy tickets for the 20th season, check out the niftily redesigned operaintheheights.org.

As I’ve written many times before, Opera in the Heights is one of those unique elements that helps to make the Heights what it is, which is for my money (Hello HCAD!) simply the best neighborhood in my city, and as a fifth-generation Houstonian and father to two sixth-gen-ers, I get to say that! Hope to see you out at Silver Street Saturday.


Chronicle critics offer some entertainment options

Wednesday, August 5

Open Studios: Check out works by more than 200 artists, jewelry designers and other creative types during the monthly Second Saturday open studio event in the Washington Avenue Arts District. Follow your ears as well as your eyes: Opera in the Heights, celebrating its 20th anniversary, will give pop-up performances at Flashback Film's space (#105) in the Silver Street Studios building, where you can also catch FotoFest's "I Am a Camera" exhibition. 2-5 p.m. Saturday at 2000 Edwards, 2010 Winter, 1502 Sawyer and 1824 Spring; artsdistricthouston.com. FREE

Molly Glentzer



Opera in the Heights Announces Single Ticket Sales for 2015-16 Season

Houston, TX (June 29, 2015) – Opera in the Heights (OH!) announces that single tickets will go on sale Aug. 1 for the 2015-2016 season, which also celebrates the organization’s 20th anniversary. The company presents an inspired selection of works which should appeal to diverse operatic tastes.

The season includes Leoncavallo’s I Pagliacci, a double-bill of Menotti’s The Medium and The Telephone, Rossini’s La Cenerentola, and Gluck’s Orfeo ed Euridice. All will be conducted by Maestro Eiki Isomura.

Opera in the Heights Conductor Eiki Isomura

“The repertoire OH! has selected for its 20th anniversary season reads like a celebration of opera itself,” says Isomura. “Each piece represents an essential development in the history of the art form. It’s a great privilege to bring these iconic works to life with the extraordinary OH! orchestra and some of today’s finest emerging artists.”

“We are thrilled that Maestro Isomura, an amazingly gifted young conductor and artist, returns to lead the orchestra, providing continuity from our previous season,” says Mariam Khalili, Opera in the Heights’ Executive Director. “Our focus remains on delivering the superb artistic product that has come to be expected of Opera in the Heights.”

OH! will present each opera with four performances rather than seven as in some previous seasons. The change will allow Opera in the Heights to better focus its financial resources, while enhancing the artistic quality of each of the four productions.

The season opens Sept. 18 with I Pagliacci (The Clowns), the enduring tale of jealousy and rage between lovers in a comedy troupe. Art imitates life with fatal results in this iconic tragedy, featuring one of the most famous arias in the entire repertoire. Performances will start at 7:30 p.m. on Sept. 18, 24 and 26 and at 2 p.m. on Sept. 20.

October and November bring to the stage two operas by Menotti, both sung in English: The Telephone and The Medium. Serving as the opener will be the light one-act comedy, The Telephone, in which a man comes to his girlfriend’s apartment to propose, only to find her preoccupied with chatting incessantly on the telephone. In the dark psychological drama, The Medium, audiences will encounter a fraudulent spiritual medium, who starts to genuinely hear voices and feel phantom presences she cannot explain. Performance dates are Oct. 30, Nov. 5 and Nov. 7 at 7:30 p.m. and Nov. 1 at 2 p.m.

Rossini’s La Cenerentola is OH!’s late winter production and is perfect for the entire family. Rossini’s take on the classic fairy tale,Cinderella, the opera La Cenerentola is considered to be one of his greatest achievements, complete with mistaken identities, stepsisters and of course, romance. Performance dates are Feb. 5, 11 and 13 at 7:30 p.m. and Feb. 7 at 2 p.m.

The season closes with Gluck’s Orfeo ed Euridice, which is based on the myth of Orpheus, a legendary ancient Greek hero endowed with superhuman musical abilities, and his love, Eurydice. The opera takes to the stage on Apr. 8, 14 and 16 at 7:30 p.m. and on Apr. 10 at 2 p.m.

Single tickets prices are $35 – $67 for regular tickets, $32 – $58 for seniors and $15 – $17 for student tickets in limited seating areas. To buy tickets or to become a subscriber, please visit operaintheheights.org or call 713-861-5303. All performances take place at Lambert Hall, 1703 Heights Boulevard, in the Houston Heights.

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 orchestra and presented in the original language with English translation (where applicable) projected above the stage.





For additional information on performance dates, press material, or information on scheduling an interview, please contact: Carol Brejot, 713-503-3885; pr@operaintheheights.org