HOUSTON GRAND OPERA Celebrates Houston’s Eastern Communities with SONG OF HOUSTON: EAST +WEST

HOUSTON GRAND OPERA announces the launch of Song of Houston: East + West, a series of new operas that celebrate Houston as a meeting place for Eastern and Western cultures.

"Song of Houston: East +West will explore the stories of first- and second-generation immigrants to Houston from all over the East, starting with the Chinese community," said Anthony Freud, general director and CEO of Houston Grand Opera. The project will continue through 2014 and is expected to commission a series of nine chamber operas. “As its name implies, Song of Houston is deeply rooted in the cultures of all those for whom Houston is home, and will generate fresh, relevant, exciting new operas by important composers and librettists. We are passionate about collaborating meaningfully with communities throughout our city," said Freud.

The first Song of Houston commission, The Refuge (2007, Christopher Theofanidis and Leah Lax) explored the experiences of immigrants to Houston from Africa, Mexico, El Salvador, Vietnam, India, Pakistan, and the former Soviet Union. Cuzar la Cara de la Luna / To Cross the Face of the Moon (2010, José “Pepe” Martínez and Leonard Foglia) told a story of three generations of a Mexican-American family.

The first opera in the East + West series, Courtside, was composed by Jack Perla with a libretto by Eugenie Chan. Set in the Chinese community in Houston, it will have its premiere at a free performance at the Chinese Community Center on February 5, 2011 at 11:30 a.m., during the Lunar New Year celebrations. Additional community performances will follow. Courtside tells the story of three generations of Chinese Americans who must find ways to reconcile differences in order to live with pride in contemporary America, while maintaining tradition.

Making his HGO debut with Courtside, composer Jack Perla is known for creating musical works for the stage using a palette that includes classical instrumentation and voice mixed with multiple jazz idioms. Perla was the 1997 Jazz Composer Award winner from the Thelonious Monk Institute and the American Composers Forum Award winner in 2008. He is currently a member of the music faculty of Santa Clara University where he teaches composition, jazz piano, and courses in orchestration and jazz history.

San Francisco playwright Eugenie Chan, librettist for Courtside, has received grants from the New Works Fund and Theater Bay Area, as well as fellowships from the Berilla Kerr Foundation and the George Lucas Educational Foundation. Her other plays include Daphne Does Dim Sum, Rancho Grande, Tour Sino and Consent. This opera marks Chan’s debut with HGO.

“At its heart, Song of Houston is an extraordinary series of projects that celebrate the people who define the unique character of our city,” commented Sandra Bernhard, Director of HGOco, which produces and manages the Song of Houston project. “With its large presence and vibrant culture, the Chinese community was a logical choice.” HGOco exists to expand and reinvent the purposes of opera, establishing HGO as a relevant cultural resource for our city and art form.

Courtside is written for a cast of four (tenor Peter Tran, soprano Seong Shin Ra, baritone Wesley Landry, and bass-baritone Kelvin Chan) with a chamber ensemble of violin, cello, bass, vibraphone and pipa. Courtside will be directed by Leslie Swackhamer. Sets are designed by Elizabeth Freese and costumes by Macy Perrone. Joseph Li is the music director.

Source: Houston Grand Opera




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