Villalón wears a Badgley Mischka dress from Tootsies.

Villalón wears a Badgley Mischka dress from Tootsies.

Soprano Elena Villalón, 22, a 2019 Grand Finals winner of the esteemed Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions, has spent the past year making a name for herself as one of the youngest members ever of Houston Grand Opera’s artist development program HGO Studio. In January, the ingenue dazzled in the role of Inès in La favorite, which saw her gracing the stage opposite opera star Jamie Barton. “The cast was really great,” says Villalón of the experience. “Everyone was incredible at their jobs.”


While her on-stage experience will look and feel a little different in the fall — HGO recently announced it is canceling productions through April 2021 due to Covid-19 precautions — she remains optimistic for the future. “It is my hope that the Houston community has a renewed longing for live performance, that audiences will be more present and open, and not take for granted access to the world class art that Houston has to offer.”

Click here to see the full 2020 portfolio.

Villalón wears a Badgley Mischka dress from Tootsies. 

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“I WISH I came here sooner to experience this amazing city,” says advanced sommelier Rachel Van Til of her move to Houston just one year before the pandemic lockdown. When Covid appeared in 2020, along with layoffs and closings, it led to a career swerve for Van Til, a working mom who was a sommelier at Pappas Steakhouse. She took over the wine program at The Clubs at Houston Oaks, a posh (initiation fees can range into the six figures) members-only club northwest of the city with 10 lodges, 17 lakes, 900 acres and six dining options. Speaking of lots of good food and vino, the club’s 2022 Wine and Food Classic is this February 12 — it’s a great chance to taste hundreds of wines from around the world and learn about them from winemakers and professionals. “It’s our largest event of the year and it’s open to the public.” In our Q&A, Rachel dishes on her favorite date night, best wines to try this year and her brush with the me-too movement!

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