With Stirring Slave-Experience Opera Premiere and Southern-Style Dinner After, HGO Opens Season

With Stirring Slave-Experience Opera Premiere and Southern-Style Dinner After, HGO Opens Season

Myrtle Jones, Khori Dastoor and Sara Morgan

WHILE IT'S ALWAYS a special night, this year’s Opening Night for Houston Grand Opera was unique. It for the first time featured a brand-new world-premiere production.


Usually a spectacle of lavish music and opulent celebration, Opening Night this year provided the backdrop for the first performance of Intelligence, a stirring opera based on the true story of an American slave woman who became a spy for the Union Army during the Civil War. Composer Jake Heggie, librettist Gene Scheer, and director-choreographer Jawole Willa Jo Zollar were all on hand, and they took the stage to take their bows with the splendid cast after the show; mezzo-soprano Jamie Barton starred in the leading role.

Cast and creators — also including the Urban Bush Women, whose modern dance entranced the crowd during the performance — mingled with guests at the post-performance black-tie dinner staged in a great magnolias-laden tent on the Wortham Fish Plaza outside, the flowers nodding to the Southern theme.

The Southern food on offer won almost as many raves as the show! “An inspired menu… selected by event co-chairs Myrtle Jones and Sara Morgan, included fried quail with cream gravy, wilted chard, buttermilk biscuits, pickled okra and Morgan’s own family spoonbread recipe,” gushed a rep for the opera company. “Traditional peach crisp and pecan praline parting gifts for guests proved a sweet ending to the night.”

Some $720,000 was raised, with some 500 guests reveling in the successful, historic evening. Boldface names spotted around the Wortham included HGO honchos Khori Dastoor and Patrick Summers, Len Cannon, Isabel and Danny David, Margaret Alkek Williams, Allyson Pritchett, Claire Liu and Joe Greenberg, Janet Gurwitch and Ron Franklin, Daniel Irion and Kirk Kveton, Brigitt Kalai, Carey Kirkpatrick, Beth Madison, Andrew Pappas and C.J. Martin, Betty and Jess Tutor, Bobbie Nau, Cynthia and Tony Petrello, Molly and Jim Crownover and Andrea White.


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C.C. and Duke Ensell

Allyson Pritchett, Theodore Pritchett

Cece Fowler, Masoud Ledjevardian

Heather Hughes, Marshall Campbell

Carl Palazzolo and Franci Neely

Pedro Salazar, Tania Kane, Josh Merwin, Tamar Mendelssohn, Denise Reyes, Matt Healey

Chris Hollins, Emily and David Sheeran

Vanessa Gilmore, Kendra Mhoon

Jess and Betty Tutor

Norma and Beto Cardenas

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