Houston Grand Opera at Fifty

Published in Art Houston, February 2006

On the heels of all the hoopla — where but Houston would a celebration of opera load in celebs as different as Sir Elton John and Sir Roger Moore? — comes a commemorative book no less extravagant. Celebrating the first half century of Houston Grand Opera, including formative decades under the recently departed David Gockley, this massive book from Herring Press might break as many coffee tables as it graces, but it's worth every penny of its $75 cover price — and, for opera lovers, every memory as well. Undeniably, the photos tell the tale best, since HGO in recent decades has been not only a visible but a visual opera company. Sets, costumes and choreography continually form striking images, captured here in full-page color photos. In addition, there's plenty of content between these covers — including essays on the company's first 25 years by Robert I. Ginsberg, on the second 25 years by Carl Cunningham (longtime performing arts critic for the Houston Post) and on HGO's ridiculous embarrassment of world premieres by national critic Alan Rich. Of course, with the recent decampment of David Gockley to San Francisco, there's something bittersweet between the lines. Yet... far more sweet than bitter.


High Notes

By Catherine D. Anspon, published in PaperCity, February 2006

Opera denizens take note: HGO's fabulous first 50 years are documented, detailed and celebrated in the lush, recently released Houston Grand opera at Fifty (Herring Press, $75). This tome records the birth and transformation of HGO from its humble regional beginnings to today's internationally touted opera company. Soprano Beverly Sills pens the preface; the text provides an in-depth history spanning five decades. Its 296 pages include 275 photographic images, from world premieres during director David Lockley's 33-year reign (Nixon in China, Little Women, The Little Prince, The End of the Affair) through updated classics such as Tristan and Isolde (set design by David Hockney), The Magic Flute (set and costume design by Maurice Sendak) and Robert Wilson's Parsifal plus event-garde productions such as Philip Glass' Akhenaten, and performance highlights from legends Renée Fleming and Plácido Domingo. The volume concludes with the triumphant curtain call from the 2005 50th Anniversary Golden Jubilee Concert and Anthony Freud's appointment as HGO's third general director and first Ceo.