Archive | December, 2009

DANCE MONTH HONORS LEADERS

22 Dec

Dance Month at the Kaplan Theatre 2010 kicks off with “Celebrate Dance,” a festive gathering of Houston’s unique dance community scheduled January 7 at Warehouse Live. 

Celebrate Dance highlights 30 years of the Jewish Community Center of Houston Dance Month at the Kaplan Theatre and honors June Christensen, Society for the Performing Arts, Andrea Cody, Dance Houston, Christina Giannelli, Dance Source Houston,  Nancy Henderek, Dance Salad, Sixto Wagan, DiverseWorks, and Jennifer Wood /Louie Saletan, Barnevelder Movement/Arts Complex, Houston’s premier presenters who have helped cultivate the Houston Dance Community. Brad Marks, Champion Benefactor of Dance, will be honored for underwriting the IW Marks Master Class Series, which allows hundreds of students to take classes from dance masters from around the world.  

June Christensen was named Executive Director of Society for the Performing Arts (SPA) in October 2007.  During her 20-year career at SPA, Christensen has played a role in taking the organization from a small, six-member staff producing 11-15 performances per year, to the world-class presenting organization that it is today.  Prior to becoming Executive Director, Christensen served as Director of Programming and Operations. In that capacity, she managed and directed all aspects of production and operations for SPA events, as well as the negotiation of artist contracts. In addition, she was responsible for researching and selecting SPA’s roster of artists.  Since its inception, SPA has presented more than 800 performances of the world’s finest music, dance and theater events and has sought to provide a variety of learning experiences for adults and children through master classes, lectures and special student performances. 

As Dance Houston’s Founding Director, Andrea Cody has produced over a dozen festivals featuring Houston’s most popular local dance companies. She earned a B.A. with honors from University of Chicago, where she studied economics as well as dance history, theory, and choreography. In her youth, she trained in ballet at the Houston Ballet Academy. Her contributions to Houston’s dance community include being a founding member and Vice President of the Houston Swing Dance Society, instructor for Arts Alive, and choreographer for Houston Metropolitan Dance Company, Dance of Asian America, City Dance Company, Great Caruso Dinner Theater, and Kuumba House Dance Theater.  She also served on the local host committee for Dance/USA’s 2009 Annual Conference and its showcase selection committee.  Dance Houston was founded in 2003 with the mission to increase dance appreciation in Houston. 

Christina Giannelli, producing director of the Weekend of Texas Contemporary Dance and founder of Dance Source Houston has been a dance lover all her life and is firmly committed to furthering the growth and development of the Performing Arts in Houston.  A native New Yorker, Ms Giannelli was educated at Yale College and the Yale School of Drama.  After several years in New York City and at the Williamstown Theater Festival she moved to Houston to be the Lighting Supervisor for Houston Grand Opera. Since then she has worked as a lighting designer for all of the “majors” and many of the “minors” in Houston’s performing arts community.  Her work in Opera and Ballet lighting design has taken her around the world and gained her national recognition. 
 
 
Nancy Henderek, Director of Dance Salad Festival (DSF) created this concept of presenting dance when she was living in Brussels, Belgium, where she produced, directed and co-choreographed the first three Dance Salad productions from 1992-1994. Returning to the United States in 1995, Ms. Henderek, through the Houston Dance Coalition (HDC), continued directing Dance Salad, initially at the University of Houston. In 1999, DSF moved to downtown Houston’s premier venue at the Wortham Center’s Cullen Theater. In 2004, HDC added “International” to its name to reflect the international focus of the Festival. DSF has grown from 2 to 3 evenings of performances, and greatly expanded the number of international companies and dancers presented.

Sixto Wagan Co-Executive Director; Performing Arts Curator, DiverseWorks places particular emphasis on commissioning new works, the process and transparency of an artist’s creative development, and on providing needed funds and space for mid-stage development.  Commissioned works include projects by Pat Graney, Elia Arce, Michelle Ellsworth, Miguel Gutierrez, Aaron Landsman, The Suicide Kings and Tere O’Connor, among others.  He has served on the board of the National Performance Network and as a Hub Site for the National Dance Project.  Wagan has been part of FUSED (French – US Exchange for Dance), the Contemporary Art Centers consortium and the Performing Americas Project (a partnership between the National Performance Network and the Latin American consortium La RED); and has previously served as Dance Down Under Ambassador for the Australian Arts Council and the board president for Q-Fest: The Houston Lesbian and Gay Film Festival

Louie Saletan and Jennifer Wood, as Executive Director and Artistic Director, respectively, of Suchu, Inc. together over the past nine years have overseen the development and refurbishment of the building now known as the Barnevelder Movement/Arts Complex (BM/AC) from a raw industrial warehouse into a full-fledged, well-equipped dance rehearsal facility and performance venue.  Originally developed as a facility that would be home to Jennifer’s own dance company, Suchu Dance, today BM/AC meets the needs of dozens of performing arts groups and hundreds of independent performing artists each year, offering them a professional yet affordable, spacious yet intimate physical setting in which to create and present their own art to their own audiences.  Louie serves as Managing Director of both BM/AC and the Suchu Dance performing group and is the Executive Director of Suchu, Inc., the 501c3 nonprofit organization that encompasses and oversees both.  

Brad Marks is president of I W Marks Jewelers, recognized in the industry for over 30 years as      the largest and finest jeweler in the greater Houston area.  The Houston native was brought up in his family’s fine jewelry store, where he fine-tuned his knowledge of every aspect of the jewelry retail business. Marks is the son of the late Diane and I.W. Marks.

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WORKING ON THE IDESON BUILDING

22 Dec

Nestled in the shadows of contemporary skyscrapers, the landmark Spanish Renaissance-style Julia Ideson building, home to the Houston Metropolitan Research Center (HMRC) and part of the Houston Public Library system, is undergoing an ambitious, comprehensive restoration and expansion project. 

The result of this project will be an architecturally compelling venue that, in addition to serving those interested in the HMRC and its extraordinary collection of rare books, maps and photographic images relating to Houston and surrounding areas, will provide opportunities for Houstonians and visitors alike to enjoy its gardens, a grand public reading room on the second floor of the 1926 building, and exhibits, meetings and special events that will be showcased in this beautiful and historic setting.           

On Dec. 14, the completion of the expansion phase was celebrated at a ribbon-cutting ceremony.  The new 21,500 square-foot state-of-the-art archival wing includes a spacious research/reference room on the first floor and three floors of high-density shelving for the valuable holdings of the HMRC.   The wing is complemented by a new south loggia and adjacent palm-shaded public garden, also called the outdoor reading room. The two-story loggia, like the wing a part of the original plan for the 1926 building but never constructed, provides open-air seating on both levels and a gracious transition from the first floor of the original building to the outdoor reading room.            

The groundbreaking ceremony for the expansion took place on January 12, 2009 and the new wing is scheduled to open to the public in the first quarter of 2010 after the archives are moved into the new facility.   When the move is complete, work to restore the architecturally rich public spaces of the 66.000 square-foot 1926 building will begin.   The project is expected to be fully complete by Spring 2011. 

In October 2007, the non-profit Julia Ideson Library Preservation Partners (JILPP) launched a major capital campaign to fund the expansion and restoration of the historic building across from City Hall in downtown Houston.  The campaign has now raised nearly $29 million of the $32 million project cost.

Located at 500 McKinney Street in downtown Houston, the three-story Julia Ideson building is named after Houston’s first professional librarian and was designed by noted Boston architect Ralph Adams Cram who also created the design for Rice University’s original campus.  Working with local architects William Ward Watkin and Louis Glover, Cram, one of the 20th century’s premier practitioners of various revival styles, chose the Spanish Renaissance style for the Ideson as he deemed it appropriate to Houston’s heritage and cultural context. 

Brick, stone and stucco comprise the building’s materials along with a tile roof that is characteristic of the building’s style.  Although the economic difficulties of the Great Depression thwarted the original plans for the Ideson’s envisioned south wing, loggia and outdoor reading room, the building will now witness the full realization of its original, complete architectural plan. 

“The Ideson is truly one of Houston’s historic gems,” said Phoebe Tudor, Chairman of the Julia Ideson Library Preservation Partners.  “In addition to a new purpose-built wing for the archival collection, we want to provide a welcoming environment for Houstonians and visitors by creating new gardens and restoring the public spaces to their original grandeur.”

In addition to fulfilling its conceived role as an enhanced community resource, the Ideson is among the first Texas Historic Landmark projects on track for LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification in the state; JILPP hopes to receive a Silver designation from the U.S. Green Building Council.  An efficient air conditioning system and the use of indigenous plant materials along with recycled and low-emitting materials during construction are just a few of the key components that will help the project achieve LEED certification.  Spearheading this progressive project are the architectural firm Gensler, led by Houston architect and historian Barry Moore, and the landscape architecture firm TBG Partners, which was responsible for restoring the grounds of the Texas State Capitol and Austin’s Laguna Gloria art museum. 

The construction manager for both the new wing and the restoration is SpawMaxwell.  Gensler and TBG Partners have collaborated to develop a plan that reflects the Ideson’s Spanish Renaissance style and open spaces while preserving the architectural integrity of the building. “The distinctive smell of old books, the touch of rare documents, set amongst the Ideson’s ornate tiles and carvings, evokes an overwhelming sensation of historic significance,” said Barry Moore, senior associate at Gensler.

A MORTON KUEHNERT Q&A

22 Dec

Q. Last month we talked about Morton Kuehnert’s Collection Auctions.  I’d like to take that a step further and ask about specific collections that potential consignors, or sellers, might want to auction at Morton Kuehnert. 

A. Families who have collections of Art Glass will find a lot of interest in the marketplace. For instance, last year we auctioned a 100-piece collection of Renee Lalique Art Glass from the early 20th century that averaged $10,000 an item on the auction block.  It included his exquisite vases and perfume bottles.  We had bidders from all over the world. More recently, we auctioned some of the mid-century American art glass by master glassblower Doug Merritt that proved to be popular. Families who have art glass by Tiffany, Stueben, Baccarat, Blenko such as vases, lampshades, bowls, bottles, paperweights and figural works will be pleased with the interest at auction. 

Q. When I was growing up I remember the value my mother placed on her silver tea set and flatware.  Is silver still important to American collectors? 

A. Yes, let’s start with sterling silver.  This is flatware, candlesticks, candelabra, teapots, tureens and the like that is made from 92.5 percent pure silver and 7.5 percent alloy.  Sterling silver flatware was first produced in Sheffield, England, in the 1200s.   In the mid 19th century, major deposits of silver were discovered in Nevada and then we saw a lot of production from companies such as Gorham, Tiffany & Company., Unger Brothers, Oneida and Shreve & Company.   

Silver plating, that is sheets of sterling fused to a sheet of copper creating a metal sandwich, that could be formed to look like sterling, was first done by Sheffield in 1770. This was done at a fraction of the cost of sterling production.  Then in 1840, electroplating was introduced and it required less silver and nickel as the base metal.  This basically put the Sheffield silver industry out of business. There are several eras and styles of silver collections from Rococo to Federal style by silversmiths such as Paul Revere, Victoria, Art Nouveau, Arts and Crafts and Art Deco.  

Q. What about paintings?  This seems like such a huge universe.  There are antique paintings, modern, contemporary, etc., etc., etc.  Can I sell my art collection at Morton Kuehnert? 

A. Yes, first and foremost, artworks by popular artists sell like hotcakes! To be considered an antique painting, it must be at least 100 years old.  I would recommend that collectors who are ready to sell their paintings go online and look at art gallery websites who represent the work of the artists they own.  

You want to be sure if you’re representing it as an original that it can hold up to the research. A lot of information is on the back of the painting—gallery labels, auction stickers, and museum inventory numbers can help you discover the provenance of the painting.  Of course, Morton Kuehnert appraisers will work closely with you as well. 

Q. Next year Morton Kuehnert is making a big move; can you share with us when and where that will be?

A. Yes, in the first quarter of next year, targeting February, we are moving to 4901 Richmond Ave. in the building now occupied by Parvizian Rugs.  We are looking forward to being a part of the Galleria area shopping district and we are now a member of the Galleria Chamber of Commerce.

Photo: A painting by Diego Rivera.

ANTIDOTE TO THE WORLD’S WORRIES

14 Dec

The Sound of Music by Theatre Under The Stars

Hobby Center through Dec. 20 

By MARLENE WEYAND           

Call it comfort food for the soul.  The TUTS production of “The Sound of Music” is a much-needed antidote to the doom and gloom surrounding this recession-riddled holiday season.  From talented people to hope-filled music to vintage costumes and inspiring sets, SOM was a heart-rending reminder that good times may not last, but good people do. 

Right up front, SOM enthusiasts will agree that actress-singer Kim Huber, cast as Maria, is a pleasing and palatable heir to the iconic Julie Andrews.  Huber even looks like her with the cropped-off hair and natural beauty.  And her voice—WOW!  Maria has to carry the show, and carry it she did.  She can also act and dance; and she’s so darn likeable. And I would put the von Trapp children players up against any SOM cast in the world.  They are all students at Hobby Center for the Performing Arts.  

George Dvorsky was a powerful Baron Von Trapp, with the voice and the commanding appearance; to Dvorsky’s credit, there was no effort to impersonate the charm and sex appeal of Christopher Plummer.  He captured his own quite well. Jeff Rizzo’s orchestra performed perfectly some of the most beloved musical theatre music ever composed, simultaneously inspiring the audience and the performers. 

Kenneth Foy’s sets were dreamy, from the opening scenes in the Alps, to the Nonnberg Abbey, to the Baron’s castle, to the songfest and the final mountain-escape.  And the extension of the Abbey as the nuns sang “Maria” into the second tier Hobby theatre box seats added whimsy and eye-appeal.   Foy’s Nazi-flag-draped hall where the songfest took place was an imposing reminder of freedoms fought for not so long ago.   

Susan Shofner’s Mother Abbess was splendid, with a commanding voice and appearance, all executed with the tenderness you want in anyone you must call Mother.  Doris Davis’ Elsa Schraeder exhibited great stage presence and narcissism, and she actually has a singing role: “No Way to Stop It”, along with Dvorsky and Ilich Guardiola who plays Max Detweiler.  This song was not part of the movie.   Guardiola has the potential to be an outstanding Max, however, his timing was hurried and several vital punch lines were lost.  Where there should have been laughter, there were only smiles. 

The von Trapp children’s performance of “The Lonely Goatherd” was delightfully choreographed using the children as the “puppets,” versus the marionettes used in the movie version.  Each of the children brought their own special gifts to the roles.  Jessica Ferguson wonderfully portrayed Liesl, a girl experiencing puppy love who was forced to become a woman when the Nazi’s take over Austria.  Ryne Nardecchia charmed the audience as Friedrich, singing in a wonderful falsetto; Caroline Taylor as Louisa, Ian Tonroy as Kurt, Gabby Gillespie as Brigitta, Aiden Snasdell as Marta and Mandy Miller as Gretl exhibited great energy along with their singing and dancing talent.  

TUTS “Sound of Music” is a performance in “due season” and any family wanting to enrich their holidays needs to add this to this year’s list.

A VISIT TO THE SYMPHONY

14 Dec

(With a little nod to C. Clement Moore)

By HOLLY BERETTO 

 ‘Twas three weeks before Christmas and all through Jones Hall

Musicians were tuning – to bring to good cheer to all.

Two concerts upcoming filled with holiday song

Awaited the audiences, arriving ‘ere long.

First  — from Lake Wobegone – came that wry raconteur

Garrison Keillor, never, ever a bore.

He told of his lake, he sang holiday lim’ricks

He spoofed on the Lutherans – had ‘em in stitches.

In a baritone rumbling, resonant, clear

He offered stories and songs for this time of year.

Mendelssohn, Holst, even Cole Porter

Carols and gospel were also in order.

The Symphony played, led by Maestro Brunelle,

Finely coaxing their sound from sweet into swell

Keillor told of his aunt in Song of the Exiles

Tenderly, gently, evoking both tears and smiles.

In his trademark red shoes, and a Christmas-red tie

Keillor was perfect – he’s one witty guy.

And praise to our Symphony, swelling behind him

Adding verve and depth to all Keillor’s whims.

And then came a fav’rite – Very Merry Pops

As Cole Porter would say – that was the tops

Conducted by Krajewski, accompanied by chorus,

It felt like a holiday gift just for us!

There were Christmassy classics arranged a la Valse,

A Hanukkah suite – and other great touches.

Surprises galore as the evening progressed

Even dear Santa appeared as a guest.

The chorus they sang, they sang – and they sang

Their voices with joy, like bright bells rang.

They sang We Three Kings, they sang about Rudolph

They sang Here Comes Santa Claus – with never a note off.

Pianist William Joseph gave a performance fantastic

“Piano Fantasy,” “Christmas Medley” were climatic.

Over the keys, his fingers they flew

Coaxing sounds joyous, gentle, seasonal, true.

There were dancers, too, both Asian and modern

Enhancing Silent Night and wondering as wandering

These were Dance of Asian America and Revolve

Who added color to the music and brought the house down.

What more could there be to this holiday show?

Well, of course a sing-along – don’t you know.

We sang White Christmas, We sang Silver Bells

We lifted our voices all through the halls.

We sang about Rudolph, that red-nosed reindeer

“I don’t want it to end,” commented one reveler.

But end, it sure did, as all good things do

Leaving great joy behind it for me and for you.

But you’ve still got one chance to hear all this ruckus

December 23 on KUHF, if you wanta.

The concert’s at 8 – mark your date book with care

Lively voices and music await you there.

But better than that, go see the orchestra live

Messiah is coming, opening this Fri.

Celebrate the season, with symphonic delight

Happy holidays to all — and to all a good night.

William Joseph on piano

VIDEO TREE LIGHTS UP THE GREEN

14 Dec

 

Thanks to the ongoing efforts and creativity of Isaac Cohen, Maurice Roberts and Ted Viens, the video tree first pulled together by local artist Andy Mann back in 1990 is illuminating the night at downtown Houston’s Discovery Green from now until Jan. 18. 

Mann created the original video tree for Central Houston Inc.’s holiday art program. It was displayed for more than 10 years on a specially created stand placed in the fountain basin in Tranquility Park in downtown Houston. Made of 16 large televisions stacked to form the silhouette of a Christmas tree, it was topped with four small monitors that formed the star atop the tree. Each year, he created a new video program to play on the monitors, which had been altered to flip and rotate the images. 

The new Video Tree is being created in the spirit of Andy Mann working with Aurora Picture Show who maintains the Andy Mann video archive of 800 works, and artists Gabriel Delgado and Viens, who both assisted Andy Mann in the installation of the original tree, are working on this creation. The plan is to display Andy’s original video programs for the tree, and at scheduled times, to display videos submitted by Houstonians, selected by Aurora Picture Show curators.

 Andy Mann, (1947-2001) left behind a rich videotape legacy. After his move from New York to Houston in 1977, Mann hosted a hybrid live video art program on Houston Cable Access and documented important moments in the Houston art scene. The move from New York to Houston of a pioneering art star like Andy Mann represented an important moment for the developing contemporary art scene in Houston. 

Mann built up an extraordinary archive of documentary and abstract videos, made video art boxes and multi set video displays which were exhibited at Diverseworks, O’Kane Gallery of the University of Houston and other institutions. A memorial gallery of his work is on permanent display at the Art Car Museum. This year’s video tree is visible near the ice rink on the north side of Discovery Green. 

REDEFINITION RETURNS

“Redefinition: An Artistic Experience” returns to Houston for the sixth year at the Ensemble Theatre on Sunday Dec. 27. The multi-media evening of entertainment, education, cultural enlightenment and fellowship represents the finest of the Houston artistic community. The event includes modern dance, spoken word, live jazz and a visual art exhibition that brings together more than 35 artists in one night.

The evening’s original programming showcases some of the world-class artistry produced in the Gulf Coast region.   

“The show’s primary goal is to highlight the connection between our surroundings and the experiences that have shaped each performer’s artistic expression,” Reginald Quinerly, the show’s creator, co-producer, artistic director and full-time Jazz musician, explains. “Redefinition began as an opportunity to raise general artistic awareness and to present a diverse program from an artist’s point of view.  Through that empowerment we have been able to display new perspectives and cultivate appreciation of what art provides to daily life.” 

Quinerly, currently a master’s degree candidate at The Juilliard School in New York City, grew up in Houston. He partners in the production with childhood friends and former Houstonians Christopher Brooks, now a Chicago-based visual artist, and Alex Barnes, a Portland, Ore., based product marketing professional. The evening is presented in collaboration with the Community Artists’ Collective, a nonprofit 501 c(3) organization. The art exhibition begins at 6 p.m., and the show at 7 p.m. Tickets are $10 prior to the show and $15 at the door. For more information call 713-523-1616 or visit www.redefinitionexperience.com

TUTS LEADING LADIES

Recently, Theatre Under The Stars’ Leading Ladies announced the creation of The Pink Stiletto Fund at their first annual Leading Ladies Luncheon. The educational and fundraising luncheon showcased the impact of TUTS’ Education & Community Outreach programs on the families they serve.  Thanks to the support of the members and attendees, the Leading Ladies raised over $5,800 in contributions to the Pink Stiletto Fund, which provides special program enhancements to TUTS Education and Community Outreach, benefitting the children of Houston.  

Guests enjoyed the culinary delights of Michael Cordúa Events in the exclusive Founder’s Salon of the Hobby Center for the Performing Arts while being entertained and educated by special guests, Raegan and Sydney Roberts (students from the Academy at the Humphreys School of Musical Theatre), and their mother, Susan Roberts.

Theatre Under The Stars is dedicated to enriching life through the experience of quality musical theatre.  The Leading Ladies desire to share in positively impacting lives beyond the stage through TUTS’ innovative education and community outreach initiatives. Founded in the fall of 2006, Leading Ladies is a group of women who embrace the vision of Theatre Under The Stars and passionately support musical theatre education in Houston.  Leading Ladies are remarkable women who strive to make a difference in their communities and help TUTS to further its vision and outreach in Houston. For more information about Leading Ladies, visit http://www.tuts.com/leadingladies or contact Journey Macfarlane at journey@tuts.com or 713.558.2641.  

DA DOWNLOAD

Da Camera has a new live recording for streaming or download, 2004’s Preludes and Fugues: Bach and Shostakovich featuring pianist Sarah Rothenberg and harpsichordist John Gibbons. This complete recording of the 2004 concert features selections from Bach’s The Well-Tempered Clavier and Shostakovich’s 24 Preludes and Fugues, Op. 87, introduced by Rothenberg. “Gibbons and Rothenberg played their respective works with the understanding of experts and the polish of virtuosos on their instruments,” said the Houston Chronicle. 

Other Da Camera programs available include: Franz Liszt’s Via Crucis. From the May, 2009 concert After Bach, featuring Houston Chamber Choir and pianist Awadagin Pratt. Richard Lavenda’s Thoughts Fly. From the April, 2009 concert featuring the Chiara String Quartet and cellist Norman Fischer. 

Weill’s Walt Whitman Songs, Schoenberg’s Ode to Napoleon and Beethoven’s Grosse Fuge. Excerpts from the February, 2009 concert, Brentano String Quartet: Poetry and Music, Immigrants and Exiles. The Brentano String Quartet was joined by baritone Leon Williams and pianists Sarah Rothenberg and Rodney Waters. 

Zhou Long’s The Farewell and Mahler’s Der Abschied. Two works from Da Camera’s January, 2009 concert, Songs of the Earth. The artists participating in these January, 2009 performances were Susanne Mentzer, soprano; Min Xiao-Fen, pipa; Wayne Guowei, erhu and a Da Camera Chamber Orchestra conducted by Gregory Vajda. Messiaen’s Quartet for the End of Time. Messiaen’s Quartet for the End of Time, performed by David Shifrin, clarinet; Vera Beths, violin, Desmond Hoebig, cello and Sarah Rothenberg, piano, from the Season Finale, May, 2008. 

Mozart’s Horn Quintet in E Flat Major. Mozart’s Horn Quintet performed by William VerMeulen, horn; Curtis Macomber, violin; Toby Appel and Wayne Brooks, violas and Norman Fischer, cello. The performance was part of 2006’s MozartNOW Festival, celebrating the 250th anniversary of the great composer’s birth. Brahms’s Quintet for Piano and Strings. Performed by pianist Sarah Rothenberg and the Brentano String Quartet, Opening Night, October, 2006. 

Mozart’s Quintet for clarinet and strings. Mozart’s Quintet for clarinet and strings in A Major, K. 581, performed by David Shifrin, clarinet; Vera Beths, violin; John Marcus, violin; James Dunham, viola and Desmond Hoebig, cello. The performance was part of the concert After Einstein: Music and the Relativity of Time, Season Finale, May, 2008.

HGO STUDIO SPOTLIGHTS ITS TALENT

7 Dec

By HOLLY BERETTO

Houston opera lovers have a treat to look forward to this week as the Houston Grand Opera Studio presents Studio Showcase, an evening of opera scenes sung by the members of HGO’s highly acclaimed young artist program. 

“This year’s Showcase is all about wanting what you can’t have,” says HGO Head of Music Staff and Music Director for the HGO Studio Kathy Kelly. “We explore thwarted desire in ways both comic and tragic, grand and intimate. Nothing gives expression to this particular human experience as well as a beautiful, skilled operatic voice and the outpouring of contained emotion it provides.” 

So audiences can expect an evening of emotion, with scenes from seven operas including Turandot, Wozzeck, Of Mice and Men, Cosi Fan Tutti and Lucia di Lammermoor.“The scenes have been carefully selected to showcase each artist’s voice,” says Showcase director Sam Helfrich. All of the 11 young artists in HGO’s Studio will be singing during the evening, and Helfrich says a program like this is designed to both expose the audience to the operas – some of which are not often performed – and to help the artists grow in respective repertoires and learn new roles. 

Bass baritone Andrew Cioffari, a second-year Studio singer, says that approach is helpful. “Last season, I sang more in my comfort zone,” he admits. “But this year, I am being challenging a bit more.” He’ll be singing Wozzeck in the Showcase. “And Wozzeck is challenging for anyone,” he emphasizes. “It’s got a completely different structure than other pieces in my repertoire. But this is absolutely something I should be singing.” 

“This is an opportunity for audiences to hear what we pianists at the opera house when we work with our singers,” says HGO Studio pianist and coach Stephen Hopkins, who’s in his second year with the HGO Studio and will be playing in the Showcase. He spends his days helping singers learn their roles and also serves as pianist for rehearsals. 

He’ll be accompanying some of the singers in the Showcase.“I think people will be surprised to hear how fleshed out the piano sound can be,” he says. 

All the scenes are also fully staged, and director Helfrich says he’s enjoyed working with the Studio singers. “Working with them is great fun,” he says. “They’re so eager to learn new things.” 

Houston audiences have always embraced the Studio singers, following them from their first roles on HGO’s main stage and on into their careers as opera singers. This year as in every other, Showcase is an excellent way to see tomorrow’s opera stars today. 

University of St. Thomas, Jones Theater, $35 tickets; available at www.houstongrandopera.org

Photo of HGO Studio artists by Felix Sanchez.