Fashion / Weddings

An Opera Star and a Houston Political Candidate Marry in the Most Magical Destination Wedding Ever

A Bridge Over Musical Waters

BY // 09.19.17
photography Priscilla Dickson, Wilson Parish

As might have been expected, glorious music resonated throughout the Wyoming wedding of internationally renowned opera conductor Patrick Summers and attorney and now political candidate Beau Miller. From the strains of Chopin, Mozart, and Debussy to “La Vie en Rose,” the celebration was a grand fete musicale. Mezzo-sopranos Frederica von Stade and Susan Graham, both close friends of the Houston duo, shared their talents in the outdoor ceremony that took place at Snake River Ranch just outside of Jackson Hole.

Music, in fact, has been the constant chord that has connected the two from their first meeting six years ago on a Sunday afternoon at a Tex-Mex restaurant. A music education major at LSU where he was drum major for the storied Tiger band, Miller taught high school music in Austin before earning his law degree at the University of Texas. Summers, Houston Grand Opera artistic and music director, began studying piano at Indiana University at age 13 and to date has conducted nearly 200 operas worldwide as well as numerous world premieres and recordings.

The couple’s online wedding post reveals a playful contradiction to the musical connection. “There will be wedding vows, of course, but the ‘real’ vows are probably along the lines of, ‘Patrick, do you promise to be a loyal Tiger fan’ and ‘Beau, do you promise to sit through every Wagner opera I conduct?’”

Even their engagement on London’s Waterloo Bridge enjoyed a musical component. Summers was in London on HGO business last summer, when, thanks to the assist of soprano Joyce DiDonato, Miller surprised him on the bridge that has long fascinated Summers.

“I love Waterloo Bridge because from the center you have the site of ancient London, St. Paul’s, the House of Commons, the Savoy Hotel, and gardens,” Summer says. “So it’s one of our favorite places and has always been a favorite place of mine. It was very meaningful that Beau chose that.”

It was another meaningful destination that the couple chose for their wedding. “The Tetons are a real spirit home for me and Beau,” Summers allows.

At Snake River Ranch, they found the perfect setting: a bridge crossing over Lake Creek with an aspen grove and the snow-tipped Tetons completing the pastoral tableau. Sixty friends joined them on that perfect afternoon in June. Close friends Chris Harris Gwaltney of Indiana and Houston’s Nancy McGregor Manne conducted the ceremony that Summers composed.

“I just took an afternoon and thought of the things I wanted to say and the readings I wanted to have,” he explains. “Rumi. The famous Second Corinthians reading. But I used a pre-King James Bible translation, a translation from the Greek that is very, very beautiful. We also had a Buddhist prayer for the journey of life.”

With so many opera greats as friends, Summers decided to limit that component of the guest list to the two who have been closest to him throughout his career — von Stade and Graham. A cellist and violinist accompanied as Graham performed an aria from the opera Ariodante by Handel. Von Stade sang “As Time Goes By,” arranged by famed composer Jake Heggie. And they performed a duet of “My True Love Hath My Heart,” by Heggie, who was among the wedding guests.

At the close of the ceremony guests were invited to drop delphinium petals into the creek as a symbol of going out into the world. Champagne toasts with the newlyweds followed in the aspen grove.

“It was just out on this bridge and the only other thing you could hear was this gurgling creek,” Summers recalls. “It was just magical.”

The gents put a colorful fashion spin on the day in individually bespoke suits by popular Houston tailor Terry Wayne Jones. Miller’s loyalty to LSU came through in his color selection — a muted purple, which worked for Summers, who allows that it was reminiscent of the wildflowers growing in the mountains and surrounding fields. Summers chose an equally tasteful blue for his wedding attire.

Several evenings of parties preceded the ceremony including one musical evening that probably should have been recorded. “I played four-hand piano twice at that party,” Summers notes, “once with Brad Moore of HGO. We played the Mozart C Major Sonata for Four Hands. And with composer Jake Heggie, the Debussy Petite Suite for Four Hands.” Graham then took the spotlight to sing the French love song“Ah Chloris” and was joined by Heggie for “La Vie en Rose.”

As with any well-planned destination wedding, there were a few days of activities preceding the ceremony. Guests had their choices from various options including a scenic float on the Snake River, horseback riding and outdoor lunch with Miller, a morning yoga practice in the National Elk Refuge, and a labyrinth walk with Summers at St. John’s Episcopal Church. The weekend events closed out with a Sunday “Newlyweds Brunch” at the Jackson Hole Big House.

Back in Houston, Miller has thrown his hat into the ring as Democratic candidate for judge in the 190th Civil District Court.

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