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Talented Young Singers Take Centerstage in a $680,000 Concert of Arias — Houston Grand Opera Fosters Young Talent In Record Night

And the Winners Are...

BY // 02.05.24
photography Katy Anderson

It’s doubtful that Houston Grand Opera’s Concert of Arias could compete with the rave reviews received by the company’s current production of Madame Butterfly, but the international singing competition is holding onto its status as one of HGO fans’ favorite evenings. The 2024 event continued the tradition of presenting up and coming opera talents and by all accounts this group of singers is the most talented in recent memory.

The evening proved to be the most successful Concert of Arias to date with record attendance and record proceeds of $680,000 for the Eleanor McCollum Competition for Young Singers and the Houston Grand Opera Studio.

Joe Greenberg, Claire Liu (Photo by Michael Bishop)
Joe Greenberg & Claire Liu at Houston Grand Opera’s Concert of Arias. (Photo by Michael Bishop)

After an unprecedented gift of $22 million last year from opera patrons Sarah and Ernest Butler, the studio has been officially named the Sarah and Ernest Butler Houston Grand Opera Studio, more commonly referred to as the Butler Studio. The Butlers were in the audience on this Arias night.

From 900 applications, the number of young singers was reduced to 20 semifinalists and ultimately eight finalists who competed in the Concert of Arias. Joining Houston Grand Opera general director and CEO Khori Dastoor and HGO artistic and music director Patrick Summers as judges were Eun Sun Kim, HGO’s principal guest conductor in a night off from her engagement with the Houston Opera’s current production of Parsifal; and HGO artistic advisor Ana María Martínez.

Current Butler Studio Artists with 2024 COA Finalists (Photo by Michael Bishop)
Houston Grand Opera Butler Studio artists with the 2024 Concert of Arias finalists. (Photo by Michael Bishop)

Names to remember? The competition winners were first place soprano Elizabeth “Janje;” second place bass-baritone Ziniu Zhao, making his first trip to the  United Statesfrom his native China; third place soprano Alissa Goretsky; Ana María Martínez Encouragement Award recipient bass-baritone Sam Dhobhany; Audience Choice Award recipient soprano Jazmine Saunders; and Online Viewers Choice Award Jouelle Roberson.

“What a joyful evening we just shared.  These inspiring young competitors put on an unforgettable show, and did themselves very proud,” Dastoor says. “There is no better distillation of HGO’s mission than the Concert of Arias. This fantastic group of emerging artists fill us with tremendous hope for the future of our peerless art form.”

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Richard Husseini, Myrtle Jones, Nedra Jones, Elizabeth Husseini 2 (Photo by Michael Bishop)
Richard Husseini, Myrtle Jones, Nedra Jones, Elizabeth Husseini at Houston Grand Opera’s Concert of Arias. (Photo by Michael Bishop)

The evening was chaired by Theresa and Dr. Peter Chang, who led some 500 guests from the Wortham Theater Center Cullen Stage to the Grand Foyer where City Kitchen provided the late-night supper for patrons and The Events Company provided the celebratory decor.

PC Seen: Claire Liu and Joe Greenberg, Cheryl and King Creuzot, Isabel and Danny David, Cynthia and Tony Petrello, Betty and Jesse Tutor, Beth Madison, Drs. Huda and William Zoghbi, Anne and Albert Chao, Donna and Ken Barrow, Teresa and José Ivo, Lulu and Hugh Zhang, April and Dr. Jorge Salazar, Janet and John Carrig, Jill and Allyn Risley, Susie and Joe Dilg, and Alejandra and Hector Torres.

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