Jonathan & Ann Ayre, HGO Opening Night chairs Drs. Rachel & Warren Ellsworth (Photo by Wilson Parish)
Houston Grand Opera artistic and musical director Patrick Summers, HGO patron Lynn Wyatt, HGO managing director Perryn Leech (Photo by Jenny Antill Clifton)
John & Janet Carrig, Houston Grand Opera board chair (Photo by Jenny Antill Clifton)
Rigoletto stars tenor Arturo Chacon-Cruz, soprano Mane Galoyan, baritone Michael Mayes (Photo by Jenny Antill Clifton)
Jim Daniel, Margaret Alkek Williams (Photo by Jenny Antill Clifton)
David Leebron, Y. Ping Sun (Photo by Jenny Antill Clifton)
Valerie & Tracy Dieterich (Photo by Jenny Antill Clifton)
Kevin Black, Tony Bradfield (Photo by Jenny Antill Clifton)
The elaborately decorated party tent on Fish Plaza was illuminated for the opera soirée with chandeliers, some bedecked in flowers. (Photo by Jenny Antill Clifton)
Houston Grand Opera Opening Night chairs Drs. Rachel and Warren Ellsworth. (Photo by Wilson Parish)
Alfredo & Marcia Vilas, Venetia Stelliou Chacón & Arturo Chacón-Cruz (Photo by Jenny Antill Clifton)
Robert & Ngozi Onyejekwe (Photo by Wilson Parish)
Joe Greenberg & Claire Liu (Photo by Wilson Parish)
Kendall Hanno, Jacqueline Levine, Kirby Lodholz (Photo by Wilson Parish)
Laura & Perry Ewing (Photo by Jenny Antill Clifton)
Danny & Isabel David (Photo by Wilson Parish)
Caroline Ellsworth, Sharon Ley Lietzow (Photo by Jenny Antill Clifton)
Drs. Ishwaria & Vivek Subbiah (Photo by Wilson Parish)
Matt Brown, Saula Valente (Photo by Wilson Parish)
Marshall Heins, Christina Stith (Photo by Wilson Parish)
Drs. Bob Basu & Sugene Kim (Photo by Jenny Antill Clifton)
Jay & Gretchen Watkins, Carrie & Sverre Brandsberg-Dahl (Photo by Jenny Antill Clifton)
Myrtle Jones (Photo by Jenny Antill Clifton)
Liz Grimm, Molly Crownover, Beth Madison (Photo by Wilson Parish)
Marg Sage, Marguerite Swartz (Photo by Jenny Antill Clifton)
Joni Baird, Beth Wolff (Photo by Wilson Parish)
Michael Heaston, Emily Bivona, Ryan Manser (Photo by Jenny Antill Clifton)
HGO Opening Night gala underneath a tent on Fish Plaza at Wortham Theater Center (Photo by Jenny Antill Clifton)
Houston Grand Opera’s glorious night on stage at Wortham Theater Center ended in tragedy as did the Houston Astros night in the Bronx. But while the sublime voices of “Rigoletto” swept the emotions of opening night guests, past the untimely death of a young beauty, into a giddy high, the sad fortune (though only temporary) of the Astros left fans in an agitated frame of mind.
With a World Series berth just a win away on this Friday evening, it was impossible for many among the black-tie crowd joining HGO‘s “Opening Night” dinner to separate thoughts of baseball from that of Verdi‘s masterpiece. Even HGO managing director Perryn Leech, when addressing the post-performance throng, quipped that the only person having a worse night than Rigoletto was starting pitcher Justin Verlander, who was going against the Yankees in Game 5 on this Opera night.
Soirée chairs Drs. Rachel and Warren Ellsworth made a fashion nod to the Astros, she in a stunning Astros orange gown and he wearing an orange rose boutonniere. Leech, also a member of the fan club, donned a neck scarf and handkerchief he had custom made from two of the Astros spirit flags. During intermissions, the dismal Game 5 score was posted on the surtitles screen above the Wortham Theater stage.
Joining the obvious Astros fan contingent was Judge Beau Miller proudly displaying his Astros orange socks; Lynn Wyatt in a stunning beaded, orange gown; a fellow or two donning Astros caps with their tuxedos; and Tenenbaum Jewelers‘ Kevin Black and Tony Bradfield completing their navy blue tuxes with orange hankies, made from a Carlos Correa jersey.
And so the late evening, flush with Astros love and Italian influences (a nod to Verdi’s heritage), began in an elaborately decorated party tent on Fish Plaza. It was HGO’s first return to the opening night tradition of partying on the plaza since Hurricane Harvey decimated much of the theater district in 2017. Venetian court jesters welcomed the 400 guests who sipped prosecco cocktails as they made their way to flower-decked tables amid the lavish decor created by The Events Company.
Also tradition with the season opening gala, HGO artistic and music director introduces the cast before dinner. On this night opera aficionados swooned over magical soprano Mané Galoyan (Gilda) and in the title role baritone Michael Mayes, who impressively stepped into the lead role only a week before opening night as the original cast member was taken ill. The powerful Mayes, who hails from Cut and Shoot, Texas, addressed his Lone Star heritage by wearing his tux jacket with jeans and a black cowboy hat. On the receiving end of a third standing ovation was mezzo-soprano Zoie Reams (Maddalena), a 2016-2018 alumna of the HGO Studio young artist training program.
The Italian-influenced dinner was underway with Tony’s team knocking themselves out for the three course dinner: treviso and burrata salad, a duet of beef tenderloin medallions and Mediterranean sea bass with jumbo lump crab, and for dessert flourless chocolate cake with blackberry and blueberry compote.
It was a beautiful evening that raised more than $375,000 for HGO coffers.
PC Seen: Isabel and Danny David, Donna Kaplan and Richard Lydecker, Margaret Alkek Williams, Ann and Jonathan Ayre, Marcia and Alfredo Villas, Caroline Leech, Drs. Liz Grimm and Jack Roth, Y. Ping Sun and David Leebron, Sofia Adrogué and Sten Gustafson, Geraldine and Fred Dyen, Donna Chapman, Kristina Somerville, Matt Brown, Saula Valante, Cindi and Dr. Franklin Rose, Drs. Ishwaria and Vivek Subbiah, Valerie and Tracy Dieterich, Myrtle Jones, and Teresa and José Ivo.