Rice’s New Opera House Makes Houston VIPs Swoon — Inside the City’s Grand Palace of Music

Conjuring Up Visions of Europe's Great Opera Houses

BY Shelby Hodge // 05.02.22

The architecture, the acoustics, the talent — standing ovations, please. “A Celebration for Brockman Hall for Opera” was a spectacular success for Rice University’s Shepherd School of Music as it introduced its new opera house to VIP patrons, all of whom were swooning over the latest masterpiece on the Rice campus.

Guests exchanging air kisses and sipping champagne on the stage of the Morrison Theater agreed that the view into the auditorium echoed that of the great European opera houses. In fact, design inspiration came from historic opera houses in particular the Royal Opera of Versailles in France. Centerpiece of the 84,000 square foot hall is the three-tiered, 600-seat theater with an orchestra pit for 70 musicians.

Vicki West, Ginny Simmons, Phoebe Tudor at Rice University’s ‘A Celebration for Brockman Hall for Opera’

Designed by Allan Greenberg Architect LLC, executing its talent with “new classical architecture,” the building was orchestrated to offer a premium performance space for opera and chamber music and to meet the Shepherd School’s growing need for rehearsal and practice space. Architect Thomas Noble jetted in from Greenberg headquarters in New York for the celebration. Threshold Acoustics along with theater planning and design consultants Fisher Dachs Associates worked in tandem with Greenberg on the project.

Phoebe and Bobby Tudor chaired the opening gala that moved from the theater proper to the Grand Foyer where thousands of yellow forsythia, roses and orchids further set the stage for the elegant evening. Hors d’oeuvres and cocktails were served while the night’s talents prepared for their presentation. The decor came from Todd Fiscus’ Todd Events, with catering from Jackson & Company.

Among the performers, Shepherd School students and alums, were two-time Grammy Award-winner mezzo-soprano Sasha Cooke (class of 2004), Broadway Flying Over Sunset cast member and Artist Diploma for Opera Performance student Kanisha Feliciano, and cast members from the school’s recent sold-out performances of Mozart’s “Don Giovanni.” The Shepherd School Symphony Orchestra introduced the program with Rossini’s “William Tell” overture.

The Shepherd School Symphony Orchestra performs during ‘A Celebration for Brockman Hall’ on the Rice University campus. (Photo by Si Vo)

Shepherd School Dean Matthew Loden and Rice president David Leebron offered special thanks to former dean Robert Yekovich for his leadership in bringing the opera hall to fruition.

“It’s really very simple,” Leebron says. “We would not be here celebrating today the opening of this extraordinary building for the extraordinary students and remarkable faculty without the vision and leadership of Bob Yekovich.”

Also receiving acknowledgement for their efforts on behalf of the opera hall were Anne Duncan and Susie Glasscock. Proceeds from the evening support the Shepherd School of Music’s artistic and educational programs.

PC Seen: Mayor Sylvester Turner, Kathryn Ketelsen, Provost Reginald DesRoches and wife Paula, Rice board chairman Rob Ladd, Elizabeth and Albert Kidd, Linnet Deily, Karen and Larry George, Sofia Androgué and Sten Gustafson, Anne Duncan, Mary Lynn and Steve Marks, Vicki West and Ralph Burch, Linda McReynolds, Anne and Albert Chao, Marilyn Lummis, Shawn Stephens and Jim Jordan, and Macey and Harry Reasoner.

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