Society / Featured Parties

Opera Superstars Come Out for Beyond Emotional Wortham Theater Reopening

$100 Million in Hurricane Repairs Never Looked (and Sounded) So Good

BY // 09.27.18
photography Jenny Antill Clifton, Priscilla Dickson, Wilson Parish

A sell-out crowd of 2,400, cheering standing ovations and a sing-along of “Besame Mucho” with Plácido Domingo and Ana María Martínez. What more could Houston Grand Opera patron and noted philanthropist Margaret Alkek Williams have asked for as chair of the “HGO & Plácido, Coming Home” gala?

The company’s return to Wortham Theater Center, after 502 days and $100 million in Hurricane Harvey-necessitated repairs, resonated with the resilience that drove HGO and Houston First, which owns and operates the center, to the masterful reinstatement of the city’s premiere performing arts theater. In short, it was an emotional homecoming for all.

Houston Grand Opera managing director Perryn Leech, Houston First chairman David Mincberg and Theater District Houston CEO Kathryn McNiel were among stakeholders reveling in the Wortham’s reopening night. Even Mayor Sylvester Turner, who had not been expected, made a brief appearance to applaud the theater’s resurrection.

As Leech playfully noted at the start of the evening in the Brown Theater of the Wortham, “Honey, we’re home!”

It was a marvelous second coming for the Wortham with world-renowned tenor Domingo, highly-regarded soprano Martínez and the HGO orchestra in top form. Arias from Verdi, Dvorák and Lehár shared the program with “I Could Have Danced All Night” and “On the Street Where You Live” from My Fair Lady and songs from Spanish composers. The orchestra soared with its presentation of the waltz from Carousel and the intermezzo from Cavalleria rusticana.

Surely for Williams, highlight of the night was Domingo’s singing “Granada” in dedication to her. Of course, the $1.5 million raised for HGO was another happy circumstance for the petite philanthropic dynamo.

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For 750 HGO patrons near giddy from the concert, late-night dinner was served at the Post Oak Hotel ballroom where thousands of red roses continued the vibrant mood of the evening as did the fiery 11-piece mariachi band that performed before dinner service.

“I’ve never been happier to see a group of people. I’ve never been happier to welcome them to a  theater as I did today,” HGO artistic and music director Patrick Summers said at the sellout affair. “And I’ve never been happier to share an evening with you as I have been tonight to share music with my beloved HGO orchestra.”

Special guest at the dinner, recognized by Summers, in addition to Domingo and Martínez, was the much-beloved David Gockley, HGO general director from 1972 to 2005.  He was at the helm when Wortham Center opened in 1987 with Domingo singing the lead role in Aida. And Gockley was the impresario when Martinez was invited to join the Houston Grand Opera Studio, a move that launched her international career.

Among those joining the gala chair at her table, beneath a lush bower of red roses, were Martínez, Dominguez, Sofia Adrogué and Sten Gustafson, Sue and Lester Smith, Lucinda and Javier Loya, Lisa and Michael Holthouse, Trish and Rock Morille, Nancy Ames and Danny Ward, and Zane and Brady Carruth.

Who: Incoming board chair Janet Carrig, Tom Ajamie, Sallie Sargent, Dian and Harlan Stai, Barbara Van Postman, Lynn Wyatt, Steve Wyatt, Louisa Stude Sarofim, Tony Bradfield, Sybil Roos,  Beverly and Staman Ogilvie, Isla and Tommy Reckling, Donna Kaplan and Richard Lydecker, Janet Gurwitch and Ron Franklin, and Dancie and Jim Ware.

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