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Making opera popular: Opera in the Heights gets wicked thanks to a hot maestro makeover

Making opera popular: Opera in the Heights gets wicked thanks to a hot maestro makeover

Enrique Carreón-Robledo
Enrique Carreón-Robledo Photo by Jose Jorge Carreón

When Opera in the the Heights needed a makeover, incoming maestro Enrique Carreón-Robledo simply had to take over. He taught the energetic company the proper poise needed to talk to boys, what shoes to wear and how to fix its hair — everything that really counts to be . . . 

Popular.

These words are stolen from Glinda the Good Witch as she attempts to overhaul a limp Elphaba into a fashionable, en vogue chick. Similarly, since Carreón-Robledo stepped on the podium as top musical stylist, Opera in the Heights has come a long way in its vitality, innovative productions and overall sparkle.

Coming off a successful season that presented operas based on works by Shakespeare, a just-revealed new 2013-14 season programs four of the most popular scores of the genre. New this year are two Sunday matinees for those who prefer daytime performances.

"A superb group of guest artists come to join our orchestra and chorus to render a fresh take on four consummate jewels of the repertoire, opening with the last installment on our Verdi bicentennial celebration to be performed on the actual date of his birthday," Carreón-Robledo said in a statement.

 "A superb group of guest artists come to join our orchestra and chorus to render a fresh take on four consummate jewels of the repertoire."

About honoring the Giuseppe Verdi bicentennial: La Traviata (Oct. 4 to Oct. 13) comprises some of the Italian composer's most catchy airs and arias despite that its premiere wasn't received particularly well by audiences and critics. Yet "Sempre libera," "De'miei bollenti spiriti" and "Libiamo ne'lieti calici" render the story of the fallen Parisian woman a timeless musical party. Too bad she has to die — but she does.

The Oct. 10 performance falls exactly on Verdi's birthday.

Gaetano Donizetti's Don Pasquale (Nov. 15 to 24) is a quintessential example of opera buffa that's set in motion by a foolish, older sugar daddy type who has the hots for a younger widow. But the joke's on him as those close to Don Pasquale conspire to teach him a lesson: It's best not to meddle with matters of the heart.

Following in the theme of trickery and deceit, Mozart's Don Giovanni (Jan. 31 to Feb. 9, 2014) follows the casanova as he tries to score big with the ladies — of any type. Maidservants, city girls, countesses, baronesses, marchionesses, princesses, thin ones, fat ones, ugly ones, beautiful ones — as long as they wear a skirt, they are fair game for his lustful trysts. But the don has it coming, courtesy of a stone statue that comes to life and sends him straight to hell.

Gaetano Donizetti's Lucia di Lammermoor (March 28 to April 6, 2014) is a bel canto castle opera of love, madness and wicked arias. Keep an eye out for who will be cast as the protagonist. The mad scene, "Il dolce suono . . . Spargi d'amaro pianto," is one that makes or breaks a soprano legacy. It is that demandingly insane.

Casting will be announced throughout the season.

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Subscriptions to Opera in the Heights 2013-14 season can be purchased online or by calling 713-861-5303. Prices start at $96 for adults, $82 for seniors and $34 for students with ID. Single tickets will be available starting Aug. 1 and start at $28 for adults, $24 for seniors and $10 for students.