It's not often that a non-profit scores such a renowned collection of complementary headliners as the University of Houston's Moores School of Music managed for its 27th annual gala. But with the dean of American opera, Carlisle Floyd, as honoree, it was practically a given that San Francisco Opera general director David Gockley would join Houston Grand Opera artistic and music director Patrick Summers as honorary co-chairs.
The Moores Society hosted the evening held in the Grand Foyer of Wortham Theater Center, a move from the traditional UH campus locale that played up the relationship between the Moores School and HGO.
"I cannot emphasize enough how import the role of the University of Houston was in founding the Opera Studio and bringing Carlisle from Florida State to the University of Houston," Gockley told the black-tie gathering. "Gradually over the years, the presence of the studio not only in the opera house, but on the campus of UH encouraged what turned out to be the Moores School of Music." Gockley was general director of HGO when Floyd was recruited to Houston in 1976.
"It's a wonderful thing to look back on the UH school of music when I arrived here in 1976 and where it is today with that beautiful theater."
In his remarks, Summers noted, "There isn't a day that passes in this company where we don't feel the extraordinary legacy of Carlisle Floyd. Carlisle's relationship to this company is unprecedented in American opera. There is no American opera house that has had such a long and deep association with a living composer."
It was an extraordinary evening punctuated by the presentation of Floyd arias, two sung by Moores Opera Center students, and "Ain't It a Pretty Night" from Susannah, sung by HGO Studio soprano Natalya Romaniw.
The 88-year-old Floyd, who now lives in Tallahassee, Fla., appeared to be mouthing the words along with the singers as they performed. He is still composing and will premiere a new work with HGO in two years.
In accepting the John Moores Award, Floyd noted, "It's a wonderful thing to look back on the UH school of music when I arrived here in 1976 and where it is today with that beautiful theater. It's just a formidable place to do opera. I couldn't be happier with the heritage that I had a part in."
Gala chairs Eleanor Connan and Beth Madison could not have been happier with the evening, nor could Moores School director David Ashley White and Moores Society president Beverly B. Kaufman. Among the UH family applauding the evening was president Renu Khator and husband Suresh Khator. HGO's managing director Perryn Leech and wife Caroline joined in the salute as well.
Applauding the remarkable Floyd were gala emcee HoustonPBS' Ernie Manouse, Lynn Wyatt, Kathi and Bill Rovere, Frances Marzio, Kelly Fawcett Somoza, Sallymoon and Dr. Alan Benz, Diane and Harry Gendel, Clare Glassell, Marie and Alain LeNotre, John Hopkins and Macey and Harry Reasoner.