While the rest of Houston had our plates full with our diligent Super Bowl preparations (aka: we were partying), the major performing arts institutions of the Downtown Theater District were hard at work putting together their 2017-2018 seasons. The Houston Ballet, Houston Symphony and Houston Grand Opera, along with Theatre Under the Stars have now all announced their upcoming arts year of dance, music and drama.
With these productions, you could almost spend every night downtown watching world class performing art, so check out their full seasons announcements. But if you’re looking for a cheat sheet, we've spotted some trends in these seasons and already know some of the highlights we won't want to miss.
Peruvian-born composer Jimmy López becomes the Houston Symphony’s new composer-in-residence, and to celebrate (September 22-24, 2017) Andrés Orozco-Estrada conducts the world premiere of López’s Violin Concerto that he composed for violinist Leticia Moreno and the Houston Symphony. The program also includes two Romantic symphonies by Schumann, Symphony No. 1, Spring and Symphony No. 2.
Not exactly a world premiere, but Theater Under The Stars opens its 2017-2018 season on October 10 with the Broadway-bound revival of The Secret Garden which was a hit when it premiered in Washington D.C. The original Tony-winning musical with book and lyrics by Marsha Norman and music by Lucy Simon ran for 709 performances after its premiered in the early '90s. This brand new revival contains revisions from director David Armstrong and the original creative team. See it before New York does.
Houston Grand Opera continues its annual new holiday opera series (November 30–December 17, 2017) with the world premiere of The House without a Christmas Tree based on 1972 television movie. From the composer/librettist team of Ricky Ian Gordon and Royce Vavrek, this brand new production will feature HGO Studio alumni soprano Lauren Snouffer and baritone Daniel Belchercomes as a daughter and father trying to come to an understanding about Christmas and family history.
In the spring of 2018, the Houston Ballet debuts the new work by artistic director Stanton Welch as part Rock, Roll & Tutus (March 8-18), its evening of contemporary dance. Along with Welch’s Songs of Last Century, this international mixed repertoire event also includes the North American debut of Filigree and Shadow by another Australian choreographer, Tim Harbour and the humorous Tulle from Swedish choreographer Alexander Ekman.
Next winter (January 19-February 2, 2018), we’ll see that daddy issues aren’t just a guy thing as HGO artistic and music director Patrick Summers conducts and Nick Sandys directs the revival of David McVicar’s production of Richard Strauss’s Elektra. This will be the first performances of Strauss’s one-act modernist opera from HGO in 25 years. Opera lovers will no doubt also welcomes back Soprano Christine Goerke, who received raves as Elektra in concert with the Boston Symphony Orchestra at Carnegie Hall and wowed Houston as Brünnhilde in HGO’s first Ring cycle (2014–17).
After a 12-year hiatus, the Houston Ballet brings back Ben Stevenson’s Don Quixote. That inspiring, questing knight returns to tilt at windmills as he tries to win the love of Dulcinea once more while closing out the Ballet’s 2017-2018 season (June 7-17, 2018).
Meanwhile, also in the summer of 2018 (June 12-24) over at the Hobby Center, we’ll find lots of boat rocking as TUTS brings back the classic American musical Guys and Dolls and that love rumble between gangsters, gamblers and upright women. TUTS director Nick DeGruccio, who directed last year’s In the Heights to exuberant reviews, has modern reimagining plans for the beloved musical born in the 1950s.
Birthday Jamming with Lenny
2018 marks the hundred years since the birth of iconic American composer and conductor, Leonard Bernstein, and both the Houston Symphony and Houston Grand Opera will be celebrating the centennial with special performances.
In February and March of 2018, look for Bernstein three times on the Houston Symphony schedule including his Serenade for Violin and Orchestra, featuring master violinist, Hilary Hahn, on February 23-25 and his Symphony No. 2, The Age of Anxiety during the Easter and Passover season beginning on March 29.
Meanwhile HGO tries the unprecedented, to be the first major American opera house to present one of the most beloved musicals of all time, Leonard Bernstein, Stephen Sondheim, and Jerome Robbins’s magnificent West Side Story (April 20–May 6, 2018). Directed by Francesca Zambello the production will feature HGO Studio alumni soprano Andrea Carroll and tenor Norman Reinhardt.
Can’t-Miss Big Productions
HGO always makes a big seasonal entrance, and this fall (October 20–November 11, 2017) will be no exception with Verdi’s romantic opera, La traviata, Celebrated off-Broadway director Arin Arbus, who made her opera directorial debut with the 2012 HGO production of The Rape of Lucretia, stages this new production with Eun Sun Kim, making her American debut, conducting.
Though this theatrical sun got eclipsed by Hamilton in 2016, Bright Star from Steve Martin and Edie Brickell held its own with five Tony nominations including best musical. Set in the south during the 1920s and '40s, this nostalgic love tale brought blue grass, banjos and fiddles to Broadway and next year (March 13-25, 2018) to Houston.
As part of the Houston Symphony’s “Margaret Alkek Williams Sound + Vision” series Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring goes all in on immersive concerts as conductor Andrés Orozco-Estrada, choreographer Klaus Obermaier and the artistic-scientific think tank Ars Electronica Futurelab collaborate to bring lighting, video, dance 3-D visual effects to this Rite experience. (May 18-20, 2018)
For many years, holiday Panto has been a staple each December at Stages Theatre and now TUTS is getting in on the British-Christmas-tradition action with Sleeping Beauty and Her Winter Knight (December 6 - 24, 2017). Sleeping Beauty brings fairy tale fun for all ages along with a contemporary score and songs originally performed by Blondie, Bruno Mars, John Legend, Katy Perry, Mariah Carey. TUTS advises we should also be on the look out for local celebrities and comedy tailored to Houston audiences.
Expect lots of fun concerts on the horizon from the Houston Symphony Pops and special series, including Totally ’80s! (October 6-8) and a showing of Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho with live orchestra accompaniment, but we’re especially looking forward to that Amazonian songstress and Pink Martini member, Storm Large, singing all of our favorite one-then-done pop hits in a concert succinctly titled One-Hit Wonders (May 25-27, 2018). Get ready for hits like “Come on Eileen,” “Walking in Memphis and “Take on Me,” that we know all the words to but probably haven’t the slightest clue who first sang them.