"Whatever happened to Houston Grand Opera?," New York Times critic Steve Smith asks in a largely laudatory review of two recent productions.
His verdict: The company is still doing first-class work but is not aggressively letting the world know how good it is, like David Gockley did.
Much of the first half of Smith's story notes Gockley's abilities to toot the opera's (and his own) horn. The outspoken, media savvy Gockley led HGO from 1972-2005, when he left for the top job at the San Francisco Opera. Anthony Freud, who succeeded Gockley, has taken a much lower profile.
Smith praised the just closed production of Dead Man Walking and Lucia di Lammermoor, which ends Friday. And he lauded the HGO orchestra as "light-years more refined than it was when this house band first replaced the Houston Symphony in the pit during the mid-1990s."
But, he concludes:
More than anything, Houston Grand Opera’s lessened prominence outside city limits might be chalked up to the absence of Mr. Gockley’s aggressive media savvy. Clearly the work being done here is on a par with almost anything the company has undertaken, and in some ways finer. Mr. Freud might consider beating the drum more loudly."
Smith has a point. Maybe the opera should adopt the famous Texas phrase, "It ain't braggin' if it's true."