the show will go on

Houston Grand Opera announces dramatic cuts to season and staff

Houston Grand Opera announces dramatic cuts to season and staff

Houston Grand Opera presents Aida
While the opera will see major cuts, the show will go on — online.  Photo by Tristram Kenton

The COVID-19 pandemic continues to plague local arts organizations. Houston Grand Opera (HGO) announced late Tuesday, June 23, that it will cancel 33 of the 47 mainstage and Cullen Theater performances of the 2020–21 season, through the spring of 2021.

The opera also announced it will reduce its workforce by 27 percent—a first such cut in the storied organization’s history. Staff remaining at HGO, including senior staff, will have a 15 percent pay reduction, or have their hours reduced, beginning July 1 and continuing through February 2021.

Senior leadership reduced their own salaries starting on June 1. This combination of savings will reduce 2021 expenses from $30,730,707 to $20,658,665, per the opera.

The canceled performances include Carmen (October 23–November 13), Werther (October 30–November 15), the world premiere of The Snowy Day (December 10–December 20), Parsifal (January 22–February 7, 2021), and Cinderella (January 29–February 15, 2021).

However, the show will go on: HGO will offer bi-monthly video content for its audiences and is planning a media project about The Snowy Day by composer Joel Thompson and librettist Andrea Davis Pinkney, based on the award-winning children’s book by Ezra Jack Keats. A full schedule of content will be available in the coming months.

HGO’s performances at the Wortham Theater Center will resume in April 2021 for the premieres of Mazzoli and Vavrek’s Breaking the Waves (April 16–May 1, 2021) and Rodgers and Hammerstein II’s The Sound of Music (April 30–May 15, 2021). The company will perform four of the five originally scheduled performances of Breaking the Waves.

Patrons and subscribers of the 2020–21 season will have subscriptions automatically moved to the 2021–22 season. Tickets to Breaking the Waves and The Sound of Music will be made complimentary. More information and additional options can be found online.

“Many people depend on HGO for their livelihoods, and this was not an easy decision to make,” said artistic and music director Patrick Summers, in a statement. “We are thankful to have a strong board and patron base that will help us get through this upcoming season and remain financially sound.”

“The arts are transformative and provide an impactful and moving experience,” he continued. “Now, more than ever, the Houston community needs the arts to help it process and heal, and that is not lost on us. We will continue to find ways to connect with our beloved audiences, even if we cannot physically be together.”

These cuts come after HGO restored pay to furloughed staff thanks to a $2.5 million PPP loan in May — a glimmer of good news during the coronavirus pandemic. 

The opera is a major player in Houston’s arts scene, producing the opulent Opera Ball each year and hosting legends such as “King of Opera,” Placido Domingo, for performances.