Houston Grand Opera Marks Fourth Consecutive Year of Expansion with Artistic Success, Record Attendance, and Fundraising Growth
Houston Grand Opera announced at its annual meeting today that its 2013–14 season surpassed previous records for attendance and fundraising. Marking the fourth consecutive year of expanding its season, HGO presented eight main-stage productions (up from seven last season), with a total of forty-nine performances—compared to forty-six the previous year. Attendance rose 3 percent over last season, or 28 percent over 2009–10, and the organization’s comprehensive campaign has raised more than $157 million, on track to reach its $165 million goal by December 2014.
Houston Grand Opera Board Chair Dr. John Mendelsohn said, “This year we were thrilled to serve Houston with the highest quality artistic programming on an unprecedented scale through our main-stage productions in the Brown and Cullen theaters, our chamber operas focusing on Houston’s diverse ethnic communities, and other collaborative programs for all ages. At a time when many companies have been forced to scale back, we are grateful that Houstonians have stepped up to make our vision a reality. And we need to maintain this high level of support in order to keep giving Houston the amount of quality opera it deserves.”
HGO Artistic and Music Director Patrick Summers highlighted the range and strength of HGO’s 2013–14 season, which included the American premiere of Weinberg’s long-suppressed Holocaust opera, The Passenger; HGO’s fifty-third world premiere—Ricky Ian Gordon’s and Leonard Foglia’s chamber opera A Coffin in Egypt starring Frederica von Stade; Stephen Sondheim’s classic A Little Night Music; and the launch of HGO’s first Ring cycle. “This was my ‘Field of Dreams’ season,” he said, “a diverse array of extraordinary presentations that our audience found consistently compelling. Our return to the Cullen Theater has enabled us to add a wider variety to our performances. And Das Rheingold, which sold at 103 percent, put HGO and opera at the top of the cultural conversation in this city.” Noting the number of performances in various community venues, he added, “I am proud that our cultural impact continues to grow.”
HGO Managing Director Perryn Leech observed, “HGO’s footprint is increasing nationally and internationally, from our upcoming tour of The Passenger to the Lincoln Center Festival in July, to our CD release of A Coffin in Egypt and the production’s tour to Los Angeles and Philadelphia, to the recent presentation of our production of The Little Prince (HGO’s twenty-eighth world premiere, in 2003) in South Korea. We continue to attract global audiences, this year from thirty countries as well as from forty-six states.”
Leech added, “The growth of both earned and contributed income is proof that our emphasis on and investment in the quality of our creative output is paying off. I am pleased to report that we are forecasting a balanced budget this year, for the fourth consecutive season.”
Historic campaign on target to reach goal
HGO’s comprehensive campaign, Inspiring Performance—the Campaign for Houston Grand Opera, has raised more than $157 million, putting it on track to reach the goal of at least $165 million by December 2014. “Not only has the campaign increased the number of high-level gifts,” noted Leech, “but it has also helped us bring in more than 6,300 supporters, including many first-time donors to HGO. This new breadth of support is vital to our future success through the end of the campaign and beyond.” Inspiring Performance is the largest and most successful fundraising campaign for the performing arts in the city’s history.
Noted Chief Advancement Officer Greg Robertson, “Houston is well known for its enormous civic pride and extraordinary philanthropy. We are deeply grateful to our many generous friends who recognize that great art plays a vital role in assuring our city’s future.” HGO’s gala special events once again were highlights of Houston’s social scene. This year, special events raised more than $3 million. Opening night festivities, Concert of Arias, and Opera Ball: Fleurs de l’Opéra, were all extremely successful.
Main-stage audience grows to new highs
HGO’s attendance at main-stage productions was 74,304, a 3 percent rise over the previous season and representing 92 percent of capacity. While the number of subscribers remained steady after four consecutive years of growth, the company was able to increase subscription offerings from six to seven productions. Total ticket sales were 28 percent higher than in the 2009–10 season. Single ticket sales increased by 76 percent over 2009–10, and the number of single tickets sold per performance was up by 12 percent over 2009–10.
Community engagement programs reach across Houston
HGOco, HGO’s community collaboration initiative, engaged more than 75,000 Houstonians through a variety of commissions, partnerships, and arts education programs. HGOco presented two world premieres this season. The first, Bound, explored Houston’s Vietnamese community, while River of Light focused on the Indian community. Both premiered at Asia Society Texas Center, a frequent partner, to sold-out houses. HGOco also presented three concerts related to the Holocaust opera The Passenger, with community partners including the Evelyn Rubenstein Jewish Community Center, Holocaust Museum Houston, and Congregation Beth Israel.
HGO presented main-stage performances of Die Fledermaus for the Student Performance Series—two student matinees and High School Night. Opera to Go!, a touring opera program for new and young audiences, presented Strega Nona and Rapunzel in schools and other venues across the region.
Said HGOco Committee Chair Cynthia Petrello, “We are proud of HGOco’s leading role in creating collaborations that help add meaning to people’s lives and foster greater understanding through presentations, workshops, and discussions. As the Houston Chronicle noted in a February 28, 2014 editorial, HGO has ‘done its part in helping to meet the city’s greatest challenge—weaving so many people from diverse backgrounds into a community tapestry.’”
Free and low-cost access to opera continues
HGO’s 2013–14 Miller Outdoor Theatre production, Die Fledermaus, played to a combined audience of 9,000 on May 16 and 17, and the company was delighted to return to The Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion in The Woodlands for the second consecutive season.
The performances at Miller Outdoor Theatre—free to the public—are made possible through HGO’s unique NEXUS initiative. Underwritten by leading donors, NEXUS has made it possible for HGO to share opera with families, children, students, and seniors during the last seven seasons. The program enables the company to perform for free in venues like Miller Outdoor Theatre and to sell deeply discounted tickets for just $12.25 at select Wortham Theater Center offerings. Since NEXUS was launched in 2007, more than 175,000 discounted or free NEXUS tickets have been sold or distributed.
“We could not be more grateful to all our partners, corporate and foundation supporters, and individual donors who have helped us create another extraordinary year of opera for Houston and for this region,” said Leech. “Their generosity, the loyalty of our subscribers, and the amazing spirit of this city make it possible for us to aim high and succeed.”
More information about Houston Grand Opera and its productions is available at the company’s website, HGO.org.
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© 21C Media Group, June 2014
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