25 September 2017

Houston Grand Opera to Utilize Exhibit Hall in Brown Convention Center as Makeshift Theater Following Damage to Wortham Center

News Brown Convention Center Houston 917
Houston's Brown Convention Center

DRIVEN FROM ITS HOME, the Wortham Theater Center, following major infrastructural damage sustained after Hurricane Harvey, Houston Grand Opera intends to present the first three productions of its 2017-18 season in a transformed exhibit hall in Houston’s Brown Convention Center, the company announced today. 

News of HGO’s utilization of the Convention Center follows last week’s announcement that damage to the Wortham Theater Center after Hurricane Harvey had taken that venue out of commission through May 2018 at the earliest, forcing the opera to relocate its entire mainstage season. 

HGO now intends to create an intimate theater for “unconventional opera,” called the HGO Resilience Theater, in Exhibit Hall A3 of the downtown convention center. The makeshift theater will hold nearly 1,700 seats, each of which will be less than 100 feet from the stage, and will be the venue for the company’s season-opening production of La Traviata (Oct. 20–Nov. 11); its performances of Giulio Cesare (Oct. 27– Nov. 10); and the world premiere of Ricky Ian Gordon and Royce Vavrek’s The House without a Christmas Tree (Nov. 30–Dec. 17).

“HGO is extremely grateful to our partners at Houston First for their hard work in quickly enabling us to use the George R. Brown Convention Center. We will use the space to defy normal operatic convention to present what I call ‘unconventional opera,’” HGO managing director Perryn Leech said in a statement issued today. “This will be a jewel of a performance space, with tremendous versatility. Having worked extensively with temporary and site-specific venues, I think our audiences will be amazed at the kind of direct and immersive theatrical experience we can create for them. People should arrive and be prepared to expect the unexpected.”

“Opera companies around the world are performing in new and unusual venues,” said HGO Artistic and Music Director Patrick Summers. “While we are disappointed that we temporarily cannot perform in our creative home at the Wortham Theater Center, our artists and creative teams are excited to take advantage of the extraordinary possibilities at the George R. Brown. We are fortunate to have the freedom in this new venue to customize the space to fit our unique needs and to maintain the artistic integrity of the productions. The quality that audiences have come to expect from HGO will not change. We are thrilled to be able to provide inspiration and healing through great opera in the heart of downtown Houston.”

Following the hurricane in late August, Houston Grand Opera announced that the Wortham Theater Center's 2,500-seat Brown Theater and its 1,100-seat Cullen Theater had experienced significant flood damage, including distress to both stages; the venue’s front-of-house facilities were also damaged by the storm surge. A week later, HGO announced that it would be forced to to relocate its season-opening productions of Traviata and Julius Caesar. The Houston First Corporation, which operates the Wortham, subsequently acknowledged that the damage to the center was so extensive that HGO would need to find alternate venues for its entire mainstage season, which runs through the second week in May. Twelve-feet of water flooded the Wortham’s basement, causing significant damage to the company's wig and costume shops; likewise, the tunnel connecting the Wortham to its garage also experienced flooding, taking on more than 200 million gallons of water and extensively damaging the venue's air handling units and elevators. While HGO staff had moved instruments and costumes for both Traviata and Cesare to higher floors in the Wortham Center, flooding in the basement caused significant damage to the building's mechanical and electrical systems. Houston First said that reopening the venue by May 15, 2018 amounted to a "best-case scenario," and that while the organization did not believe that the theaters experienced structural damage as a result of the storm, a full assessment by Gilbane Reconstruction Services was expected within the next few weeks.

In announcing the new venue, Houston Grand Opera said that ticket holders for La Traviata, Cesare and The House Without a Christmas Tree do not need to take any action at this time, and that in October the company would contact ticket ticket holders about seating in the new venue. HGO will also give each ticket buyer a $30 credit for Lyft credit facilitating transportation to the new venue. spacer 

More information can be found at Houston Grand Opera

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