Houston Grand Opera receives major grant for new work

The Andrew W Mellon Foundation has awarded the Houston Grand Opera with a grant worth USD750,000 (€514,550) to support the creation of new operatic works.

The funding will go towards the development and production of two main-stage operas, Carlisle Floyd’s Prince of Players, Jake Heggie and Gene Scheer’s It’s a Wonderful Life, as well as three new commissions under HGOco, the company’s award-winning community and education initiative.

Prince of Players tells the story of Edward Kynaston, a male actor who performed women’s roles on stage in Restoration England. The work will premiere in March 2016.

Based on Philip Van Doren Stern’s story The Greatest Gift, and made famous by the Frank Capra movie, HGO’s new version of It’s a Wonderful Life will have its world premiere in December 2016.

The three HGOco commissions will build on the company’s Song of Houston initiative, an ongoing project that aims to tell the stories of Houstonians through words and music.

Gregory Spears’ chamber opera O Columbia will be the first Song of Houston commission to premiere under the new funding, and will open in autumn 2015. The piece will commemorate the 2003 Columbia space shuttle disaster by exploring the lives of the crew and their families.

Previous Song of Houston works have included the world’s first mariachi opera, 2010’s Cruzar la Cara de la Luna / To Cross the Face of the Moon; and East + West (2010-14), a four-year series of eight chamber operas telling stories from Houston’s Asian communities (pictured).

The Andrew W Mellon Foundation has been a supporter of HGO since the early 2000s, having supported 15 new commissions and rarely performed works.