Tony Award Winners Create New “Madame Butterfly” for Houston Grand Opera

Award-winning creative team make U.S. operatic debut with season-opening production on October 22, 2010

Director Michael Grandage, designer Christopher Oram, and lighting designer Neil Austin—the creative team responsible for Houston Grand Opera’s (HGO) new production of Puccini’s Madame Butterfly—swept the prestigious Tony Awards Sunday night in New York City with six awards for their Broadway production of John Logan’s Red. The new HGO production marks the London-based design team’s first opera for a U.S. company. Grandage is the artistic director of the Donmar Warehouse where the production of Red originated.

“It is thrilling to bring about the U.S. operatic debut of such a dynamic creative team,” said Anthony Freud, HGO general director and CEO, noting that Grandage’s team had been honored with Tonys for best direction, best scenic design, best lighting design, and best sound design; the awards for best play and best performance by a featured actor also went to Red. “Their work at Donmar Warehouse in London and on Broadway has consistently delivered extraordinary revelations for the audience. I am delighted they accepted our invitation to create HGO’s new production of Madame Butterfly, and look forward to sharing this vision of Puccini’s much-loved opera with our audiences in Houston.” Rehearsals in Houston for the new production begin in late September.

“As a production team we have worked almost exclusively in the theater,” noted Grandage, who described his production of Madame Butterfly as taking its inspiration from traditional Japanese art, and set in a fascinating and interesting period of history. “I’m excited to work with Houston Grand Opera on such an important and beautiful piece of the operatic repertory.”

No strangers to the stage awards circuit, the production team has won multiple entertainment awards in the 15 years of their working relationship. Highlights of their career include Laurence Olivier Awards for Guys and Dolls (2006) and Grand Hotel (2005), the 2010 Drama Desk Awards for Outstanding Play, Outstanding Director, and Outstanding Lighting (Red, 2010), and the Tony Award nomination for Frost/Nixon (2009). The celebrated team has just made their U.K. operatic debut at the Glyndebourne Festival with a critically acclaimed production of Britten’s Billy Budd, and will revive their celebrated West End production of Evita on Broadway in spring 2012.

The new production of Madame Butterfly will feature soprano Ana Maria Martínez in her role debut as Cio-Cio San and the HGO debuts of tenor Joseph Calleja (Pinkerton), baritone Levi Hernandez (Sharpless), and mezzo-soprano Lucy Schaufer (Suzuki). HGO music director Patrick Summers conducts. Madame Butterfly will open HGO’s 2010–11 season on Friday, October 22, 2010, at 7 p.m. at the Wortham Theater Center in Houston, Texas, and runs for five performances. Additionally the company will present two student matinees, a High School Night performance and a special Nexus Initiative Matinee featuring acclaimed soprano Cynthia Clayton (Cio-Cio San), tenor Nathaniel Peake (Pinkerton), baritone Michael Sumuel (Sharpless), and mezzo-soprano Catherine Martin (Suzuki).

Subscriptions for HGO’s 2010–11 season are currently available, starting at $84. Single tickets go on sale to the public on Sunday, September 19, 2010.

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