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Houston Grand Opera Launches Expansive Plans for Wagner's Ring, Musicals & Holiday Operas (Gasp!)

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High notes weren't the only things soaring at this week's gala for the Houston Grand Opera when HGO made its case for more donations aided by stirring performances throughout the evening. Artistic and Music Director Patrick Summers is thinking bigger than ever and he wants all of Houston along for the ride.

Okay, so HGO will be performing Wagner's Ring over the next few years starting in 2014. That's pretty ambitious, right? But that's not enough for Summers; he announced to the gala group that he wants Houston to become known as a place where Wagner is done extremely well.

For those less than enthralled with the incredibly gifted but noted anti-Semite's lengthy works, the opera is also planning to present The Passenger, an exploration of the Holocaust set aside for almost four decades. And HGO will take its entire company to perform at Lincoln Center, Summers said.

Meanwhile, Summers wants to see the company dipping in more to American musicals, starting with Showboat this season. Doesn't matter the genre, he says, if it's great music, they want to sing it.

Stepping pretty squarely into turf now owned locally by Theatre Under the Stars and Gexa Energy Broadway, HGO plans to do works like South Pacific, Carousel, Sweeney Todd and A Little Night Music. (Yes! say Stephen Sondheim lovers who feel he doesn't get enough exposure in Houston.)

And treading even further into the playgrounds of other area theaters, by December 2014, HGO plans to launch Holiday Operas, something it hasn't done before. It plans to commission adaptations of A Christmas Carol and It's a Wonderful Life. They even plan a more uncommon one, The House Without a Christmas Tree.

All these plans plus its core productions -- it starts its season in a few weeks with La Bohème -- and its young artist studio, community outreach with HGOco and its Nexus Initiative that underwrites costs of tickets, means the HGO needs some more money. The goal of its campaign, started in 2007, is to raise at least $165 million by December 31, 2014. It has already raised about $106 million, leaving $59 million to go.

The crowd, treated to the singing of Frederica von Stade and Albina Shagimuratova, with a crescendo ending by the HGO Studio Artists showing off the next generation of would-be stars, seemed more than ready to go along with the grand plans. Now someone just needs to win the Texas Lottery and deed a large chunk of the money over to HGO.

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