HGO Comes Home, ROCO Plays Games and Yuja Wang Kicks Off Houston's Classical Music Season

Opening Night with Beijing-born pianist Yuja Wang kicks off Houston Symphony's 2018-2019 season.
Opening Night with Beijing-born pianist Yuja Wang kicks off Houston Symphony's 2018-2019 season. Photo courtesy of Houston Symphony
The strings have been tuned, the brass has been polished and, after a long hot summer, Houston's classically trained musicians are ready to roll out a season of wonderful. It all begins with Mercury's free concert at Miller Outdoor Theatre, a battle of the bands between Vivaldi and Paganini. But which heavyweight composer will win it all?

Houston Symphony is bringing Beijing-born pianist Yuja Wang to the stage with all of the virtuosity and charisma one would expect from an opening night event. After an evening of show-stopping Ravel, we expect you'll be converts, too. But don't overlook the bright neon lights of Houston Symphony's pre-season offerings: Viva Las Vegas with the best from Frank Sinatra, Elvis Presley and Chuck Berry; and the Hollywood-famous compositions of John Williams in Rebels, Raiders & Superman.

Ars Lyrica kicks off its year by highlighting those baroque musicians who repackaged compositions for royal patrons: François Couperin's chamber music for Louis XIV and J.S. Bach's revolutionary “Six Concertos for Diverse Instruments” assembled for Margrave of Brandenburg.

ROCO has performances scheduled all over town, bringing their board game-inspired season, Games People Play — including Checkmate, Queen of Hearts and Ticket to Ride — to venues large and small.

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Plácido Domingo returns to Wortham Theater Center for a sold-out, one-night-only concert event marking the reopening of the Wortham Theater Center after Hurricane Harvey.
Photo by Kaori Suzuki
Perhaps the biggest excitement of all is that Houston Grand Opera will finally — finally — return home to Wortham Theater Center after last fall's flooding. It's a serendipitous homecoming: Plácido Domingo was there 30 years ago when the venue first opened — singing the role of Radames in Verdi’s masterpiece Aida — so it's only fitting that he'll be here again as HGO returns to its creative home. (Concert-only tickets are sold out; check the box office for gala dinner package availability.)

It's an exciting season for Opera in the Heights, too. After being named a Houston Theater Awards finalist for Best Musical with last year's Candide, we're all looking to see if lightning will strike twice. Donizetti's opéra comique, La Fille du Règiment — with its famous aria challenging the tenor to hit all those high Cs — opens the season.

In a rare Houston appearance, legendary pianist Richard Goode will be tinkling the ivories with Da Camera. To celebrate Artistic and General Director Sarah Rothenberg's 25th year with the chamber music and jazz organization, she'll join Goode to perform Schubert’s Fantasy in F Minor for piano four-hands. Rothenberg last performed this masterwork in 2007 with Leon Fleisher.

For some international flavor, Houston Symphony brings back its popular (and free) Fiesta Sinfónica. Other cross-cultural offerings include the South African musical stage play Africa Umoja!, with its special tribute to the late Nelson Mandela; a celebration of International Day of Peace at Rothko Chapel; and we'll be treated to a world premiering composition by Cuban-Spanish composer Leo Brouwer with Brazilian Beats, presented by Apollo Chamber Players.

Hometown talent Ronnie Coleman Jr. may have made international headlines with his "Bayou City Funk," but the local artist and his band Merlot Music are keeping it local when they perform live versions of hits from Coleman's catalog.

World-class vocalists also are gracing area stages: Grammy Award-winner Steve Tyrell is coming to Stafford Centre, Hollywood icon Ronny Cox lends a hand to Music Doing Good, and Wynonna brings her Big Noise to The Grand in Galveston.

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Da Camera opens its season with legendary pianist Richard Goode; he'll be joined by Artistic and General Director Sarah Rothenberg who is celebrating her 25th year with the organization.
Photo by Steve Riskind
Discover more classical music goodness below:

August 31-September 2, Viva Las Vegas, Houston Symphony at Jones Hall

September 1, Vivaldi vs. Paganini, Mercury at Miller Outdoor Theatre

September 2, Pops Concert: Movie Classics, Galveston Symphony Orchestra at The Grand 1894 Opera House, Galveston

September 4, Rebels, Raiders & Superman: A Tribute to John Williams, Houston Symphony at Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion

September 8, Opening Night with Yuja Wang, Houston Symphony at Jones Hall

September 9, Fiesta Sinfónica, Houston Symphony at Jones Hall (free)

September 13, Pacifica Quartet with Desmond Hoebig, Chamber Music Houston at Stude Concert Hall, Shepherd School of Music, Rice University

September 13, 15-16, Mahler's Resurrection Symphony, Houston Symphony at Jones Hall

September 14-16, Africa Umoja! The Spirit of Unity, International Arts Foundation, The Hobby Center

September 14, Steve Tyrell, Stafford Centre Performing Arts Theatre & Convention Center, Stafford

September 15, Ronnie Coleman Jr. Presents Merlot Music Houston Live, Merlot Music Houston at MATCH

September 18, What's Opera, Duck?, Moores Opera Center at Mucky Duck

September 21, Re-Gifting with Royalty, Ars Lyrica at The Hobby Center

September 21, Mercury: Vivaldi vs. Paganini, Bayou Theater, University of Houston Clear Lake

September 21-23, Bronfman Plays Prokofiev, Houston Symphony at Jones Hall

September 21, AURA: Crossing Lines, Moores School of Music, University of Houston

September 21, 23, 27, 29, La Fille du Régiment (The Daughter of the Regiment), Opera in the Heights!

September 21, ROCO in Concert: Checkmate, ROCO at Miller Outdoor Theatre

September 21, International Day of Peace with Silkroad Ensemble, Rothko Chapel in partnership with Moody Center for the Arts

September 22, Ronny Cox, Music Doing Good at Kawai Piano Gallery

September 22, ROCO in Concert: Checkmate, ROCO at The Church of St. John the Divine

September 22, ROCO ROCCs, ROCO at River Oaks Country Club

September 24-December 12, Opera to Go! Cinderella in Spain, HGO at various locations

September 25, Symphonic Winds, Symphonic Band, Concert Band, Moores School of Music, Moores Opera House

September 26, HGO and Plácido Domingo, Houston Grand Opera at Wortham Theater Center

September 27, 29-30, Dvorák’s Stabat Mater, Houston Symphony at Jones Hall

September 29, Brazilian Beats, Apollo Chamber Players at MATCH

September 29, Wynonna & The Big Noise, The Grand 1894 Opera House, Galveston

September 29, Richard Goode, piano, Da Camera at Wortham Theater Center

September 29, This Is Why I Sing, Houston Chamber Choir at South Main Baptist Church

September 29, Rhythm & Wind, WindSync at Miller Outdoor Theatre
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Susie Tommaney is a contributing writer who enjoys covering the lively arts and culture scene in Houston and surrounding areas, connecting creative makers with the Houston Press readers to make every week a great one.
Contact: Susie Tommaney