Soprano Tamara Wilson on What It's Like to Sing Again With HGO

Tamara Wilson
Photo by Claire McAdams
Tamara Wilson
When soprano Tamara Wilson was done rehearsing for her concert recital at the Wortham Center's Cullen Theater, she went home and cried.

"On rehearsal day we rehearsed and went through everything and then I drove home and just kind of had an emotional moment and kind of cried because I hadn’t realized how much I missed singing," she says. "When we recorded it, it was very much a surreal moment because you're back and you're singing but you're singing to like five people in the house."

A digital production of her performance will be presented this Friday at 7:30 p.m. in a collaboration between HGO Digital and Marquee TV.  Wilson, who has performed in opera stages around the world, last sang on the Wortham stage in February in an HGO production of Aida, before hundreds of people at a time, surrounded by fellow cast members and buoyed by the HGO orchestra.

This time, she'll be accompanied by Houston Grand Opera Artistic and Music Director Patrick Summers on piano — and as already said, before just a handful of people. It's all part of HGO's strategy to recalibrate while it seeks to fill the void of in-person operas with streamed concerts.

"This will be a recital that I curated with Patrick Summers about a month ago to have a cathartic moment of songs at the beginning and then ending the recital with songs of hope for the future."

Early on in the pandemic, Wilson resigned herself to not being able to perform until 2021. "It was a nice surprise that HGO has actually been taking steps to make sure that everybody in the building is tested and that it's a safe environment and that we can actually make music. While it's not for a live performance with people actually in the theater, we can still be making some kind of art."

Asked about the lineup for the hour-long concert and why she picked some of the songs she did, Wilson says "The first song I was picked was 'Music for a While,' by Purcell. He talks about using music to ease your pain which I figure is pretty apropos for now." It was also the first song she ever learned in her first voice lesson.

"Then we're doing some Copland and Previn songs that have poetry by Emily Dickinson. They're all about dealing with being solitary and alone and death which also is apropos right now. If anyone knew anything about being a recluse, it was Emily Dickinson."

She also included some Amy Beach songs. "Beach was a composer around the turn of the last century. She wrote some gorgeous songs that just aren’t done that often. I wanted to feature a female composer on the recital. And then Stauss' 'Morgen!' about seeing your loved ones again after death and it's one of the most beautiful songs on the planet. 

"And then some Rossini pieces that Patrick and I performed when I was in the [HGO Artists] studio in 2005. Those are all really fun songs," she says. "And then at the end 'We'll Meet Again' which was popularized in World War I."

"It was just nice to be making music again."

Wilson says she hopes that her concert recital will provide some comfort to whomever tunes in.

"I just hoping that it’s a moment that people can put away all the horrible stresses they’re under right now and all the news and everything that's going on in the world and take a minute to remember there can be beauty and there can be solace. We just have to work hard to make sure it comes back and it comes back in a way it’s appreciated. Because one of the greatest things humans do is create with each other."

All HGO Digital programs will be hosted on both HGO.org/Digital and the Marquee TV platform, which allows viewers to stream content through their televisions for a high-quality audio-visual experience. For more information, visit the HGO website.