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Subject: "Elektra" in Houston Grand Opera's Temporary Home
From: "Max D. Winter" <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To:Max D. Winter
Date:Sat, 3 Feb 2018 00:51:52 -0500

text/plain (44 lines)

Due to serious flooding of the Wortham Center during Hurricane Harvey and serious damage 
to the Brown Theater, where the Houston Grand Opera performs, HGO has been presenting 
its operas this season in a large room in the George R. Brown Convention Center.  I missed 
both of the Fall productions ("Giulio Cesare" and "Traviata") and only tonight attended a 
performance in the new venue, the last performance of HGO's current run of "Elektra." 

I certainly don't fault HGO for where it is performing; I'm sure it did its best and there was 
no alternative if the company was to continue its season.  But I found the new venue very 
unsatisfactory, primarily due to the acoustics.  It's not so much that the singers could not be 
heard; Elektra was Christine Goerke and Chrysothemis was Tamara Wilson, both of whom 
have sizable voices.  The problem was that the voices - all of them - had no presence or 
impact in the Convention Center room.  That space was not designed as a performing venue 
for opera, and the sound largely dissipated in the large room.  Also, the orchestra was way 
back behind the stage in a far corner of the room, which was certainly not ideal; it could be 
heard, but again, there was no impact to the sound, and very little orchestral detail came 
through.  At that, it was probably a good thing the orchestra was so recessed or the singers 
would probably not have been heard at all.

This was all a great pity, as it was clear that there was a fine performance of "Elektra" going 
on somewhere.  Visually the production was a fine one, albeit with some very eccentric 
costumes, wigs and headgear.  But the sound was so problematic for me that I could not 
really get engaged with the performance.  (Also, the seats were purgatorial.)  Still, the 
audience was enthusiastic.

I understand that HGO expects to be back in the Wortham next season, although I am not 
at all excited by most of 2018-19's scheduled productions and casts.  Someone who works 
with HGO told me that the company was "hemorrhaging money" (his words), which does 
not surprise me given the circumstances, and that subscription renewals for next season are 
way down.  Let's hope things pick up for HGO.


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