Press Room

Patrick Summers takes the reins at Houston Grand Opera

When the Houston Grand Opera’s 2011-12 season – its 57th – opens officially on October 21 with a new production of Rossini’s The Barber of Seville, the company begins a new era under the leadership of Patrick Summers. One of America’s most distinguished, adventurous, and accomplished conductors, Summers was named HGO’s Artistic and Music Director in May 2011. This follows a 13-year period as Music Director, in which Summers conducted 45 different operas across a full spectrum of repertoire – from Baroque and Classical works to seven world premieres. In addition to the manifold and wide-ranging responsibilities he has taken on with his new position as leader of the company, Summers will conduct three productions at the HGO this season: Verdi’s La traviata and Don Carlos, as well as Donizetti’s Mary Stuart (with HGO Studio alumna Joyce DiDonato making her debut in the title role). Summers began the current season at San Francisco Opera – where he oversaw the company’s world-premiere production of Chris Theofanidis’s Heart of a Soldier – and is now leading that company’s first production of Handel’s Xerxes, with Susan Graham in the title role (Summers has been Principal Guest Conductor at the San Francisco Opera since 1999). This season Summers will also conduct Puccini’s La bohème – at the Deutsche Oper Berlin, and in his May 2012 debut with the Los Angeles Opera.
The Board of Directors of Houston Grand Opera unanimously named Summers Artistic and Music Director of Houston Grand Opera, following the departure of then-General Director Anthony Freud to Lyric Opera of Chicago. Summers’s deep knowledge of all aspects of opera; his long experience with the company and his role in elevating its artistic level, particularly his formation and development of the Houston Grand Opera Orchestra; and his vivid artistic vision for HGO’s future were cited as the driving elements behind the Board’s decision. 
Upon the initial announcement of his appointment, Summers commented:
“My initial attraction to Houston Grand Opera has greatly deepened during my years here. In this precarious time for the arts in the United States, HGO has managed to constantly re-define what an arts company could look like in a young and growing American city. HGO is an institution reflective of its city: it is entrepreneurial, and inspired by bold ideas. It prefers to climb new mountains rather than stroll through the familiar hills. It is not simply a European Opera house dropped into an American city, waiting for adherents; it is a uniquely American institution, a model for the future of many arts organizations in our nation. Our main objective is to produce great opera, and to make this inspiring art form as available and affordable as possible, while breaking down the social clichés that are unfairly attached to the performing arts.”
In that same announcement, Summers also explained why he is an impassioned advocate for arts education, and why artists need to take a leadership role in this key area:
“In addition to producing the finest performances we can during our seasons, I want to rigorously address an area I feel to be vital not just to HGO, but to American culture: arts education. As governments relentlessly cut the arts from schools, the responsibilities for arts education will increasingly move to arts companies and to the artisans who populate them. We have a moral imperative as artists: to be more than simply the guardians of an honestly great tradition, but to also begin to assume the mantle of educators. Tradition, it must be remembered, is only truly honored by innovation.”
Summers takes the helm at Houston Grand Opera at a time of great success and heightened anticipation for the company. The 2011 fiscal year was a banner one for HGO, marked by a balanced budget for the second consecutive year; the presentation of three world-premiere works, including Cruzar la Cara de la Luna, the mariachi opera that recently met with great acclaim when it opened the season of Paris’s Théâtre du Châtelet; and ticket sales that reached 94% of capacity for the season.

Summers reputation as one of America’s most important opera leaders and innovators was the result of myriad achievements. The sheer variety of works that he has championed, both in Houston and with other leading companies in the U.S. and Europe, has been dazzling. Besides overseeing the introduction of new operas at HGO, such as Jake Heggie’s Dead Man Walking, he has greatly enriched the company’s artistic range by introducing many seminal works – often in new productions – to its repertoire. He has also played a pivotal role with HGOco, the company’s unique initiative to connect the company with the community through collaboration.
As an advocate for new opera, Summers has helped bring to life nearly a dozen new works since he first assisted Sir André Previn on the creation of A Streetcar Named Desire (and later, Previn’s Brief Encounter). In addition to Dead Man Walking, one of contemporary opera’s most successful new works, he has also overseen the world-premiere performances of Jake Heggie’s The End of the Affair, Last Acts, and Moby Dick. He has also worked closely with composers Tod Machover (Resurrection), Rachel Portman (The Little Prince), Michael Daugherty, Carlisle Floyd (Cold Sassy Tree), Mark Adamo, Daniel Catán (Salsipuedes), Murray Schaefer, Lee Hoiby (The Tempest), Paul Moravec (The Letter), and many others.
Summers has long been the “go to” conductor for many of today’s leading singers when they venture into important new – and potentially defining – roles. Renée Fleming sang her first Violetta under Summers at HGO; Patricia Racette her first Cio-Cio San and Tosca, both at HGO; and Anna Netrebko sang her first Elvira with Summers, in a production of I puritani at New York’s Metropolitan Opera. With these and other colleagues – such as Frederica von Stade, Susan Graham, Marcello Giordani, and Dmitri Hvorostovsky, to name a few – Summers has been an artistic collaborator as well as a tutor, mentor, and friend. 
Summers is also a frequent guest at opera companies both home and abroad, including New York’s Metropolitan Opera, where he debuted in 1998 with Strauss’s Die Fledermaus. Since his first European engagement at the Rome Opera (Manon Lescaut), he went on to appear in Barcelona’s famed Teatro Liceu, conducting Rossini’s La Cenerentola with Juan Diego Flórez and Joyce DiDonato (released on DVD). He has also conducted productions for the Welsh National Opera (Rigoletto), Bregenz Festival (Carlisle Floyd’s Of Mice and Men), Lisbon Opera (Ariadne auf Naxos), Opéra de Bordeaux (Don Pasquale and La bohème), as well as the European premiere of Sir André Previn’s A Streetcar Named Desire for the Opéra National du Rhin (Strasbourg).
When he’s not conducting, Summers enjoys his passion for nature and reading. He is also an enthusiastic and prolific writer, both of opinion pieces and scholarly works, writing all of the program notes for all of the operas that he conducts.
Patrick Summers:  Upcoming Engagements
Oct 30 – Nov 19                       
San Francisco Opera                       
Handel: Xerxes (company premiere)
Dec 15 – Jan 3                       
Deutsche Oper Berlin                       
Puccini: La bohème
Jan 27 – Feb 12                       
Houston Grand Opera                       
Verdi:  La traviata
Apr 13 – Apr 28                       
Houston Grand Opera                        
Verdi:  Don Carlos
Apr 21 – May 4                       
Houston Grand Opera                       
Donizetti:  Mary Stuart
May 12 – Jun 2                       
Los Angeles Opera (debut)           
Puccini: La bohème
The Houston Grand Opera’s 2011 – 12 Season
Oct 21 – Nov 6
Rossini:  The Barber of Seville (new production)
Nathan Gunn – Figaro
Ana María Martínez* – Rosina (*Former HGO Studio Artist)
Lawrence Brownlee – Count Almaviva
Patrick Carfizzi – Dr. Bartolo
Kyle Ketelsen – Don Basilio
Leonardo Vordoni – Conductor
Joan Font – Director
Oct 28 – Nov 13
Beethoven: Fidelio
Simon O’Neill – Florestan
Karita Mattila – Leonore
Tòmas Tòmasson – Don Pizzaro
Kristinn Sigmundsson – Rocco
Kyle Ketelsen – Don Fernando
Michael Hofstetter – Conductor
Jürgen Flimm – Director
Jan 27 – Feb 12
Verdi: La traviata
Albina Shagimuratova* – Violetta Valéry (*Former HGO Studio Artist)
David Lomelí – Alfredo Germont
Giovanni Meoni – Giorgio Germont
Patrick Summers – Conductor
Daniel Slater – Director
Feb 3 – 11
Britten: The Rape of Lucretia (New Production)
Michelle DeYoung – Lucretia
Anthony Dean Griffey – Male Chorus
Leah Crocetto** – Female Chorus (**HGO Debut)
Jacques Imbrailo – Tarquinius
Ryan McKinny* – Collatinus (*Former HGO Studio Artist)
Joshua Hopkins* – Junius (*Former HGO Studio Artist)
Judith Forst – Bianca
Rory Macdonald – Conductor
Arin Arbus – Director
Apr 13 – 28
Verdi: Don Carlos (five act, French version)
Brandon Jovanovich – Don Carlos
Tamara Wilson* – Elisabeth de Valois (*Former HGO Studio Artist)
Christine Goerke – Princess Eboli
Scott Hendricks* – Rodrigue (*Former HGO Studio Artist)
Andrea Silvestrelli – Philippe II
Samuel Ramey – The Grand Inquisitor
Oren Gradus* – Spirit of Charles V (*Former HGO Studio Artist)
Patrick Summers – Conductor
John Caird – Director
Apr 21 – May 4
Donizetti: Mary Stuart
Joyce DiDonato* – Mary Stuart (*Former HGO Studio Artist, role debut)
Katie Van Kooten – Elizabeth I
Eric Cutler – Earl of Leicester
Robert Gleadow – Talbot
Oren Gradus* – Cecil (*Former HGO Studio Artist)
Patrick Summers – Conductor
Patrice Caurier – Co-Director
Moshe Leiser – Co-Director
Media Contacts
Houston Grand Opera: Claire Vince, senior publicist, [email protected], 713-546-0278 / 832-738-2611.
21C: Glenn Petry, [email protected], (212) 625-2038.!/hougrandopera

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