Houston Grand Opera set to premiere new production 'Intelligence' at Wortham Center for 3 weeks

Jonathan Bruce Image
Saturday, October 21, 2023
Houston set for rare world premiere of new American opera
The Houston Grand Opera is set to have the world premiere of the show "Intelligence" on stage at the Wortham Center.

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- This week, the Houston Grand Opera embarks on a rare landmark in the performing arts industry with a world premiere of a new American opera commissioned by the company.

Intelligence tells the little-known true story of two unlikely women spies who turn against the Confederacy and share critical information to help the Union win the war. The new American epic is the creation of prominent American composer Jake Heggie and will be seen first on the Wortham Center stage starting Oct. 20 - Nov. 3.

RELATED: International star soprano from Bayou City headlines Houston Grand Opera's 'Tosca'

"This is part of the Houston spirit. Everyone here is hard-working, forward-looking; this in our DNA," HGO general director Khori Dastoor said. "It's such an honor that Jake, librettist Gene Scheer, and director/choreographer Jawole Willa Jo Zollar have selected our company to bring this epic work, this story of America, how our country came to be. And it will happen here in Houston on Oct. 20; we'll see it first."

The company has premiered 75 works in its history, but this will be the first time a new production opens a season. The story unfolds as Elizabeth Van Lew, a prominent Confederate family matriarch, sends Mary Jane Bowser to live in the Confederate White House to spy for the Union. As Mary Jane uncovers the secrets of the Confederacy to share with Union military commanders, she also uncovers the secrets of her history and identity.

"Their intelligence is some of the most important intelligence we have documented from the Civil War, all the ways that these women won the war. And nobody knows their names until now," Dastoor said.

Houston Grand Opera is considered one of the leading opera companies in the world and a feature part of Houston's vibrant performing arts scene that includes the Houston Symphony and Theatre Under the Stars at the Hobby Center for Performing Arts. The new Intelligence production demonstrates the healthy standing of the Houston Grand Opera in lieu of many opera companies facing steep budget cuts and closed doors after the COVID-19 pandemic.

"Our job is to enrich the community. We have an incredibly loyal and generous base that has kept our company operating at the highest levels. The story at our box office is not the same and sad news we see in other cities across the country. We are so grateful for that and intend to pay it back to Houstonians tenfold," Dastoor said.

For updates on this story, follow Jonathan Bruce on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.