The Sarah and Ernest Butler Performance Series formed in the fall of 2020 in honor of a joint leadership gift with Houston Grand Opera (HGO) of $1 million from Austin philanthropists and longtime patrons Sarah and Ernest Butler. This unprecedented partnership with HGO to co-produce and present a diverse slate of new digital opera performances allows Austin Opera to incorporate these new co-productions into its programming online and at the Blue Starlite Drive-In movie theaters in Austin and Round Rock.
Houston Grand Opera has announced several productions and recitals which can be accessed here. Austin Opera’s productions at the Blue Starlite Drive-Ins were also part of the series – they are listed below.
(past) Hansel and Gretel
Houston Grand Opera (HGO) and Austin Opera released Hansel and Gretel on HGO Digital in June of 2021. HGO Artistic and Music Director Patrick Summers calls Engelbert Humperdinck’s darkly enchanting classic, based on the fairy tale, one of the greatest and most beautiful operas ever written. This new version created for HGO’s digital studio—conducted by Maestro Summers and directed by Lileana Blain-Cruz—allows audiences to experience the work as never before, with live performances integrated with original animated settings by award-winning visual artist Hannah Wasileski. Exclusively featuring past and present members of the HGO Studio, the digital production adds new layers of storytelling and visual theatrics to this gorgeous opera.
(past) Giving Voice II
After the triumphant sold-out concert at Houston’s Wortham Center last year—Giving Voice: Lawrence Brownlee and Friends Sing Opera, Gospel, and Standards—internationally renowned tenor Lawrence Brownlee returned in February 2021 with his co-host, celebrated soprano Nicole Heaston. The pair were joined by an all-Black group of opera stars for a new digital installment of this wonderful celebration of diverse voices. The program premiere was followed by a Post Show Event online with the artists. A preshow lecture was also included in the event experience.
(PAST) Double Bill: Impresario & Bon Appétit!
Premiered December 2020 online and at Blue Starlite Drive-In. A Texas twist on Mozart’s The Impresario shares a double bill with Jamie Barton as Julia Child in Lee Hoiby’s Bon Appétit!.
(PAST) Vinkensport, or the Finch Opera
Premiered November 2020 online and at Blue Starlite Drive-In. Attention, Best in Show fans: Get ready to laugh uproariously at this chamber opera from composer David T. Little and librettist Royce Vavrek, a hilarious sendup of the little-known Belgian sport of professional finch-calling. Conducted by Austin Opera’s Sarah & Ernest Butler Principal Conductor & Artistic Advisor Timothy Myers and directed by HGO Studio alumnus Ryan McKinny and E. Loren Meeker.
(PAST) Lauren + Mark Digital Concert Event
Premiered October 2020 online and at Blue Starlite Drive-In. This special film event, produced by Austin Opera and local media firm Subvrsive, captures sweet moments of musical bliss between married duo (and proud central Texans) soprano Lauren Snouffer and baritone Mark Diamond alongside pianist Nyle Matsuoka.