Houston, TX.—June 10, 2013: Houston Grand Opera announced a gift from the Robert and Janice McNair Foundation in support of the organization’s commitment to develop a new series of holidaythemed operas. This gift will help Houston Grand Opera create new works based on beloved classics, with the first commission programmed for 2014 and continuing through 2017.

“We are excited that this holiday opera series can become a new tradition for Houston families and lovers of the arts,” says Robert McNair of the McNair Foundation. “Our hope is that these holiday operas will open the world of opera to new audiences.” The McNair Foundation has supported Houston Grand Opera for many years, including Mr. McNair’s service as president of the Houston Grand Opera Board of Directors from 1995 to 1997. The $1 million gift is the largest single commitment by the Foundation to Houston Grand Opera.

“We applaud Bob and Janice’s visionary leadership,” said Perryn Leech, HGO’s managing director. “Our goal with this series is to establish an HGO holiday-season presence and serve our community by celebrating the holiday season through opera. We believe this series of operas will become part of opera’s standard repertory, making a real contribution to opera as an art form. The gift provides a strong foundation for launching and sustaining HGO’s holiday opera series.”

“Great holiday-themed work is a frustratingly under-developed segment of the opera canon,” noted Patrick Summers, HGO artistic and music director. “It is my hope that in commissioning a set of visionary and boundary-expanding composers that we will both establish a new family operatic tradition at HGO as well as contribute to the broadening of the larger repertoire. My deepest thanks to Bob and Janice for their vision and belief in ensuring HGO’s ability to deliver this exciting set of new operas.”

The first holiday opera, A Christmas Carol, will premiere in December 2014. The work will be created by British composer Iain Bell and librettist Simon Callow, the celebrated actor, writer, and director. Additional works in the series include an opera based on the classic Frank Capra movie It’s a Wonderful Life, by the prolific American composer Jake Heggie and librettist Gene Scheer, and The House without a Christmas Tree, with a score by Ricky Ian Gordon, whose 2007 opera The Grapes of Wrath earned universal acclaim.

The Robert and Janice McNair Foundation was established in 1988 to address the needs of the Houston community. Robert McNair is the founder of Cogen Technologies, which was sold in 1999. He is currently the chairman and CEO of The McNair Group and the founder, chairman, and CEO of the Houston Texans.

This gift provides a boost for HGO’s fundraising campaign, Inspiring Performance—The Campaign for Houston Grand Opera. This campaign seeks to raise at least $165 million by December 31, 2014, and with the Foundation’s gift, the campaign total now stands at more than $131 million.


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