HOUSTON - Friday marked opening night for the Houston Grand Opera’s 63rd season. Instead of performing at the Wortham Center, which is still under construction after Harvey, the curtain went up at the George R. Brown Convention Center.
As a packed house watched the drama of La Travita unfold on stage, a very real drama has been playing out behind the scenes for weeks.
“I can honestly say it's been the longest seven weeks of my life,” said Perryn Leech, managing director of the Houston Grand Opera.
The Wortham Center has been home to the Opera for 30 years, however, as is the story for so many, Harvey’s floodwaters left them displaced.
“I was in the theater on the Monday after the storm happened,” remembered Leech. “I knew at that point it was not going to be a quick fix.”
Leech was in charge of finding someplace to go and because of the size and logistics, he chose the GRB Convention Center.
“We had 60 guys working basically 15 hours a day to try and pull off what is really a little miracle in itself.” he said.
Over 13 days, 1,700 seats were brought in along with lighting, curtains and a stage. There’s also valet parking, a cocktail area where refreshments are served, a green room and a reception hall.
Because there’s no orchestra pit, the orchestra has been set up behind the stage. According to Leech, that caused a problem with the acoustics which has since been remedied.
“They've just done a wonderful job of transforming what is basically a big cow palace, into something really elegant.” said Robin Angly, a patron and Opera board member.
“I felt it was really important to come tonight to as I call it show the flag.” she said.
It took a crescendo of hard work and support but Friday, in front of a sold out crowd, the show went on.
“I think it's very important for the city to start the healing process,” explained Leech, “and the performing arts allows people to experience that thing that enriches the human soul.”