A big-time city deserves a big-time opera company, and Houston has one in the Houston Grand Opera (713/228-3223, www.houstongrandopera.org). Performances are held at the downtown Wortham Theater Center (501 Texas Ave.), and the opera is considered one of the city’s cultural crown jewels. It’s the only opera company on the planet to win a Tony, two Emmys, and two Grammy awards, and it has a reputation for commissioning and performing new works, with 35 world premieres in 51 years. The company tours extensively, bringing productions to Europe, Japan, and Egypt, and on the home front, it’s been lauded for its accessibility (tickets for some shows start at $15, and the casual dress series is popular among the younger crowd).
Another world-class performing arts company is the Houston Ballet (713/523-6300, www.houstonballet.org). Also utilizing the beautiful Wortham Theater Center, the ballet has developed a national reputation for making stars of principal dancers and staging contemporary, edgy ballets. In recent years, the company has been an important diplomat for the city by taking its impressive show on the road to China, London, Canada, and Washington, D.C.’s Kennedy Center.
Also highly respected in the city’s performing arts scene is the Houston Symphony (713/224-4240, www.houstonsymphony.org). The symphony has been impressing audiences at the magnificent downtown Jones Hall (615 Louisiana St.) for more than four decades, and it currently performs more than 170 concerts attended by nearly 350,000 people annually. Shows include a classical season, pops series, “Messiah” performances at Christmas, and family concerts. In the summer, the symphony performs outdoor shows and stages children’s performances throughout the region.
Houston boasts several high-quality theater companies, but two consistently emerge as the top of the playbill. The Alley Theatre (615 Texas Ave., 713/228-9341, www.alleytheatre.org) stages its productions in a facility that’s a sight to behold—a medieval-type fortress in the heart of downtown separated into two stages. The Alley is known and respected throughout Houston for its ability to embrace the old and the new. Their classic and contemporary performances consistently draw wide audiences.
Also drawing rave reviews is the Ensemble Theatre (3535 Main St., 713/520-0055, www.ensemblehouston.com). Billed as the largest African-American professional theatre company in the country with its own productions and facility, the Ensemble regularly stages acclaimed dramas, comedies, and musicals for enthusiastic crowds. The company also runs an educational touring program and a popular summer training program for youth.
© Andy Rhodes from Moon Texas, 6th Edition