The Wortham Theater Center — home to Houston Grand Opera and Houston Ballet — was so severely damaged by the flooding brought on by Hurricane Harvey that it will remain closed through at least May 15, the center announced on Monday night. The news sent the opera and the ballet companies scrambling to find new spaces for performances they had planned for this season.
Twelve feet of water poured into the center’s basement after the storm hit last month, inundating wig and costume shops and damaging everything from the opera company’s stock of knee-high boots to a set of timpani drums (which it still hopes to salvage).
When the water was pumped out, Houston First, which operates the arts center, discovered that the damage to the building’s mechanical systems was far more extensive than initially thought, and would take longer to repair. While its initial assessment had called for keeping the center closed through mid-October, it now says that the theater center will remain closed until at least May 15, 2018, calling even that date “a best-case scenario” in a statement.
“It’s really grim,” Perryn Leech, the managing director of Houston Grand Opera, said in a telephone interview. He said that the water had filled the Wortham’s basement two feet above its ceiling line, rendering some of the precautions the company took — including moving things to higher shelves — ineffective.
“You see the sheer force of Mother Nature,” he said.
Water also poured into the tunnel that connects the theater to its garage, and extensively damaged the building’s air handling units and elevators.
Houston Ballet had already relocated its production of Kenneth MacMillan’s “Mayerling,” which opens Friday, to the Hobby Center for the Performing Arts a few blocks away, and now must find new homes for its coming stagings of “Swan Lake” and “The Nutcracker.”
Houston Grand Opera had been looking for spaces for its first two productions this season, “La Traviata” (scheduled to open Oct. 20) and “Julius Caesar,” and will now need to resettle its entire 2017-18 season, including the premiere, scheduled for Nov. 30, of “The House without a Christmas Tree,” a new holiday opera by Ricky Ian Gordon. But finding spaces that can accommodate grand opera — from its large orchestra to its sets to its substantial rehearsal time — will be a challenge.
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