Jay Hunter Morris jumps into Houston Grand Opera’s A Christmas Carol

19 October 2014

Houston, October 20, 2014—American tenor Jay Hunter Morris will replace Anthony Dean Griffey in Houston Grand Opera’s world premiere production of A Christmas Carol, it was announced today by HGO Artistic and Music Director Patrick Summers. Mr. Griffey has withdrawn for health reasons.

The 90-minute opera, commissioned by HGO from composer Iain Bell and librettist Simon Callow, is written for a single singer performing the role of The Narrator. A Christmas Carol runs from December 5 through 21, 2014, at the Wortham Theater Center, and is suitable for ages 12 and up. “As disappointed as I am by Tony’s cancellation,” said Maestro Summers, “all of our thoughts go to his speedy recovery and quick return to his indelible performances. I am thrilled, though, that Jay Hunter Morris has valiantly agreed to step into this tour-de-force role. Jay is one of opera’s most thrilling singing actors and he will, like Tony, bring us a unique and uplifting experience.”

Said Mr. Morris, “I add my name to the long list of fans wishing Tony the very best and looking forward to many more unforgettable performances.”

A Christmas Carol launches HGO’s cycle of new holiday-themed commissions and adds to the company’s longstanding tradition of creating and premiering important new operas. The score is the work of composer Iain Bell, of whose first opera, A Harlot’s Progress, the New York Times observed: “Mr. Bell knows how to write for the human voice.” Bell based his recasting of Charles Dickens’s festive favorite on the author’s little-known performance adaptation: an eerie yet ultimately heartwarming one-man show in which a single narrator undertakes all the roles, from Scrooge to the three ghosts he encounters. The libretto is by director Simon Callow, winner of an Olivier Award for Best Direction and author of Charles Dickens and the Great Theatre of the World; he also directs. Also one of Britain’s best-loved actors, familiar from film roles in Amadeus and Shakespeare in Love, Callow has successfully played Dickens on Broadway, in London’s West End, and in television’s Doctor Who. When he took to the stage with the monodramatic version of A Christmas Carol that forms the basis of his libretto, Callow was heralded as “an absolute master when it comes to Dickens” (Telegraph, U.K.).

Besides performing in the standard opera repertoire with the world’s most distinguished companies, Jay Hunter Morris is an enthusiastic proponent of new opera. He sang the role of Captain Ahab in Jake Heggie and Gene Scheer’s Moby-Dick at the Adelaide Festival, San Diego Opera, and San Francisco Opera (released on DVD and telecast on PBS’s Great Performances). He also created a number of roles for world premieres, including Captain James Nolan in John Adams and Peter Sellars’s Doctor Atomic at San Francisco Opera, Marky in Howard Shore and David Henry Hwang’s The Fly at Théâtre du Châtelet in Paris, and Unferth in Elliott Goldenthal and Julie Taymor’s Grendel at L.A. Opera. Next summer at The Santa Fe Opera, he will create the role of Teague in the world premiere of Jennifer Higdon and Gene Scheer’s Cold Mountain, directed by Leonard Foglia. Jay Hunter Morris appeared at Houston Grand Opera as Canio I Pagliacci in 2002; he also appeared in The Metropolitan Opera’s Grammy award-winning production of Wagner’s Ring Cycle which was broadcast live to cinemas world-wide, and released on DVD.

A Christmas Carol’s opening run will be led by Warren Jones, former assistant conductor of the Metropolitan Opera and “a musician par excellence no matter what he is interpreting” (Cleveland Plain Dealer).

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