News from RICE University

‘It feels like walking into Versailles’: Rice’s new opera hall officially opens with Mozart's legendary ‘Don Giovanni’

After more than a year of anticipation, Rice University’s new Brockman Hall for Opera welcomed sold-out audiences April 14 and 16 for its first performances in person.

Matthew Loden, dean of the Shepherd School of Music, called it an “unparalleled delight” to be back among the school’s loyal patrons and plenty of new friends for two nights of Mozart’s legendary opera “Don Giovanni.”

A scene from "Don Giovanni."
Photos by Jeff Fitlow

“Our students have adapted so well to the terrible circumstances brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic, and it was such a privilege for all of us to see them back where they belong — performing on stage, and not just any stage, but this magnificent space that is now finally open to the public,” he said.

“To sing in (Lucian and Nancy) Morrison Theater for its official opening was an immense pleasure that I will never forget,” said Dylan Gregg, a second-year master’s student who performed the role of Don Giovanni’s servant, Leporello. “The space itself amplified every vocal choice and color, which was incredibly rewarding playing a role like Leporello, who takes on many emotions throughout the opera. There is an undeniable energy that an audience brings to a house during a performance that further motivates the story being told. After this pandemic, it has been pure bliss to share our gift with audiences again.”

Don Giovanni” tells the timeless story of the titular pompous playboy. After committing murder and pursuing and seducing countless women, he refuses to repent and pays the ultimate price for his bad behavior.

Gregg called Mozart “a master of weaving together the human condition and music itself.” He said “Don Giovanni” continues to draw audiences centuries later because of its commentary on human resilience and the complex, intertwined web of relationships we weave.

“Audiences continue to return to empathize with these relationships and perhaps gain insight into their own lives through the music and plot,” he said.

A scene from "Don Giovanni." Photo by Jeff Fitlow.

From the opening arias to the final, thrilling scenes, audiences warmly rewarded each performance with laughter and applause and answered the curtain calls with standing ovations.

Kathleen O’Reilly, president of Houston’s Museum Park Super Neighborhood, called the opening performance “a magical night” and said the new opera hall was “a beautiful addition to the Rice campus.”

“It was such a joy to be present at Brockman Hall for Opera for the first, and flawless, full-length performance,” she said. “It feels like walking into Versailles, with the addition of well - thought-out seating and unparalleled technology and acoustics tucked into this gorgeous building.

“The artists, the staging, the costumes, the orchestra, even the set changes unfolded like a ballet, all lending to this highly professional production,” she continued. “The smiles on guests' faces reflected that we were all feeling what a very special place Rice has created, offering this level of performance opportunity to their students, and offering opportunities to students, Houstonians and beyond to see exceptional performances.”

The performances followed the Shepherd School’s community day , which offered a behind-the-scenes look at the venue and what it takes to stage an opera.

The final event commemorating the opening of the new opera hall is “A Celebration for Brockman Hall for Opera” on April 22 to honor the alumni and friends who helped make the building a reality. The event will include musical highlights, gourmet bites and signature cocktails. Limited tickets are available online at .