Floods latest: Houston Grand Opera is under water

Floods latest: Houston Grand Opera is under water


norman lebrecht

August 28, 2017

KHOU-TV has just confirmed that flood waters are swirling over the main stages of the Wortham Theater Center, which houses Houston Ballet and Houston Grand Opera.

We have received a private message saying that the basement is completely flooded and there is water in both theaters. Generators have been turned off and the building is shut down.

The arts companies cannot be reached. HGO messages: ‘Due to power outages stemming from the severe weather in Houston, our website is down. We will provide an update as soon as possible.’

There is no word at all from the Houston Symphony, which cancelled an open day yesterday in anticipation of the floods emergency.

UPDATE: First assessment of damage to the theaters.


  • Elaine Calder says:

    Not the first time a disaster like this has happened: HGO, the Alley Theatre and Houston Symphony were damaged in June 2001, when Tropical Storm Allison flooded their basements. Millions of dollars worth of sets, props, costumes and sheet music were lost.

    • trolley80 says:

      How can they maintain their insurance policies? Did they take no remedial action to make sure it wouldn’t happen again?

  • Jason Stephens says:

    HSO moved their library to higher ground after Allison, so they should be able to weather this without losing the library. Still horrible though. We were slated to perform at the Wortham on Sunday, Sept. 3.

    • N Guy says:

      Glad to hear it. Too bad that the inept NYCO administration under George Steel didn’t have the sense to secure that formerly grand institution’s priceless archives before Hurricane Sandy.

  • Ken says:

    Let this catastrophe awaken elected officials and voters in Texas to the dire emergency we all face with global warming. We can not afford to continue warming the planet and the oceans (including the Gulf of Mexico) by burning fossil fuels.

    • NYMike says:

      Tell that to your own TX legislators, congressmen and senators who’ve all voted regressively regarding climate science. Change in TX starts at home with voting these imbeciles out of office.

      • Ken says:

        They’re not my TX legislators. I fled the jurisdiction in 1985.

      • Ed in, but not of, Texas says:

        Well, their my legislators and they’re not going to do a thing about it, I assure you. Not even for the tens of thousands being displaced by the floods. Been here since 1990 and it only gets worser and worser with each passing legislative session. And was it only yesterday that Theater Day was cancelled? Dealing with the rain and floods makes it seem like a month has gone by this weekend. Stay dry, wherever you are.

      • Charles Pollman says:

        Every crisis must be exploited by the political whiners – see, see ,see Global Warming. Go away.

    • Nathan Redshield says:

      What will we do when it’s as warm as it was 900 years ago? A hurricane hit New York City in 1821 that was 4 times the size of Superstorm Sandy and did tremendous damage; such a storm today would wipe out NY City. I hope the Houston folks moved stuff to higher levels. Floods, fires, these can somewhat be guarded against. Global Warming, er, “Climate Change”? Just an excuse for new government “programs” and taxes and alternative/renewable/etc. rackets and other opportunities for corruption. Please don’t get the “Arts” involved or people may stop going feeling they’re being hectored too much.

    • Cecil says:


    • Crusty Old TV Tech says:

      Are you stating that Hurricane Harvey was caused by the effect referred to as Anthropological Global Warming, or that AGW caused Hurricane Harvey to make landfall where it did? Show your work, please Ken. Be specific.

      I would recommend instead of expounding climate theories, you volunteer to come down and help dry out the Wortham instead. Houston Ballet and others are in need.
      Will you pledge to do that?

    • Charles Pollman says:

      Shut up. Every tragedy is not a poster child for global warming.

  • Alistair Donkin says:

    As the Stage Director of the Gilbert & Sullivan Society of Houston who opened the Cullen Theatre in the Wortham Center and have performed there every year since, I can only express my horror at what has happened to this beautiful facility, but know that the indomitable Houston spirit will rise to the occasion and the Theatre District will survive.
    Here in the UK we are keeping abreast of all developments of this awful storm and agree with previous comments regarding Climate Change deniers.
    Long live the Paris Agreement. – write to your legislators, congressmen, senators and President NOW
    Alistair Donkin

  • Matthew Strauss says:

    I hear that Jones Hall is dry.

  • David Abbott says:

    I hate to think of all the concert grand pianos that are irretrievably lost to water damage– horrible!

    • Ronn says:

      Hopefully they were moved to a higher floor before the flooding. Still a very sad situation

    • Walt says:

      This is essentially a monsoon in a region where those are not supposed to happen. A few more days of torential rain and a damaged theatre will be the least of Houston’s worries. Agree completely that waking up to the reality of global warming must happen, and be the focus of the world.

      • Charles Pollman says:

        It is disgusting to use the flooding of Houston as a cheep excuse to make a political case. Wait a few days to scream global warming – sorry ass.

    • Nelson Curtis says:

      The pianos WERE moved, even from the basement rehearsal room in Jones Hall.

  • Cyril Blair says:

    The flooding was made worse by Houston’s unbridled development (building). So much land has been paved over without thought to where the water that hits it will go. Yes, with this hurricane you would have some flooding even with unpaved land, but the severity increases dramatically when people don’t pay attention to how land is used.

    The people I feel worst for are the elderly in their own homes. Their homes are completely wrecked and in a few weeks they’ll have to begin navigating the arduous process of getting them cleaned up, repaired, getting the insurance/FEMA money, bureaucratic hassles. At that age, what a nightmare. They showed one elderly man being rescued from his one-story house in a boat; he was barely able to speak, probably from depression and grief, his wife has Alzheimers. Now he has to deal with the severely ill wife and the ruined house, and they both have to live in a shelter for awhile. Just imagine.

  • Perryn Leech says:

    Please find below the actual and factually correct letter sent to the company today from someone who has been into the venue and seen first hand the affected areas. The debate regarding global warming is an important one to have once Houston as a city has recovered the people still in danger and started to recover from this awful catastrophic weather event

    Dear members of the Company,

    Our great city and region is continuing to suffer from the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, and we know that we are facing a long recovery together. We’ve heard from many of you through various channels, but keep those updates coming so we know you are safe.

    To update you on the state of the Wortham Theater Center and Theater District garage: the basement of the Wortham is completely flooded and it will take a long time to restore. HGO staff members had the foresight to move valuable instruments and many costumes, including those for our opening productions of La traviata and Julius Caesar to higher floors in advance of the storm.

    The water damage to the stage of the Brown Theater appears to be superficial and can be repaired. There is no damage to the main lobby, though both the Texas Street and Prairie Street entrances did take water and will need time to be restored. The auditorium of the Brown and Cullen theaters took some water, which has now receded and left residual dirt. The damage there is relatively light.

    The Theater District garage is completely flooded and will undoubtedly be closed for some time for repairs and cleanup.

    We will be out of our offices until after Labor Day and we will update you as soon as we know anything.

    Please continue to keep in regular contact with your line managers, but also feel free to contact either of us if you have any questions or concerns.

    We are a company, and we are here for each other. We will recover and deliver a fantastic season to our patrons, giving them the art they need to heal from this calamity. And the only future water we want coming across our stage is that of the Rhine!

    All best

    Perryn and Patrick

    • Candi Smith says:

      Thank you for the update! We were honored last year when Levi was cast in Its a Wonderful Life! Houston, We truly do have a wonderful life! Yes, many of our homes, our “things”, parks, churches and theaters have been destroyed but we have our families and friends with us. I’m eternally thankful for this community. Mr. Leech, please let us know how our family can help HGO! We want to help.
      We look forward to many more performances in the future. God bless.

  • Jay Mills says:

    Too bad the state legislature screwed over flood victims in advance of the storm. Very convenient for their patrons, the insurance companies. I do hope that when new arts buildings are being designed for Houston, they will utilize flood rebuilding standards established after Katrina and Sandy (the regulations the Orange Chimp is working to rescind).

  • Nick says:

    As I watch almost non-stop coverage of the effects of this hurricane on CNN, my heart goes out to those affected. My mind makes different observations, though. Yes, global warming is affecting many parts of the world, and not just in a rise in sea level. Natural disasters are on the rise and the amount of rain being dumped by this hurricane is surely just one small piece of evidence.

    In general, though, I find two things surprising about the USA. Not only is a large part of the hurricane-prone Gulf Coast and the East Coast of Florida built on very low-lying land but most of the homes and businesses seem built largely of what seems like flimsy wood. A direct hit by even a smaller category hurricane causes massive destruction and billions in damages. A large one like Andrew 25 years ago which I just missed resulted in a bill of $25 billion! Given that there are so many areas now well under sea level, like New Orleans, communities are protected from severe flooding only by rickety levies built ages ago and almost no sea defences. Surely continuing to build and expand cities that are two and three meters below sea level is now nothing short of crazy when defences against natural disasters are so flimsy?

    I cannot help looking at the other side of the world. Major typhoons are a common annual occurrence in East Asia. Hong Kong has recently suffered a category 10 typhoon, amongst the strongest on record. Hong Kong has a very accurate and detailed procedure for typhoons which starts with official warnings when the typhoon is about 400 miles away. By the time Signal No. 3 is issued by the Observatory the city gradually and calmly starts to shut down. The potential effects of massive monsoon rains and 150 mph winds are taken into account. Massive water storage tanks under the city collect much of the rain water and either hold or redistribute it to avoid major flooding. Once the typhoon has passed, usually 24 hours later, the city starts to get back to normal and the minimal cleaning up. Equally Taiwan copes extremely well with major typhoons slamming into the island with very little damage and only occasional loss of life. If Asia can protect itself from such predictable major natural disasters, why cannot the USA?

    • Edie O'Brien says:

      Because US leaders politicize science and continue to do things as cheaply as possible. Holland also knows how to hold back the sea.

      If the Allen brothers hadn’t had the vision to build the ship channel, Houston would probably not have grown to be the fourth largest of our country.

    • Frankster says:

      There are clearly avoidance issues here. If you have a house on the Texas Gulf Coast the issues is not “if” but simply “when.” Same with those with homes on the San Andreas Fault and those lovely river-fronting properties. When you have, like New Orleans, great swaths actually below sea level and you don’t build those dikes like Holland it is only a matter of time.

    • Nelson Curtis says:

      Flimsy wood or concrete, when you’re talking a nearly unprecedented over 40 inches of rain, that’s a force that very little can deter. You’re comparing this to storms that were primarily wind events, and at most would be accompanied by half this amount of rain over a day or two, not 5 days. Also, this is very huge area that has been affected, and you can’t really mandate building improvements to the many economically depressed areas across such a huge geographic swath. There WERE some changes made to the method in which roofs are secured several decades ago, that effectively protect against the winds of a cat 1 or 2 storm. I’m not disagreeing that improvements need to be made, but this was an unusual threat by any yardstick. Could it happen again? When TS Allison did tremendous damage in 2001, many called it a 500 year flood. Now this is a 1000 year event? Eventually there WILL be a 2000 year event.