As the performing arts industry moves into a new digital age, superstar soprano Nicole Heaston proves her pipes have staying power. Through recent roles in Houston Grand Opera’s virtual programming, the renowned vocalist’s talent is translated from stage to screen.
On Jan. 22 at 7:30PM, Heaston will co-host HGO Digital’s Giving Voice alongside an all-Black group of opera stars. For details on how to stream the digital concert, visit houstongrandopera.org.
Can you tell us about your career path, as well as your relationship with Houston Grand Opera?
I began my career as a member of the HGO Studio, HGO’s young artist program, right after finishing my master’s degree at the University of Cincinnati’s College-Conservatory of Music. I received great training and exposure here. Conductor Marc Minkowski heard me sing in the Concert of Arias, which is the final round in HGO’s annual Eleanor McCollum Competition for Young Singers, and booked me to perform with him across Europe. We did a great variety of work and made recordings for Deutsche Grammophon. This, along with being chosen to represent the U.S. in the BBC Cardiff Singer of the World competition, really helped further my career. I continued working with HGO for years, until I began performing more frequently at the Metropolitan Opera and internationally. My musical relationship with HGO was rekindled in 2015 when I was asked to replace a soprano for The Magic Flute, and since then I’ve been blessed to be back in my hometown performing on a regular basis.
As a performing artist, what has your pandemic experience been like?
Our ability to perform together and personally reach our audience has been stalled, which has led many people in my industry to create new avenues of artistry for themselves. I created a 30-day digital song challenge on Facebook and YouTube called the Purple Robe Song Series, in which I perform music of every genre with some of my favorite artists. While many opera companies were producing at-home recitals, HGO was thinking bigger. When in-person shows had to be canceled for the 2020-2021 season, they launched an all-digital concept called HGO Digital. First, they debuted the Live From The Cullen virtual recital series. They then began producing and filming socially distanced operas, which can be viewed via HGO Digital’s streaming platform. I’ve had the pleasure of performing in two of HGO’s digital operas thus far.
What’s up next for you?
Last season, I performed in HGO’s inaugural Giving Voice, a concert celebrating Black voices. This season, I will be singing in and co-hosting Giving Voice with Lawrence Brownlee. It will be different without a live audience, but I’m excited to share our gifts with our digital audience. I’m also a new artist-in-residence at Dartmouth College’s Hopkins Center for the Arts, and I’m debuting a ‘Twelve Days of Christmas’ edition of the Purple Robe Song Series on Dec. 1.
Photography by: photo courtesy of Houston Grand Opera