On Sunday, you can see From My Mother's Mother, the latest effort from Houston Grand Opera's HGOco, a young Korean-American woman goes into the hospital to give birth and is confronted by not only her mother and grandmother but their traditions calling for her to eat seaweed soup. A lot of it. According to Korean custom, a new mother should eat the soup every day for 21 days after her baby is born. Trouble is, the main character in this 30-minute operetta (commissioned as part of HGOco's Song of Houston: East+West Initiative) doesn't like the taste of the soup.
With a libretto by University of Houston PhD candidate Janine Joseph and music by composer Jeeyoung Kim, this is the fifth in a series of compositions attempting to show how immigrants in Houston come to terms with all aspects of their cultural lives. "It is a unique story about the passing down of culture to your own children," says Sandra Bernhard, HGOco's director. Joseph, who specializes in poetry and had never thought of writing an opera libretto before, says she called on her own immigrant experience -- she moved here from the Philippines when she was nine -- to try to understand all the factors going on in the relationship between these three women. "I grew up watching musicals and having an interest in opera, but it was not the kind of writing I was accustomed to doing," Joseph says. "It is rare that something like this comes your way. I knew enough about incorporating music into my own work to take on the task."
Mezzo-soprano Mika Shigematsu plays the mother (Om-Ma), and mezzo-soprano Hyo Na Kim appears as the grandmother (Hal-Mo-Ni). Soprano Hana Park performs as the daughter (Soo-Yun), while baritone -- and Houstonian -- Lee Gregory tackles the role of her husband (Jensen).
After its world premiere during the Korean Festival at 1 p.m. Saturday, November 3, at Discovery Green, From My Mother's Mother, which is sung in English, is also performed at 2 p.m. Sunday, November 4, at Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, 1001 Bissonnet; 6 p.m. Wednesday, November 7, at the Houston Public Library, 500 McKinney; noon and 7 p.m. on Friday, November 9, at the University of Houston, 4800 Calhoun. For information, visit the HGOco website or call 713-546-0230.