Rendering of plans for a new music and opera building at Rice University in Houston Rice University

Rendering of plans for a new music and opera building at Rice University in Houston.

Rice University plans new music and opera facility

84,000-square-foot facility will house a three-tiered, 600-seat, European-style opera theater.

Rice University’s Shepherd School of Music plans to break ground later this year on a new music and opera building on the school's Houston campus.

The 84,000-square-foot facility will house a three-tiered, 600-seat, European-style opera theater with an orchestra pit for 70 musicians.

The new Rice opera theater, its form and acoustics derived from beloved opera houses in Europe, will immerse performers and audiences in an intimate, present aural environment tailored to student voices.

The new structure will be connected by a plaza to the school’s existing facility, Alice Pratt Brown Hall. Together, they will form Rice’s Music and Performing Arts Center. The new building is expected to be open to students and the general public in July 2020.

The project will “energize Rice’s campus at the west end of its Inner Loop,” says Shepherd School Dean Robert Yekovich. “The center will offer premium performance space for opera, chamber orchestra, chamber music and theater; meet the growing need for rehearsal and practice space; and provide a hallmark venue to attract and host high-profile speakers."

The Shepherd School’s Opera Department is a selective program that enrolls just 36 singers per school year. Each student receives individual attention from the internationally renowned opera and voice faculty members.

The project architect is Allan Greenberg Architect LLC.

Theater design will be led by Joshua Dachs of Fisher Dachs Associates, a New York-based theater planning and design firm that has worked on projects such as Lincoln Center’s Avery Fisher Hall and Alice Tully Hall, Radio City Music Hall, opera houses in Toronto and St. Petersburg and multipurpose venues such as Houston’s Hobby Center for the Performing Arts.

Threshold Acoustics of Chicago will provide acoustic direction under Scott Pfeiffer. Threshold has worked with the Lyric Opera in Chicago, the Philadelphia Orchestra, The National Art Center in Ottawa and The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington.

The Linbeck Group will be the general contractor.

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