“Three Decembers” Reviewed by Arts Houston Magazine

… it’s hard to imagine any work in recent years that has filled us with so much hope for the survival of the art form. Heggie, you see, is willing and able to grapple with opera as musical theater, as he did triumphantly in Dead Man Walking… With Last Acts, he not only returned to straightforward (and deep) human emotions but perhaps pointed to ways opera itself might find and delight a new audience…he kept the cast small [and] kept the orchestra for Last Acts tiny as well, and even played one of the two pianos himself, with a dexterity and sensitivity that recalled those scratchy recordings of Gershwin playing his stuff. The libretto by Gene Scheer is lovely: funny, sad, candid, painful, and sporting a few modern expletives that (humorously) never showed up on the HGO surtitles … The ensemble pieces for two or even all three singers are heartbreaking in their lilting harmonies. Most sounded like lullabies written to sing angels to sleep, with extraordinary orchestrations to match, and they were sung as such by von Stade with lyric baritone Keith Phares, making his HGO debut as son Charlie, and soprano Kristin Clayton as troubled daughter Beatrice. Last Acts is intimate, thought-provoking, clearly heartfelt by all concerned and touching from beginning to end