Hawai‘i Opera Theatre: Tragedy. Passion. Resilience. Repeat.

May 17, 2019

(l-r) Samoan tenor Pene Pati plays Alfredo Germont, who has fallen in love with Violetta (Danielle Talamantes), a popular young courtesan. Complications ensue in Verdi's La Traviata, the season closer for Hawai'i Opera Theatre. Performances May 17. 19, and 21, 2019.
Credit Hawaii Opera Theatre

A year ago, Hawai‘i Opera Theatre was adjusting to the abrupt departure of its executive director, and a debt of about $2 million. It cancelled one production this season, but a new leader is in place, and the season closer has all the makings of a hit.

May 1, 2019, Andrew Morgan became the Executive Director of Hawai'i Opera Theatre. Morgan brings 25 years of experience as a manager, performer and stage director to his new position. He spent eleven years at San Francisco Opera, where, for the last year, he served as Director of Development. Morgan says he will manage the company much as a stage director might.
Credit Hawaii Opera Theatre

HOT’s La Traviata opens tonight, and continues through Tuesday night at the Blaisdell Concert Hall.  

Relatable characters and some great music make Verdi’s La Traviata a favorite among fans.  And Hawai‘i Opera Theatre’s production will feature Hawai‘i’s own baritone, Quinn Kelsey, in the role he performed at the Metropolitan Opera last fall.  His son, the romantic lead, will be played by Samoan tenor Pene Pati. 

It’s the first HOT production for incoming Executive Director Andrew Morgan, who saw the challenges even much larger companies have, in his last post as development director for San Francisco Opera.

"It’s a balancing act. I think we need to come up with fresher looks for things but still adhere to traditions," said Morgan.

Credit Hawaii Opera Theatre

HOT’s brand new artistic director, Berlin-based Emmanuel Plasson, will conduct next season’s opener, Tosca.

"I think one of the things we’re talking about with the company as a whole is being of Hawai‘i, not just very European art tradition of opera that happens to be in Hawai‘i, but how do we make the company more of Hawai‘i," Morgan said.

That could be done through repertoire, the look of marketing materials, casting, and collaborations, like tapping local fashion designers, etc. Morgan has worked with something called Pocket Opera in San Francisco.  It’s opera down to its basics:  great singing, acting, and musical drama.

As far as the financial picture?

"We are facing a deficit this current fiscal year as well."

How great is that deficit?

"I can’t say.  I would want to wait until the financials are done, we still have until the end of this month, plus we have an audit," Morgan said. "But it will not be insubstantial. But the Board really has our back, so we will have some more rough times ahead.  But it’s nothing that I think we can’t overcome. It’s not life-threatening for this organization."

In La Traviata, the Fallen One, Violetta, the consumptive courtesan, finds one true love.  Briefly.

Credit Hawaii Opera Theatre

Anna Moffo with Nicolai Gedda are featured in the story.  Find their performance here.  

I chose the Moffo/Gedda for its emotional sound, but you might like the young, manly sound of Jonas Kaufmann in his Met debut, with Angela Gheorghiu.

The performance by Maria Callas is great for comparison, they don’t even mention her tenor.

I thought in the Joan Sutherland and Luciano Pavarotti version they were equally silky.

This duet by Ana Netrebko and Rolando Villazón at the Salzburg Festival is stylish, contemporary.