It began with a single performance of “Madame Butterfly” over half a century ago in Honolulu’s McKinley High School auditorium.
Since that debut, Hawaii Opera Theatre, or HOT, has grown into one of the nation’s leading opera companies.
At 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Jan. 9, the Hawaii Concert Society’s third presentation of its season will feature six of HOT’s talented singers, including Hilo’s own Kaweo Kanoho, in a concert titled “From Opera to Broadway.” The concert, which will include some of the greatest hits from both musical worlds will take place at the University of Hawaii at Hilo Performing Arts Center.
Opera has been part of Hawaii’s culture for well over a century, dating back to the 1850s, and includes Queen Emma singing in the chorus of Verdi’s “Il Trovatore” while her husband, King Kamehameha IV, served as the stage manager. Queen Lili‘uokalani is said to have composed her own opera.
A major cultural institution of our state, HOT has been delighting audiences since 1961.
HOT produces acclaimed grand opera, usually featuring three programs in winter and one in summer and gives performances and outreach presentations on all of the major islands.
“Early on in opera history, opera was for the elite,” said tenor Erik Haines, who doubles as director of education and outreach at HOT. “Eventually, it became an art form of and for the middle class. You’ll find people from all walks of life attending the opera today.”
The singers on Jan. 9 are sopranos Blythe Kelsey, Leslie Goldman and Kari Margaruh; and tenors Kanoho, Haines and Jim Price. Accompanying them on the piano will be Eric Schank.
Kelsey, who hails from Honolulu, is the sister of Quinn Kelsey, who has achieved fame on the international opera stage. Kanoho, who was born and raised in Hilo, combines working as a travel agent for the family business with singing, and is a member of the Hawaii Opera Theatre Chorus and the Mae Z. Orvis Studio, through which he has performed throughout the state. He has been a soloist for Hilo’s Kanilehua Chorale, the UH-Hilo and at various local churches.
The concert will include well-known arias, duets, and ensemble pieces from operas by Mozart, Puccini, Verdi and others. The Broadway hits are from musicals by Sondheim (“Sweeney Todd” and “Into the Woods”), Lerner and Lowe (“Camelot”), Kern (“Show Boat”), Bernstein (“Candide” and “West Side Story”) and others.
Tickets are $25 (general), $20 (seniors 60-plus) and $12 (students) for the performance are now available at the Most Irresistible Shop and at Music Exchange. They will be available at the UH-Hilo Performing Arts Center box office starting on Jan. 8 and at the door on the evening of the concert (from 6:45 p.m.).