OPERA KANIKAPILA in Hawaii at Hawaii Opera Theatre 2021

This year has been a challenging one to say the least; particularly in the arts. Hawaiʻi Opera Theatre, like other performing arts organi-ations, has been facing a changing landscape, not only due to the pandemic (which forced HOT to postpone the 20-21 season) but also in the way people consume entertainment. Fortunately, HOT had already been moving towards a new model; one where they could ‘opera different’ and appeal to a broader base.

One of the aforementioned new concepts is HOT Digital, offering completely original content created in Honolulu, utilizing local talent in a mix of pay-per-view and free offerings. Shared through a virtual concert hall experience online, this unique content can be accessed by anyone, anywhere in the world.

One of HOT Digital’s offerings is a multi-year project called Hapa Opera, which will explore how opera and local cultures can intersect. One of the many programs under Hapa Opera is Opera Kanikapila. Kanikapila is a style of Hawaiian music produced by an impromptu jam session. Usually it is folk-influenced, but for Opera Kanikapila, HOT will be pairing an opera singer with a local musician from different cultures to let them explore ways to combine their art. The series speaks to the aloha spirit that imbues HOT.

The inaugural session, which premieres on JANUARY 29th, 2021 (and available online thereafter), finds HOT’s own international opera star, baritone Quinn Kamakanalani Kelsey, paired with the virtuoso ʻukulele player, Taimane Tauiliili Bobbie Gardner. These two artists seem destined to collaborate. Quinn has been talking about undertaking a project of Hawaiian music at some point, so this is a terrific entry into a genre that he certainly grew up with, but his career took him on a different journey. Taimane has already infused her music with classical repertoire, including opera.

Quinn Kelsey is an American baritone, who grew up with Hawaiʻi Opera Theatre; as part of HOT’s chorus as a teenager, in HOT’s Education programs while in college, and finally as a performer in its productions. He went on to study music with a focus in vocal performance under John W. Mount at the University of Hawaiʻi at Manoa and continued his study and programs at the Chautauqua Institute with Marlena Malas, San Francisco’s Merola Opera Program under Sherri Greenwald and Mark Morash, and three years at Chicago’s Lyric Opera Center for American Artists, now known as the Ryan Opera Center. For two seasons, Kelsey was accepted to the roster of the Marilyn Horne Foundation. Since then, Kelsey, who is particularly noted for his performances in the operas of Verdi, has graced the stages of many world-renowned opera houses, including the Metropolitan Opera, Opernhaus Zürich, and The Royal Opera House in London. And yet through it all, he maintains a connection to Hawaiʻiand HOT.

Virtuoso, songwriter and Nā Hōkū Hanohano winner Taimane is best known for her fierce and inventive style of playing the ʻukulele -helping her amass over 50 million video views and nearly half a million social media followers to date. Hailing from a musical Polynesian family including her late mother, Palepa Tauiliili Gardner (Miss Samoa 1978), Taimane’s attraction to the four-string island staple began at age 5. By age 10, she regularly performed in public, busking in Waikiki every Friday night with her father holding down security duties and Waikiki Beach Boys (adults whose home & workplace was the beach) serving as her band. By age 13, Taimane landed a position in Don Ho’s show literally playing in the spotlight every week until Ho’s passing. Fast forward to today, and you have an artist who tours the world and has carved out a unique niche in music – merging a wide-array of genres, from Bach to rock, flamenco infernos to tribal hymns, summoning a seemingly limitless palette of emotions via an instrument previously viewed as restricted. Whether garnering the spotlight at NPR, SXSW or the #1 TV show in Germany, Taimane never fails to entertain in electric, high-voltage fashion. She is honored to be part of the launch of HOT Digital’s Opera Kanikapila series.

HOT Digital is not replacing the mainstage but serves as a way to explore new content that reflects the uniqueness of HOT’s island home and take opera out in the community in new and unique ways; truly making HOT a year-round company.

General Director Andrew Morgan notes “The covid-19 pandemic has forced all performing arts organizations to reimagine how we share our art. While nothing can replace the thrill of live opera, I believe we have come up with an engaging and varied season of programming that demonstrates the creativity of this company and pushes the boundaries of what makes opera, well, opera! “We decided early on that HOT Digital productions would not try to replicate live experiences – those will come back as soon as we can – so each project embraces an “independent cinema” quality. At the same time, the digital platform allows us to expand our reach well beyond the Hawaiian Islands. We can’t wait to share these pro- grams with the world!”

Quinn Kelsey and Taimane
With Eric Schank, piano, and Rachel Look, guitar
Date: Friday, JANUARY 29, 2021 Time: 1:00pm HST/6:00pm EST
Purchase tickets: http://tiny.cc/kanikapila
Pricing: $25
Telephone: 1.808.596.7858
For more information, visit: http://HawaiiOpera.Org

Hawai'i Opera Theatre To Postpone 20-21 Mainstage Season; Announces HOT Digital Initiative ArticleHawai’i Opera Theatre To Postpone 20-21 Mainstage Season; Announces HOT Digital Initiative
August 13, 2020

Hawaiʻi Opera Theatre has made the decision to postpone the previously announced 2020-21 Season due to ongoing concerns over the coronavirus pandemic. In conjunction with this announcement, the company is launching HOT Digital, an extension of the brand that will allow people to experience HOT at homes and take opera out in the community in new and unique ways throughout the year.   

Alice G. Collins

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