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
For more information, visit: http://HawaiiOpera.Org
Mozart’s, Don Giovanni- “Deh, vieni alla finestra” – Taimane and Quinn
Rossini’s, The Barber of Seville- “Largo al factotum” – Quinn and Eric
“Fire” Composed by Taimane Tauiliili Bobbie Gardner – Taimane and Rachel “Scarborough Fair” – Composed by Taimane Tauiliili Bobbie Gardner – Taimane and Quinn Mozart’s, The Marriage of Figaro – Count’s Aria – Quinn and Eric
“E ala E/Jupiter” Composed by Taimane Tauiliili Bobbie Gardner – Taimane and RachelCarmen Medley – Arranged by Taimane Tauiliili Bobbie Gardner – Taimane and Rachel Bizet’s Carmen- Toreador Song- Quinn and Eric
“Sau Fuga Sina” Traditional, Arranged by Taimane Tauiliili Bobbie Gardner- Taimane and Quinn “Hawaiʻi Aloha” Lyrics by Rev. Lorenzo Lyons w music by James McGranahan – Taimane and Quinn
ABOUT Quinn Kelsey:
Hawaiian baritone Quinn Kelsey is a Honolulu native, first introduced to opera in 1991 as a tenor in the chorus of HOT. Through high school and into college, he joined his parents and sister as members of the chorus, growing a love and respect for opera and classical music. His bloom- ing commitment to the art form led him to the Chautauqua Institute in 2001 and the Merola Opera Program in San Francisco in 2002. Upon completion of his Bachelor of Music degree in Performance from the University of Hawai’i, Kelsey moved to Chicago in the spring of 2003 to become a young artist with the Lyric Opera Center for American Artists, the opera company’s training arm, now called the Ryan Opera Center. The baritone completed three seasons as a member of the opera center before formally beginning what has become an exciting career.
Kelsey has established himself as one of the leading international Verdi baritones, having per- formed most recently on the stages of the Dallas Opera, the Los Angeles Opera, as well as HOT, the Lyric Opera of Chicago, and the Metropolitan Opera. International companies include The Saito Kinen Festival under Maestro Seiji Ozawa, Vancouver Opera (British Columbia), the Canadian Opera Theatre in Toronto, Opéra National de Paris, the Bregenz Festival, Opernhaus Zürich, Oper Frankfurt, the Maggio Musicale Fiorentino, Teatro dell’Opera di Roma, the Seoul Arts Center, the Norwegian Opera and Ballet, Festival Castell de Peralada, the English National Opera, and the Royal Opera House Covent Garden. Recent performances include Miller in Verdi’s Luisa Miller with the Lyric Opera of Chicago, Germont in Verdi’s La Traviata with the Metropolitan Opera, and Nottingham in Donizetti’s Roberto Devereux with the LA Opera.
Learn more: www.quinnkelsey.com
Virtuoso, songwriter, singer and theater producer, Taimane has established herself as one of the leading ukulele players in the world, known for her fierce and inventive style of play, transcending traditional views of the in- strument as a restricted device. Taimane’s musicality and approach to the stage further add to her draw. Through both beautiful originals and one-of- a-kind mashups (seemingly disparate songs (e.g. Led Zeppelin and Beetho- ven) merged into medleys with pop appeal), Taimane conjures a wide-
range of deep emotions smashing Hawaii music’s reputation of being light and simple. Seeing her perform live exponentially amplifies these feelings and makes clear that Taimane is an entertainer first and foremost. With a take-no-prisoners attitude and carefully crafted shows that are the polar opposite of recitals, Taimane demands viewers’ attention every second of every performance eliciting intense “wow” reactions on cue while leading her audiences on a journey through a range of experiences – mystical, dark and playful. Add it all up, and it’s easy to see how this hapa Samo- an (part Caucasian and part indigenous Samoan) artist from a small island in the middle of the Pacific (Oahu, Hawaii) has already garnered over 50 million video views.
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 were the beach) serving as her band. By age 13, Taimane landed a position in Don Ho’s show, literally playing in the spot- light every week until Ho’s passing. Ho was not only a Hawaii legend (his “Tiny Bubbles” hit re- mained on Billboard’s Hot 200 for over a year making him world famous) but also a consummate entertainer who significantly influenced Taimane’s perspective on performance. Each night, when the typically full house turned its attention to the petite young girl suddenly anointed band leader for a rendition of the surf classic “Wipeout,” it was time to rock.
Following her early years in Waikiki, Taimane walked away from its pop scene and leapt into a completely different world, the art houses of Honolulu’s Chinatown. There, she discovered audi- ences who valued original songs and began to develop her own style of music, eventually merging a wide-array of genres, from Bach to rock, flamenco infernos to tribal hymns, into mesmerizing shows with universal allure. Fast forward to today, and you have an artist who tours the world shining bright like a diamond (the Samoan translation of her name), renowned for taking the ukulele to new heights while blazing her own trail in the process.
ABOUT HAWAIʻI OPERA THEATRE:
Opera has been part of island culture for more than a centu- ry. Its history in Hawaiʻi, which dates back to the 1850s, in- cludes stories of Queen Emma singing in the chorus of Verdi’sIl Trovatore while her husband, King Kamehameha IV served as the stage manager! Today, Hawaiʻi Opera Theatre is known for its vibrant and creative productions and award-winning education programs.
Since 1961, Hawaii Opera Theatre (HOT), founded as a division of the Honolulu Symphony Society and incorporated in 1980, has served to enhance the quality of life in Hawaiʻi by presenting opera performances and education programs of the highest standards. With its upcoming commemora- tion of 60 years as the only professional opera company in Hawaiʻi, HOT is one of the largest per- forming arts organizations in the state with performances and education presentations on all of the major islands. In May, 2019, General Director Andrew Morgan became the companyʻs fifth executive leader, bringing over 25 years of experience as a non-profit leader, singer and stage director.
HOT’s year-round educational programs serve as both catalyst and active participant in the artistic education of Hawaiʻi’s youth, serving over 20,000 students, parents and teachers each year.Opera for Everyone provides access to a dress rehearsal for each of HOT’s mainstage productions for a large and enthusiastic audience of students. Opera Express takes opera into elementary and middle schools with special tours to all neighbor islands of an engaging and age-appropriate production. HOT’s Opera Residency program brings our education and production staff members into an elementary school to work with students and teachers to compose an opera production centered on curriculum components. Adult education offerings include Opera Highlights, a non- credit course at the University of Hawaii; Opera Previews, a lecture and Q&A with artists at the Honolulu Museum of Art; pre-performance Lanai Lectures on the Neal S. Blaisdell Concert Hall lanai; and other presentations at venues throughout the state. For the 2020-2021 Season, the company has adapted all of its artistic and education programs for online distribution through HOT Digital.