Author Archives: Hawaii Opera Theater

HOT Orvis Opera Studio Live in Concert with Maestro Tim Shaindlin

HOT presents the Orvis Opera Studio: Live in Concert with Maestro Timothy Shaindlin, on Saturday, August 12, at the Mae Z. Orvis Auditorium at the University of Hawai’i-Manoa. This free event is offered by HOT’s Education Department.

Doors to the public will open at 7:00pm; performance at 7:30pm. Both on street and limited parking are available at Mae Z. Orvis Auditorium, University of Hawaii at Manoa Music Department. Please call 808-596-7372 to RSVP.

Singers from the Mae Z. Orvis Opera Studio will perform in this free concert featuring opera arias and other classical music favorites led by Maestro Timothy Shaindlin. The event is the culmination of two weeks spent with Maestro Shaindlin.

Maestro Timothy Shaindlin has been on the faculty of the Yale School of Music since 2008. He has also served on the music staffs of the Metropolitan Opera, New York City Opera, Lyric Opera of Chicago, Washington National Opera, San Diego Opera, and multiple world-renowned companies. Additionally, Mr. Shaindlin has played in classes and coachings for some of world’s most beloved voices, including such artists as Carlo Bergonzi, Sherrill Milnes, Joan Sutherland, Regine Crespin,Beverly Sills, Birgit Nilsson, Luciano Pavarotti, and Frederica von Stade.

Along with his work as a Coach and Teacher, Mr. Shaindlin has had engagements on the podium with the Wolf Trap Opera Festival and Chicago Opera Theatre. He most recently conducted HOT’s production of The Mikado (2014).

Jake and Jill Gardner return to Hawaii for A Grand Night for Singing


A Grand Night For Singing will take place at 7:30 pm on Saturday, June 17 in the Sacred Hearts Academy Second Floor Auditorium, located at 3253 Waialae Avenue Honolulu, Hawaii, 96816.

To RSVP, contact Hawaii Opera Theatre at (808)596-7372.


Honolulu Star-Advertiser Opera Review

Star-Advertiser Review: ‘Hoffmann’ closes out opera season with bittersweet story of love wasted and lost

A bittersweet story of love wasted and lost, the Jacques Offenbach opera “The Tales of Hoffmann” has many a party scene, from its carousing opening scene in a tavern, to an elegant ball to a raucous gambling den.

So it only seems fitting that “Hoffmann” closes this year’s Hawaii Opera Theatre season. The opera, which premiered Friday, is longtime HOT artistic director Henry Akina’s final production, as illness is forcing him into retirement. And with a beautiful production that featured fine performances all around and one particularly stupendous one, he gave himself and his audience a spectacular aloha.

Offenbach described his 1881 masterpiece as an “opera fantastique,” and it is a bit crazy and hard to follow, with a huge cast and lots of interchangeable parts. The story has writer, composer and jurist E.T.A. Hoffman reliving the three main romances of his life: his superficial attraction to the doll Olympia; an honest but ultimately tragic love for the mysteriously ill Antonia; and a lust-driven downfall to the courtesan Giuletta. It’s a wide-ranging role requiring everything from bravado to vulnerability, and tenor Eric Fennell delivers nicely on those counts. His main aria “The Legend of Kleinzach,” a knee-slapping tale about a dwarf, was comical, fun and somewhat cruel, in the way that alcohol-driven banter can be.


Unfortunately, Fennell’s voice, while smooth and pleasant on the ear, was overmatched by his powerful co-stars. Olivia Vote, in the “pants role” (a woman playing a young man) of Nicklausse, filled Blaisdell Concert Hall with her silvery soprano, particularly in the second-act “Violin” aria, in which Nicklausse, who is actually the alter ego of the female Muse, tries to turn Hoffmann’s attentions towards her.

Wayne Tigges, who during the course of the opera foils Hoffmann as four different villains, brought a multifaceted menace to the roles and a baritone that was Darth-Vader-like in depth and power. Out loud, he had only one evil laugh, but you felt it throughout the evening. Also excellent in a multi-character performance was Joseph Gaines, who plays four servants, some bumbling and incompetent, others wickedly sycophantic. His clear tenor cut through the orchestra life a hot knife through butter.

The stupendous performance of the evening – one that provoked gasps from the audience and a 40-second-long ovation – was delivered by coloratura soprano Rachele Gilmore. Olympia’s aria “Les oiseaux dans la charmille” (“The birds in the arbor”) has become her signature, and Friday’s performance showed why. In a voice pure and penetrating, Gilmore soared above the traditional soprano scale, tossing off runs, trills and swells with impunity. Her acting also was also a tour-de-force, as she batted her eyes in sync with her trills and batted Hoffmann around with her shepherdess’ cane, all the while moving around the stage like a robot.

Anybody who admires performance singing of any kind should experience this performance – alone, it’s worth the price of admission.

Olympia’s aria comes in the first act of “Hoffmann,” and afterwards, one was left wondering what was left. There was plenty, particularly with Christine Arand in a lovely portrayal of Antonia. She’s weak in body but strong in love for Hoffmann and for music, and Arand’s warm, sweet soprano left one the feeling that she’s “the one who got away.” Eve Gigliotti is also excellent as the manipulative courtesan Giullietta in the final act.

The production itself is beautiful to behold. Projected scenery has become a mainstay in theater production and Peter Dean Beck and Adam Larsen’s designs made for a visual treat. They had some fun with it as well – when Hoffmann dons rose-colored glasses, hiding the doll Olympia’s flaws from him, the lighting took on a pinkish hue, letting the audience see through Hoffmann’s eyes.

As for the costuming, costume designer Helen Rodgers brought a wonderful authenticity to the period production. And who knew there were so many powder puff wigs in Hawaii?

Praise also must be given to the chorus, under Nola Nahulu. Visiting singers and conductors uniformly praise HOT’s chorus as singers and actors. In “Hoffmann,” five chorus members almost steal the show as the villain’s minions, scurrying about in the best tradition of criminal gangs. The men of the chorus also added a lot with their opening act appearance in a tavern, banging their beer mugs in rhythm to the music. With the opening lines “We are beer! We are wine!”, they put the audience in the mood for the party that “The Tales of Hoffmann” became.

Gallery – A Run Through The Tales of Hoffmann

HOT’s new production of Offenbach’s The Tales of Hoffmann opens on April 21, 23, & 25 at the Blaisdell Concert Hall.  Join us and celebrate the career of Henry Akina, who will retire after twenty seasons with the company.

Enjoy these photos from the final rehearsal in the HOT Rehearsal Hall and don’t miss The Tales of Hoffmann

Tickets available online at Tickets.HawaiiOpera.Org.

Opera Preview at Doris Duke Theatre

Join HOT for an Opera Preview of The Tales of Hoffmann, featuring a lecture by Dr. Lynne Johnson, followed by a Q & A with the cast of HOT’s brand new production of Offenbach’s classic opera The Tales of Hoffmann.  

Details: April 12, 2017, 10:00am at the Honolulu Museum of Art’s Doris Duke Theatre

See you there! And if you haven’t, purchase your tickets to the opera on April 21, 23, & 25!

Fashionably HOT – ACT II: A Fashion Reprise Pop-Up Returns this Spring

Fashionably HOT – ACT II: A Fashion Reprise Pop-Up Returns this Spring

Hawaii Opera Theatre (HOT) presents the Spring Pop-Up of ACT II: A Fashion Reprise.

In recent years, ACT II has raised over $100,000 in support of HOT, the Fall Pop-Up format following a very popular Spring Pop-Up series held earlier this year. This event provides the opportunity to shop for couture and designer apparel, handbags, shoes, jewelry, art, home accents, and more with the proceeds going to service the non-profit organization.  HOT receives the goods for ACT II from the generous donations of its Supporters.   Many of the items are brand new and still have price tags on them. 

A Special Preview Evening will be held on April 6 (5pm- 9pm) for those interested in previewing the new Act II collection.  The Preview Party experience includes pupus & wine, with a cost of $30/person.  RSVP to Courtney Coston at (808) 596-7372 ext. 200.  Space is limited. 

ACT II opens to the public on April 7 (9:00am – 6:00pm) and 8 (9:00am -5:00pm).  The ACT II Pop-Up will be held at the ACT II Pop-Up Shop, located in Hawaii Opera Plaza, Suite 310, at 848 S. Beretania Street.  Parking is available at the building and street parking where available.

The Honolulu Star-Advertiser Review: A magnificent Three Decembers

So that’s how it’s done. That’s how you tell a story that’s funny, sad, sweet, heart-wrenching, and real, all at the same time.

That and more is what Hawaii Opera Theatre’s staging of “Three Decembers” has managed to accomplish. It opened Friday for a weekend run at Hawaii Theatre before heading off to the neighbor islands, the first time HOT has created a “touring production.”


Where: Hawaii Theatre

When: 8 p.m. today, 4 p.m. Sunday

Cost: $30-$90

Info: or 528-0506; or 596-7858

>> “Three Decembers” will also be performed Wednesday at Kahilu Theatre, Hawaii island, $20-$75, or 808-885-6868; March 31 at Kauai Community College in Lihue, $25 and $45, or 808-596-7858; and April 1 at the Maui Arts & Cultural Center in Kahului, $30-$60, or 808-242-7469. Visit for info.

>> “Three Decembers” composer Jake Heggie and librettist Gene Scheer will discuss their work 30 minutes before today’s performance. Director Karen Tiller will speak before Sunday’s performance. Heggie and Scheer will also appear before the Hawaii island performance.

The hook for this show is the Hawaii debut of mezzo soprano Frederica Von Stade, an artist of the highest rank. Over most of the last 45 years, she has performed in all of the world’s major opera houses and concert halls, usually as the star attraction.

In this production, however, Von Stade, as they would say in the commercials, was no star, she merely played one — and played it to perfection. She was completely believable as Broadway actress Maddie Mitchell, a diva in the worst sense of the word. Yet as wonderful as Von Stade’s characterization was, it was matched beautifully by the acting and singing of her fellow cast members: baritone Keith Phares, who plays Maddie’s troubled son Charlie, and soprano Kristin Clayton, who plays her suffering, suffocated daughter Bea.

The three comprised the original cast from “Three Decembers,” which premiered in 2008 in Houston and Berkeley, Calif. They’re so comfortable in the roles that even a slight miscue on stage, involving a shoe, was smoothly and perfectly ad-libbed into the performance.

Together, they virtually disappeared into their roles. Phares, through body language alone, conveyed Charlie as alternately exasperated with, then sympathetic, then protective of his mother as the story unfolds over a 30-year span, each scene occurring in December. Clayton too was multi-dimensional as Bea, her face basking in the glow of her mother’s celebrity, quick to show anger when mention of her long-deceased father surfaces, and explosive when the bottle bests her self-control.

Meanwhile, Von Stade’s vain, self-centered, yet vulnerable Maddie had some in the mesmerized audience making comparisons to a Meryl Streep performance. (I also felt a bit of Doris Roberts’ character from “Everybody Loves Raymond” – the mom pushing all the buttons, especially when Charlie’s homosexuality was broached).

The family dynamic was so realistic that perhaps only young children who still idolize their parents might think it rings untrue. (Given some of the language, it’s not suitable for them anyway.) We’ve all had problems with our parents, just as we love them. We’ve all fought with our siblings, just as we’ve also gone to them for comfort – and to share joke or two at the expense of our parents.

Guest director Karen Tiller’s terrific direction had Maddie’s dysfunctional family battling out their issues with everything from subtle gestures and casual asides to pitched battles. It was entirely convincing, even with much left to the imagination. When, for example, Bea complains about her own appearance, saying she looks like “a middle-aged mom with two kids in college,” Charlie cracks “You are.” Phares is actually off stage when he says this, and yet you can feel the smirk on his face.

Of course, “Three Decembers” is an opera, and this review has gotten this far without mentioning the music. That is only because composer Jake Heggie and librettist Gene Scheer’s score is so effective that it too seems to disappear into the story. On its own, however, the music has moments of magnificence: Maddie’s Broadway-like ballad “Daybreak” when she reminisces about her time in Europe with her long-deceased husband, the subject of her horrible secret; Charlie’s rant over his mother’s failure to acknowledge his partner, saying “She calls him Kurt. His name is Burt”; Charlie and Bea’s sweet duet “Father’s chair,” at attempt to conjure up their father from childhood memories. The score also includes plenty of dissonant, jagged sections, especially when the spectre of AIDS arises – the unseen Burt has it, and Maddie can’t deal with it. It was all ably performed by the small ensemble of musicians, led by conductor Adam Turner, after a bit of balance issues in the opening moments.

The singing itself? Beyond tremendous. I simply have not heard singing so uniformly excellent, so authentically expressive before. In acoustically challenged Hawaii Theatre, with no supertitles and no mikes, the story was easy to follow, the jokes funny, the verbal jousting bitter, the moments of sharing wistful and tender.

Von Stade, at age 71, still has an effortless projection that has long enabled her to connect with an audience. Phares’ baritone is powerful throughout the range, with fantastic diction, and Clayton’s voice had all the emotional qualities needed for her demanding role. Their unison when singing together was spot on.

This is the first time that Von Stade, Phares and Clayton have performed “Three Decembers” together since the premiere performances nine years ago, and the changes in life and career that have occurred since then undoubtedly were reflected in this performance. With tastes that change, careers that evolve and schedules that get increasingly demanding, a reunion like this never happens in opera. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see a production of such caliber, imbued with such depth.

Go see it.

By Steven Mark, The Honolulu Star-Advertiser

Three Decembers Cast

Video: Three Decembers Cast

Frederica von Stade, Kristin Clayton, and Keith Phares reunite for the first time since premiering Jake Heggie’s Three Decembers (2008, Houston Grand Opera). Hear what the three have to say about returning together for the Inter-Island Tour of HOT’s production of Three Decembers.