Tag Archives: HOT

Leslie Goldman

#HOTSpeaks: Mother’s Day Edition

Many of the staff and supporters of HOT have a mother to thank for their love of music. Today, HOT celebrates the musical mothers and children who have kept opera alive from generation to generation.

Passing on music

When HOT Studio singer Leslie Goldman’s daughter and only child was only 10 months old, she could already match pitch with her mother.

“I was singing so much when I was pregnant with her that I think she just came out naturally loving music,” Leslie said, beaming with pride.

Leslie is one of HOT’s principal singers for its Opera Express productions. Opera Express condenses well known operas for an audience of children and tours throughout Hawaii each year. This year Leslie played played both the witch and Gretel in the production of Humperdinck’s Hansel and Gretel.

“I don’t think anyone’s ever prepared to be a mother,” Leslie said, “but I think my being patient with the kids on the tour reminds me how important it is to be patient with my little baby when she gets older. And I think singing for the Studio just enhanced my joy of getting to be a mother.”

Leslie is going to try to encourage her daughter to take up music, but she said she will be understanding if she doesn’t want to.

“She can do everything and whatever she wants,” Leslie said.

Following in footsteps

Some people naturally fall into music without any coercion. But former HOT Studio singer Ethan Moon needed a little nudge in the right direction from his mother.

When he was in Kindergarten, his mother – a music teacher and pianist – required that he join choir and take piano lessons.

“I didn’t want to be in choir,” Ethan said. “But she made me go, and I fell in love. That’s what I’ve been doing ever since.”

Now 18 years old, Ethan is in his first year in college and pursuing a degree in music. Not only does he still sing in choir at the university, he also plays piano, guitar, and bass.

“I’m following in her footsteps,” Ethan said. “I want to be a music teacher, and that’s what she’s been doing for decades now. I think she would be proud”

Without his mother’s support and the push that she gave him, he wouldn’t be as musical as he is now. But sometimes that guidance can flow both ways.

Encouraging Each Other

Blythe and Quinn Kelsey with their MotherLike Leslie, HOT Education Coordinator Blythe Kelsey’s mother was also singing opera in the days before she was born. And Blythe and her brother, baritone Quinn Kelsey, grew up under their mother’s piano as she taught voice lessons. Along with being a voice teacher and vocal coach, their mother was a choir director for their church and high school.

“We had absolutely no choice but to be involved in all of her many musical endeavors,” Blythe said. “So taking up music was a pretty ongoing thing from a very, very early age.”

Blythe always knew she wanted to pursue a music education, but when Quinn started college in the late 1990s, he was considering other majors. Around his Sophomore year, his mother stepped in and told him to change his major to a music degree.

“It was one of the few times she’s actually put her foot down about things like that,” Blythe said. “I would like to have hoped that he would have come to that decision on his own, but perhaps he needed a little bit of influence. And there’s no influence like a mom’s.”

Since then, Quinn has sung around the world, including in roles for the Metropolitan Opera, English National Opera, and Opéra National de Paris. In 2016, he returned home to sing the title role of Rigoletto in Concert with HOT.

Now that they are both professionally involved in music as adults, Blythe and Quinn have turned the tables. The two work together to stimulate their mother to continue performing as well as teaching. “It’s always good to remind her of what she is capable of and what she loves to do,” Blythe said.

Thanks to a little encouragement from Blythe and Quinn, their mother is still singing before an audience. Most recently, she sang in the chorus of this season’s production The Tales of Hoffmann.

Developing a Passion

But for some, a musical influence flows in the opposite way altogether. When HOT Board member Gail Atwater speaks about her love for opera, she does so passionately. But she wasn’t always that way.

At around 10 years old, Gail’s daughter joined the Hawaii Youth Opera Chorus, or HYOC. Gail hadn’t shared opera with her daughter, so the choice came as somewhat of a surprise.

“I was not interested in opera at the time,” Gail said. “But I got a crash course in opera.”

Gail’s daughter was chosen for the children’s chorus for a number of HOT operas over the year, and as a result, Gail attended several opera rehearsals and performances. One of her Mother’s Day cards from her daughter was even an opera-themed poem. Before long, Gail wanted to go to see as many productions as she could.

Gail’s daughter is now on her way to becoming a surgeon, along with singing as a hobby on the side. And Gail now credits her involvement with opera to her daughter.

“Through my daughter’s involvement in HYOC, I developed my own passion for opera as a unique medium that offered the choral music, beautiful orchestration and grand stagecraft all at the same time,” Gail said. “I really got hooked on it, and I’ve been hooked on it ever since.”


Henry Directing The Tales of Hoffmann

The Tales of Henry Act II: Hawaii

A true love for music has guided Henry Akina, Hawaii Opera Theatre’s first Hawaiian director, through more than 120 operas over a 30-year career.

Offenbach’s The Tales of Hoffmann will be the last opera that Henry directs for HOT, before retiring from his role as Artistic Director, which he has held for 20 years. The production will be performed on April 21, 23, and 25 at the Blaisdell Concert Hall.

In a 2002 HOT concert program Henry wrote: “The opera is but one art form where we can go beyond everyday life to look at some of its mythologies and gain insight into the lives of other characters, and thus into our own.”

With this in mind, the Tales of Henry will look back on Henry’s life and career.

Feeling At home

The HOT opera program, “Aria,” has always featured designs relating to the production being presented. But in 1996, there was a special edition of Aria.

On the cover was Henry, in Aloha attire, sitting in a chair with a warm smile on his face. The only accompanying text proudly pronounced “Henry G. Akina takes the reins of HOT.” Henry was back in Hawaii, after more than two decades in Germany, to serve as the first local-born manager of HOT.

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“To be invited to manage this company, in the town of my birth, is a unique blessing, one that I approach with a sense of challenge and responsibility.” Henry said in the 1996 Aria. It was the first of nearly 30 Director’s Notes he would write for HOT audiences over the years.

When he returned back to Hawaii, Henry said he felt welcomed. He remembered someone telling him he hadn’t forgotten his local roots.

“Henry was at home in Hawaii,” Elsa Grima, who had worked with Henry in both Germany and Hawaii, said. “He was in his element.”

HOT was special to Henry. The company presented the first opera performances he had ever seen. And he had plenty of plans for its next steps.

Henry laid out his goals for HOT in the 1996 Aria. They included producing more operatic activities throughout the year, expanding the education program, and balancing the repertoire between classics and new works. He felt that HOT could be a “cultural lighthouse in the community,” he said.

Henry explained in a 1998 interview with Midweek that he felt HOT was built on Puccini, but there was much more to draw upon from within the art form’s 400-year history.  “I wanted to make musical changes and production changes… I wanted to change everything,” Henry said.

The scheduled 1997 and 1998 season productions, which included the Hawaii debut of Romeo and Juliet and Macbeth, shed some light on the direction that he wanted to take the company. Henry wanted to relate to local audiences, and he wanted to show them literature they might already be familiar with in a different way.

A TIMELINE OF 3 166x416 - The Tales of Henry Act II: Hawaii“I wanted opera more for the people,” Henry said. “I think that every audience is different and every community is different.”
Since then, Henry has staged several acclaimed productions like Madam Butterfly, Tosca, The Mikado, and A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Of the 28 productions he has directed, almost half were Hawaii premiers.

Many of Henry’s aspirations for HOT were realized. The company now produces operas throughout the year, he expanded and founded new programs within the company’s educational outreach, and he certainly introduced new repertoire.

In a 2001 program, Henry appeared confident as he declared: “Yes there is opera in Hawaii, and yes, opera thrives here. Come celebrate with us.”

It was the program for that year’s production of Offenbach’s The Tales of Hoffmann – the same production that would be his last with HOT.

Staging the Last Production

Henry didn’t know that The Tales of Hoffmann would be his last production with the company when he picked this season’s repertoire. He didn’t pick it for any sentimental reason. But the production speaks to him, and his artistic direction shines within it.

“I’ll try to bring as much joy and as much happiness to the production as possible, and I’ll let the music of the opera shine through,” Henry said.

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This is the third time Henry has directed the opera. The last time he directed it was in 2001. Both productions utilized Peter Dean Beck’s set designs, but aside from that similarity, Henry said the current production is “a fully new opera.”

Eric Fennell plays the lead role of Hoffmann in this production. It’s his fifth time singing Hoffmann’s arias, but he said that each time is very different. And Henry’s direction will give this a new spin, Eric said.

“Henry is a wonderful resource,” He said. “When you work with someone who is as experienced as Henry is, I just try to listen as much as I can.”

Henry told Eric during one rehearsal that Hoffmann should not be the hero of the opera. That stuck with Eric and changed the way he performed the role.

“I want artists to walk away [from HOT productions] with a positive experience that hopefully is enlightening,” Henry said.

Audiences who watch the opera will also be able to see Henry’s influence in the staging of certain characters, according to HOT Artistic Administrator Barett Hoover, who has worked with Henry for about a decade.

Barett points to Henry’s use of the local, volunteer HOT chorus. Henry stages the chorus in a way that helps tell the story, Barett said. “Henry makes them more than just background figures,” Barett said.

The relationship Henry has with the chorus has also impressed Olivia Vote, who debuts with HOT in this production as the Muse.

“Everyone has such a respect and awareness of Henry’s contribution,” Olivia said. “There is no other place where the chorus will come to rehearsals five nights a week. But they do it here, because that’s what he expects. They want to work with him, and that’s the kind of community he’s created.” 

Throughout the company, from the chorus to the board, donors, and staff, people have felt Henry’s impact.

Bringing “World-Class” to Hawaii

As Henry reflects on his impact on HOT, he does so humbly.

“I think I’ve had a positive impact, but I don’t know,” he said. “The people here are the judge of that.”

Many people and organizations have already made their judgments in favor, however. In 2015, the Hawaii Arts Alliance recognized Henry with its Alfred Preis Honor for his commitment to arts and arts education in Hawaii, and the state legislature awarded Henry a certificate for his lifelong service to the arts last year.

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Additionally, HOT Board President Jim McCoy said he feels that Henry is the reason that HOT produces world-class opera. Barett said he feels the same way.

“He looked at more of a world-wide perspective and saw us in the grand opera landscape,” He said. “I think increasing the artistic standards of the company was probably his biggest legacy.”

But Henry has also left behind a living legacy – one that will impact the world long after he’s left the company. The Mae Z. Orvis Opera Studio, Henry said, is his most proud accomplishment with HOT.

By: Allison Kronberg

Henry Akina Collage

The Tales of Henry: Prologue

A true love for music has guided Henry Akina, Hawaii Opera Theatre’s first Hawaiian director, through more than 120 operas over a 30-year career. 

Offenbach’s The Tales of Hoffmann will be the last opera that Henry directs for HOT, before retiring from his role as Artistic Director, which he has held for 20 years. The production will be performed on April 21, 23, and 25 at the Blaisdell Concert Hall.

In a 2002 HOT concert program Henry wrote: “The opera is but one art form where we can go beyond everyday life to look at some of its mythologies and gain insight into the lives of other characters, and thus into our own.”

With this in mind, the Tales of Henry will look back on Henry’s life and career.

Henry’s Youth

His grandfather worked at the Metropolitan Opera, and his parents regularly listened to opera broadcasts. He saw his first opera, Bizet’s Carmen, at HOT when he was only six years old.

“There was a lot of opera lore in our family, but I thought it was just ‘lore,’” Henry said, “and I didn’t really think of it as a career until much later.”

Henry’s parents, who were both medical professionals, were surprised when he turned away from medicine and law in favor of an arts education.  It wasn’t opera that he pursued in primary school, however, it was theater. As a boy, Henry dreamed of being an actor.

But when Henry saw Puccini’s Turandot at HOT as a teenager, he realized something. 

“It really taught me that theater was something that we could do through music, as well,” he said.

And so the ‘Muse of Music’ grabbed Henry and began to influence his life, as the ‘Muse of Poetry’ guided and protected Hoffmann in The Tales of Hoffmann

Hoffmann’s infatuation for the prima donna Stella could have distracted him from his true love of poetry. In a similar sense, theater was only a stepping stone along Henry’s path toward musical creation.

And just as Hoffmann’s three great failed romances paved the way for poetic greatness, three of Henry’s life experiences have factored into his musical inspiration.

By Allison Kronberg

Frederica von Stade at Hawaii Opera Theatre

Video: Frederica von Stade

Frederica von Stade

Frederica von Stade (Flicka) – the star of Jake Heggie’s Three Decembers – sat down with HOT to talk about this weekend’s production, Jake Heggie’s music, and her own favorite singer.

Who is it? Here’s a hint: The artist is from Houston, Texas – the same place Three Decembers originally debuted in 2008.

Watch to find out!

Three Decembers – Short from Hawaii Opera Theatre on Vimeo.

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The Pageantry of Opera


Attendees of HOT Tuesday – The Magic Flute posing for a picture outside of the Blaisdell Concert Hall.

It’s Hawaii Fashion Month 2015!

What a perfect time to share how opera inspires! From the beauty of the music to the mastery of the stagecraft, there is something fulfilling for everyone who takes in a production!

At the start of the 2013-14 Opera Season, HOT began it’s HOT Tuesday event, aimed at creating a fun, pau hana vibe for young professionals after the work day.  What organically unfolded since has been a steady increase in younger opera patrons, many of whom embrace the pageantry of opera.

At a recent focus group, one participant shared: “By going in costume, I learn more about the story from the research I put into it.”

“I love seeing what people wear.” Shared another participant. “There are very few events and occasions in Hawaii to dress to the nines.”

If you do want to take it up a notch and dress up, visit Celebrity Tuxedo.  HOT recently entered into partnership with Celebrity Tuxedo for the 2015 HOT Opera Ball. Patrons interested in renting a tuxedo for an opera event will receive a discount and Celebrity Tuxedo will also make a donation from each order to HOT.

For generations, people across the world have long dressed their best for the opera and also worn clothing in line with the theme of an opera.  As one of the fastest growing cities in the world, Honolulu is stepping up its own game with HOT, while still providing an opportunity for a beautiful Aloha shirt, Muumuu, and a fresh pair of Olu Kai slippers (aka thongs, flip-flops) to be elegant.

With a full slate of opera schedules in the coming months, it’s an exciting time to be a part of the pageantry of opera!

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The Flying Dutchman is Here!

The 2014-15 Opera Season continues at the Blaisdell Concert Hall when The Flying Dutchman performs on February 13, 15, & 17!

Buy your tickets online now!

In the meantime enjoy these photos from the VIP Dress Rehearsal!










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HOT Tube – Preview of The Flying Dutchman

Check out this amazing preview of HOT’s production of The Flying Dutchman starring Ryan McKinny, Melody Moore, & Jay Hunter Morris, as they are caught in a love triangle that has captivated audience for generations!

Buy your tickets now to The Flying Dutchman online and at www.HawaiiOpera.org or call the HOT Box Office at 808.596.7858!

HOT’s Madam Butterfly Events Are Underway!

HOT’s production of Puccini’s Madam Butterfly is nearly here!  

With the production comes a number of exciting events in the lead-up to each opera.  HOT Members and Supporters might know this but maybe it’s news to you!

Kicking off the Madam Butterfly events, a very special Rehearsal Pau-Hana!  This was the first time HOT offered this event, giving those in attendance the opportunity to see the beginnings of a production.

And what would a HOT Opera Season be without the chance to lookg HOT?

Project Butterfly, a Fashion Show with acclaimed Hawaii Fashion Designer Anne Nambawas held at the Halekulani Ballroom on Sept. 28.

Check out these highlights from the event below featuring Anne’s creations and performances from the Stars of HOT’s Madam Butterfly.


Photos by Stephane Lacasa

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Photos by Stephane Lacasa


Photos by Stephane Lacasa

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Photos by Stephane Lacasa

Fun Fact: Anne Namba is the Costume Designer for Madam Butterfly, having created these for the original production with the Savonlinna Opera Festival in Finland!  Her work was last seen with HOT this past June in HOT’s modern take on The Mikado.

On Oct. 1, the HOT Opera Preview at the Honolulu Museum of Art went down!  Opera Previews are free to HOT and HMoA members.  It’s a popular event amongst our Patrons as the audience gets to learn about the cultural significance of the opera and hear fun stories from the Singers and Artistic Team.


Fun fact: This cast shared that while practicing arias during a hike in Diamond Head, people could hear them at the base of the crater!

Oct. 6 marked VIP Night!  This HOT Member Benefit included dinner, drinks, backstage tours, and viewing of a Dress Rehearsal.  This unique opportunity lets the audience see the finishing touches on the finished product and is quite popular amongst HOT supporters.

On deck, HOT Education’s Opera for Everyone.  This Final Dress Rehearsal is very special as it packs the house with students, teachers, and families from around the island!  This past season, HOT partnered with Yelp to get Yelpers in the mix and this event just seems to grow in popularity by the production!

Still to come, we have the Meet The Stars Party on Oct. 10, an exclusive evening post-performance to have dinner and interact with the Cast and Artistic Team of Madam Butterfly!

Doesn’t it seem like we love events here at HOT?  Call us at (808) 596-7372 to learn more about these special days and nights.  And many thanks to our beloved, hard-working Office Manager, Tracy Jefferson Chavez, who is key in helping these all lift off.

See you at the Opera!

New Additions to Hawaii Opera Theatre’s Board of Directors

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Honolulu, Hawaii Hawaii Opera Theatre (HOT) held its Annual Meeting for Members on July 30, 2014, at the Pacific Club.  Board Chairman Jim McCoy presented eight new members for election to the Board of Directors.  The meeting included a review of the past season from HOT’s Artistic Director Henry Akina and Executive Director Simon Crookall.

HOT experienced a very successful year artistically, with three acclaimed productions on Oahu and made its return to Maui for the first time in eight years. Financially, the company saw significant growth in ticket sales by 31%, which resulted in an increase of income by 21%. The company also experienced a rise in support from the community, with contributed income growing to $1.1 million.  Of note, HOT was able to reduce expenses by 11% from the previous fiscal year.

The new HOT Board Members are:

Mangmang Qiu Brown – Born in Beijing, Ms. Brown graduated from the Peking University School of Economics and then received her MBA and JD at the University of Hawaii.  After practicing law, she joined the University of Hawaii Foundation, with responsibility for International Engagement and latterly with the East-West Center Foundation.

Kasumi Hara – Ms. Hara is an interior designer born and raised in Honolulu, Hawaii.  Upon graduating from the University of Pennsylvania, she moved to New York City to work for Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia.  She later changed career paths and became an interior designer working in NYC and San Francisco before returning to Honolulu.  She is also an accomplished oboist.

Lynne Johnson – Ms. Johnson has an MBA from the University of Hawaii and has worked as a School Teacher, Curriculum Planner, and Development Director.  In 1991, she began her study of musicology and in 2009, she received her PhD in Musicology from the University of Hawaii.  She has taught Music History at UH for 12 years and is heavily involved in community service.

Keith Kalway – Originally from Minnesota, Mr. Kalway obtained a graduate degree in Education before spending 35 years as an educator with St. Paul Public Schools.  During his tenure, he worked as a Vice President for middle school mathematics and led the Mathematics Institutes for Teachers through the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation.  He also cofounded the Twin Cities Gay Men’s Chorus.

Ada Mei – Ms. Mei, a native of Beijing earned her Master’s in Industrial Engineering at the University of Minnesota. She has worked as an engineer for computer companies, as a Senior Advisory Engineer for IBM, and has produced a Chinese Opera at the Palace of Fine Arts in San Francisco.

Jeff Pauker – Mr. Pauker is Director, Acquisitions at A&B Properties.  Mr. Pauker’s responsibilities include the identification and consummation of investments in Hawaii real estate assets.  Prior to joining A&B, Mr. Pauker was an attorney for a global law firm in San Francisco.  He is a magna cum laude graduate of Dartmouth College and Harvard Law School.

Nigel Pentland – A long-time resident of London, Mr. Pentland has a BA from the University of Liverpool and an MBA from the University of Chicago Graduate School of Business.  He worked for 25 years in financial markets across the world and is now an investor in public and private markets, including several recent start-up companies.

Stephen Turner – Born in Wisconsin, Mr. Turner grew up in Chicago and received a MS from the University of South Dakota.  In 1966, he joined Marketing Research Corporation of America (Chicago).  He has worked as a Research Manager at Amoco, Hamms Beer, and Coca-Cola USA and has held a variety of high-level roles at numerous marketing agencies.


Since 1961, Hawaii Opera Theatre (HOT), formerly a division of the Honolulu Symphony Society and incorporated in 1980, has served to enhance the quality of life in Hawaii by presenting opera performances of the highest standards, while maintaining fiscal responsibility.  Through four productions annually in the Neal S. Blaisdell Concert Hall, HOT offers opera to almost 18,000 residents and visitors each season thereby increasing the public’s awareness and exposure to opera as a multi-media art form.

HOT’s educational programs for youth serve as both catalyst and active participant in the artistic education of Hawaii’s youth.  Opera for Everyone provides a special performance of each opera for a large and enthusiastic audience of students.  Resident Ensemble takes operas specially adapted operas, into elementary and middle schools with special tours to all neighbor islands.  HOT’s Mini Residency program takes our education and production staff members into an elementary school to work with students and teachers to compose an opera production centered around curriculum components.   Adult education is offered with Opera Highlights, a non-credit course at the University of Hawaii; Opera Previews, at the Honolulu Academy of Arts; pre-performance Lanai Lectures on the Neal S. Blaisdell Concert Hall lanai; and other presentations at stores or shopping centers.

Led by Artistic Director, Henry Akina, and Executive Director Simon Crookall, HOT partners with the Hawaii Symphony.  Auditions are held, generally in NY, to cast principal roles from mainland, European, Asian and local singers.  The Opera Chorus is a local volunteer organization.

Media Contact:  Jason M.A. Walter | 808-596-7372 ext. 211 | j_walter@hawaiiopera.org



The Mikado Image 800x450 - HOT presents a modern take of the family friendly The Mikado

HOT presents a modern take of the family friendly The Mikado

The Mikado Image

Hawaii Opera Theatre (HOT), closes the 2013-2014 HOT Opera Season this June with a modern take on the operetta by Gilbert & Sullivan, The Mikado.  Performed in English, this family friendly classic takes the audience through a series of hilarious events, as Nanki-Poo, the son of The Mikado, tries to escape an arranged marriage and finds new love along the way.   

Although set in Japan, this enchanting work brings together worlds in only the way the opera can, as the story makes fun of English society and mores of the time.  Directed by HOT Artistic Director, Henry Akina, with Costumes designed by local Fashion Designer Anne Namba, the Artistic Team is presenting a modern take on the tale with characters dressed in the style of Harajuku Girls, Yakuza, and Anime characters.  Conductor Tim Shaindlin returns to Hawaii to lead the orchestra.

Bass-Baritone Jamie Offenbach, a native of Honolulu, leads a phenomenal cast and stars as in the title role.  Offenbach has enjoyed a stellar career and has performed at venues around the world including his appearance in Florentine’s Opera’s production of Elmer Gantry, which earned two Grammy Awards in 2012.

Tenor Joshua Kohl portrays Nanki-Poo, a role he performed with the Lyric Opera of Kansas City and was described as having “an excellent lyric tenor voice” by The KC Independent.  Baritone Curt Olds, who The Rochester Times describes as “born to interpret Gilbert’s witty libretto” plays The Lord High Executioner, Koko.  The object of both Nanki-Poo and Koko’s affection is Yum-Yum, who will be performed by rising star, Soprano Sarah Asmar (Yum-Yum).

Metropolitan Opera star Mezzo-Soprano Victoria Livengood (Katisha), University of Hawaii Professor Bass-Baritone John Mount (Pooh-Bah), and Baritone Leon Williams (Pish-Tush) round out the Soloists.

The Mikado will be performed over two weekends at the Neal S. Blaisdell Concert Hall from June 13-15 & 20-22.  HOT will also bring opera back to the island of Maui for the first time in seven years with a performance of The Mikado at the Maui Arts & Cultural Center’s Castle Theatre on Maui on June 18.

For all Oahu performances, tickets can be purchased by contacting the HOT Box Office at (808) 596-7858, online at www.HawaiiOpera.org or via www.TicketMaster.com.

Tickets to the performance on Maui can be purchased by contacting the Maui Arts & Cultural Center at (808) 242-7469 or online at www.MauiArts.org.