LIHUE — Simon Crookall, general director of Hawaii Opera Theater, said it best: “It’s called the Hawaii Opera Theater, not the Honolulu Opera Theater.”
Crookall, who moved to Hawaii three years ago, had a vision for HOT. In addition to the theater’s three major productions each year, there would be smaller-scale shows that showcase the diversity of opera. That vision, has now become a reality.
Coming to the Kauai Performing Arts Center Friday, HOT will put on “Three Decembers,” based on a play by Terrence McNally and adapted for the opera by Jake Heggie. It will be the first time HOT has performed on Kauai.
“It’s really exciting,” Crookall said. ‘We’ve done school tours on Kauai for several years now, but we’ve never presented a fully-staged performance of an opera before. The impetus comes from a whole new direction in Hawaii Opera Theater’s work.”
Crookall said he hopes this show to be the first of many productions to come on The Garden Isle as he aims to build a following on the neighbor islands. And he said “Three Decembers” is the best play to kick things off.
“To come to Kauai, we needed to find pieces that were more appropriate in scale,” he said. “It’s a contemporary play, but it’s not contemporary in the way people think of; this is very lyrical music and has quite an air of Broadway style in the singing.”
Crookall has spent a lot of time thinking about how doing a production on Kauai would work logistically after they had done shows on Maui. But since Kauai doesn’t have an auditorium that is large enough to facilitate a large-scale production, Crookall had to get creative.
“Opera is arguably at its best when it does grand, big productions, but the art form can be adapted in many different ways to smaller things, much more contemporary subjects to really get into things that affect people in their everyday lives,” Crookall said. “A lot of stories that opera is tackling now are much more down to earth.”
HOT received additional funding from the state to enable the cast and crew to travel and put on productions on the neighbor islands. The inaugural show on Kauai is no stunt. HOT is pulling out all the stops for its Kauai debut.
Frederica von Stade, one of the most renowned American opera singers today, will be joining HOT for this show. “Three Decembers” was specifically written for von Stade back in 2008 and she will be reprising her role in the show, along with the two other original cast members.
“Frederica has had a very successful career, but she’s never sung opera before in Hawaii. She’s never sung with HOT before either, so it’s a particular thrill to have her coming to recreate the role that was written for her. Lots of people have done this show around the country, but we’ll have the original cast. They’re coming together since the first time since 2008.”
Showtime is 7:30 p.m.
Tickets: general seating $25-$45, students $10. hawaiiopera.org.