"Inspiration is an awakening, a quickening of all man's faculties, and it is manifested in all high artistic achievements." -- Puccini, Composer of Turandot
If you were to see my LinkedIn Profile, you might think I am a bit of a narcissist as my current position reads as follows:
"HOT Marketing Director"
What more can I say? I am in fact the HOT Marketing Director and quite possibly the only HOT Marketing Director in this world!
Putting the silliness of acronyms away, Hawaii Opera Theatre (HOT) is where my journey has taken me and it has been nothing short of a ride over the last few months. Though at times stressful (like any experience in life), it is certainly not a hot mess. Believe you/me, I have seen my share of those work systems...
From learning a new language to connecting the dots of how opera has been with me ever since small kid time (Hawaii Creole English for 'childhood'), this leg of the adventure has been pretty epic, much like the Opera.
Fun Fact: The first time most people hear opera is in cartoons.
HOT's season opener, Turandot, is fitting for my first opera with the company, as it features none other than "Nessun Dorma" or "None Shall Sleep." This aria (opera for 'song') was made famous by the late Luciano Pavarotti, of the famed 3 Tenors. Pavarotti's music was the soundtrack for some of my fondest childhood memories and it was often in the rotation on many a holo holo (Hawaiian for 'ride of leisure') around the island.
Every time I hear "Nessun Dorma," I'm taken to the passenger seat of my inner child, that part within each person that remembers the awe/so amazing of this trip that takes us along called life.
If I close my eyes, I can clearly remember sitting at a stoplight where Kamehameha Highway meets the Pali. I can hear the rain pelting our car. I can see my dad turn up the volume on the car radio so that the music is audible above the rain. At last! I feel us both now, trying to sing the grand finale of the song.
Truthfully, I don't know a lick of Italian and threw in words like 'spaghetti' in there because at that age, singing 'spaghetti' sounds much like 'Vincerò!' (Italian for 'I will win!'). Though as an adult I realize spaghetti, linguine, or fettuccine for that matter sounds nothing like 'Vincerò,' I do feel like I won. It was a victory because I remember having so much fun and it's a great memory for me to have with my Dad!
"Nessun Dorma" is sung in the final act of Turandot by the heroic Calàf, a stranger in a strange land, trying to win the Heart of the icy Princess Turandot. This HOT experience is pretty awesome to be a part of because here we are in the middle of the Pacific with a production that is performed by award-winning talent! This includes Soprano Susan Foster, acclaimed for her performances as the title character aka The Ice Princess, and making his debut as Calàf is Grammy Award-Winning Tenor, Jay Hunter Morris.
Susan, Jay, and the rest of cast have been amazing to meet; we even have a singer in Joe Frank, who has been featured in over 80 productions in 42 years! They have been kind, down to earth, and true professionals. In my opinion, it is a much different vibe to work with opera performers than it is to work with television performers, the experience of which I wrote about in my first book.
Speaking of books, Jay also wrote a book, Diary of a Redneck Opera Zinger, which paints an intimate picture into his journey as an opera singer. We hosted a book signing with him recently at The ARTS at Mark's Garage in Chinatown and it was nice to hear the story told in his voice, which brought a bit of zing to what you see on paper.
Jay has been in the business for over two decades and his big break occurred just recently in 2011. He was called upon at the last minute to perform the role of 'Ziggy (Jay Hunter Morris for Siegfried from Wagner's Ring Cycle), something that has propelled him to stardom because of the difficulty of the role and his mastery of it. Not only did Jay kill it, that production was also recorded and broadcast from New York's historic Metropolitan Opera at the time.
Since then, as you might imagine he has been pretty busy...
This is not his first visit to Hawaii as we learned during the reading that he and his wife, Meg, fell in love the last time Jay performed with HOT in La boheme (2003). We also were taken through a few memories that Jay had of his own father, a Southern Baptist Music Minister, who passed away when Jay was 12 years old, and whose influence in Jay's journey was great. A short while after the reading, his own young son, Cooper Jack, took the stage himself...
It was a magical sight to watch as my words can only butcher the beauty of what took place for Cooper began to sing an aria from Moby Dick, which Meg pointed out to me. Jay, who was in the middle of signing books and talking with people, heard it himself and would tell me a few days later that he used to sing that as a lullaby to his then-toddler Cooper. Jay also shared that he had not sang the aria since playing that role and neither he nor his wife had heard Cooper sing it before. Something magical must have been in the air that night, for if you watched young Cooper, it seemed like he knew the whole opera!
I do not know what the remainder of my journey holds, which I've been saying for some time now... I also do not really tell anyone much these days about the future (though believe it or not, for a time I was sought out by travelers from around the world to do just that). The mysteries of the unforeseen aside, I have a good feeling, that like Jay and myself, Cooper Jack will have fond memories of both music and his Daddy.
Turandot performed by HOT on October 11, 13, & 15 in the Blaisdell Concert Hall.