HOT Star And Mana Maoli All-Stars
Friday - February 16, 2011
Hawaii-born opera star Jamie Offenbach is on cruise control now that the Hawaii Opera Theatre 2011 season production of Faust has wrapped up.
“My role was Mephistopheles, which was the Devil, and he really makes the story happen,” says Offenbach. “There are three main characters, and the Devil is kind of the character that make the whole opera run. So Faust was super-demanding for me - physically and vocally. I was sleeping for 10-12 hours after performing.”
As he normally does, Offenbach signed up for roles in two opposing operas for the HOT 2011 season. It not only gives him the opportunity to showcase his talent in two usually differing roles, but also to spend more time in his home away from home.
“I’m originally from Hawaii, so it’s nice to come back and be home for just a little bit of time,” says Offenbach, who currently resides in Los Angeles. “I flew in on Jan. 3, and I haven’t been in the water yet because I have been really super busy with Faust. So I’m so looking forward to getting into the ocean before I head back on March 8.”
Offenbach will take the stage again as Dr. Grenvil in La Traviata Feb. 25, 27 and March 1 at Blaisdell Concert Hall.
“There’s a huge difference between Mephistopheles from Faust, where I’m on stage singing almost the entire time, and the Doctor, who isn’t on stage nearly as much,” says Offenbach, who started with HOT in 1989. “La Traviata won’t be vocally demanding for me because I’m not one of the main characters. So this will be a walk in the park.”
Born in Hawaii, Offenbach moved to Japan when he was just a toddler. His dad’s career in the Navy then took him and his family to Maryland, then Puerto Rico and finally back to Maryland, where he graduated high school.
“When I graduated from high school I was bent on coming back to Hawaii to see where I was born,” he adds.
Offenbach took his passion for music to the Islands to study at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, where he spent a few semesters before heading to New York to attend New York University and Juilliard School of Music.
“No one really directed me into opera,” says the 46-year-old. “In school I got all the leads in musicals and plays and was aware of my singing abilities, but no one really pushed me to opera or to sing. In fact, my parents didn’t want me to do that, they thought I was crazy. But I think I just found my way and fell in love with opera because of its grandiosity and musicality.”
Offenbach also is an avid runner, and is a regular competitor in the L.A. Marathon, which is just two weeks after he returns from Hawaii.
“I was just exhausted from Faust, and I couldn’t run during Faust because running really takes away your voice,” he adds. “So I haven’t been training.
“I’ve always wanted to do the Honolulu Marathon, but it’s kind of a busy month (December) for opera singers, and I always have to work. Hopefully, someday I will.”
For more on La Traviata and the HOT 2011 season, visit hawaiiopera.org ...
How’s this for a band? John Cruz, Anuhea, Wayne Enos and Jehua Evans of Natural Vibrations, Kiliona Young, Lopaka Colon and Kapena De Lima.
This talent-packed group aka the all-star band is representing Mana Maoli Collective, a supportive assembly of artists who come together under the nonprofit Mana Maoli.
Mana Maoli provides facilities, funding, and staff support for Hawaiian public charter school Halau Ku Mana and two youth programs - Kanehunamoku, a Polynesian voyaging canoe program, and Maoli Music.
“We’re not going to raise millions of dollars through these concerts, but what it really is about is, through the music, we’re raising awareness and support,” says Keola Nakanishi, co-director of Mana Maoli.
Members of the all-star band have been busy donating their time in rehearsals to prepare for two Oahu concerts and one on Maui, which will prepare them as they represent Hawaii in three festivals in New Zealand next month.
The Oahu concerts are Feb. 18 at 9 p.m. at Breaker’s Restaurant in Haleiwa and Feb. 19 at 9 p.m. at Tropics Cafe. They will begin with solo acoustic sessions by John Cruz and Anuhea, followed by the all-star band.
“The Hawaii shows are a glimpse of what we’ll be doing when we’re doing the concerts abroad,” adds Nakanishi. “It’s an awesome mix because there’s a fusion of styles. They take you on a ride musically and lyrically. So even if you’ve heard each of these artists before, you’ve never heard anything like this.”
Last year, MMC was the first to represent Hawaii in the 18-year history of the Pasifika Festival in New Zealand - a gathering of more than 200,000 people representing traditional and modern music, dance and culture from many nations across the Pacific. In March, MMC returns to represent Hawaii at Pasifika with the all-star band, kumu hula Mehanaokala Hind and six established hula dancers.
“As part of the process of forming the band, we wanted to make sure that every year we had a mix of returning and new musicians,” says Nakanishi. “The reason is the returning musicians have a genealogy and connection with the places and people. And the reason we want new musicians is there are others who could serve Hawaii well too.”
They also will be a headline act at both Nga Puhi Festival, the largest of the tribal-run festivals, as well as the WOMAD (World of Music and Dance), the largest of the paid festivals.
“In addition to these three festivals, the all-star band is doing a lot of workshops and performances in the schools, as well as the communities of the six cities we’ll be hitting (which include Taranaki, Hamilton, Auckland and Wellington),” adds Nakanishi. “So these artists are really donating a lot of their time and talents, which is why, in the process of forming the all-star band, we wanted people who would represent Hawaii well not only on stage, but also off stage. Most times they’ll be off stage, and so we want people who are going to share a nice slice of Hawaii and who we are.”
Show your support for MMC by purchasing tickets for its Oahu concerts happening this weekend, buy a Mana Maoli shirt or CD, or simply make a donation.
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