What does one do for an encore after being named a living treasure of Hawaii just two years ago? You follow it up by receiving an award named for a person you admire and who laid the foundation for your own success.
On Oct. 15 at the Hawaii Theatre, Beebe Freitas, associate artistic director for the Hawaii Opera Theatre, will be presented the Alfred Preis Award at a gala event that includes the Hawaii Youth Opera Chorus, Hawaii Opera Theatre Chorus, Kumu Hula Vicky Holt Takamine and Pua Ali’i Ilima, Les Ceballos, Kawaiolaonapukanileo and Freitas’s daughter, Roslyn, with a special original musical presentation. Needless to say, Freitas appreciates the recognition.
“I got a letter and I thought they sent it to the wrong person,” she jokes. “It’s very humbling and a little unreal, to tell the truth.”
Possibly more than the honor, Freitas says being associated with the award’s namesake is a big honor.
“He was an enormous supporter of the arts and a great gentleman,” she says. “He was a great believer in the importance of the arts in everyday life. I knew him and respected him.”
When Freitas came to Hawaii with her husband, Lou, in 1966, the Juilliard-trained musician thought her career had ended.
“I thought it was the end of the world for me musically. I thought, ‘oh, well, I had my fling with music and now I’ll cook,’” says the woman who appeared on MidWeek‘s cover in 1986. “But I found Hawaii to be a great world of opportunities. If you wanted to try something new, just give it a whirl. It was wide open.” This, she says, differed from her time in New York, where her skills were rarely exhibited outside choral music. Working with legendary composer Leonard Bernstein and the New York Philharmonic no doubt helped her get through it.
But now, as one of the people charged with matching world-class singers with the renowned Honolulu Symphony, she has something she wants to get out. Opera is not as distant as you think.
“I must confess I thought that about opera,” she says of her younger years. “But I was always a sucker for these epic movies - the costume changes, the incredible music - and that’s how I got struck by it. I know opera is scary, but if you think epic, this is just one step away from the movie screen.”
If you’ve got the guts, the Hawaii Opera Theatre season begins in January and runs through the beginning of March.
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