On the Scene with Hawaii Opera Theatre’s Andrew Morgan
Andrew Morgan stepped down as the San Francisco Opera’s director of development earlier this year to become the executive director of Hawaii Opera Theatre. Here’s what he has planned.
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Andrew Morgan grew up in Chicago immersed in the arts. His mother sang in church, his father loved opera. Morgan began singing in choir when he was 6, went on to learn how to play the string bass and the piano, and was the lead in his high school’s production of “The Mikado.” From there he earned a degree in music education at Northern Illinois University and a master’s degree in vocal performance at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
Degrees in hand, Morgan was recruited by San Francisco’s Chanticleer a cappella men’s ensemble. He subsequently served as the executive director for American Bach Soloists, and then spent 11 years at the San Francisco Opera.
Morgan, 53, stepped down as the San Francisco Opera’s director of development earlier this year to become the executive director of Hawaii Opera Theatre.
What brought you from San Francisco to Hawaii?
I was in an executive director position before I moved to San Francisco Opera, and I definitely was interested in expanding my areas of responsibility back to being more broadly administrative. I have training as a singer, and I’ve done a lot of stage directing and opera singing myself, and so when the opportunity with Hawaii Opera Theatre became available I jumped at it.
What are your plans?
It’s pretty early to say specifically. I’m looking at making sure that we have a diversity represented onstage, and backstage too. I’m also looking forward to working very closely with Emmanuel Plasson, the new artistic director.
Opera is traditionally stereotyped as entertainment for wealthy people. How do you convince people who don’t know opera that you don’t have to be rich to enjoy it?
It’s a work in progress to show people that opera can take you away emotionally on a journey that no other art form can. One of the things that most attracted me about this company is the tremendous amount of work our education department does with some 28,000 students a year. I’m also an advocate for doing some select works in English.
HOT’s final show of the season, “La Traviata,” opens Friday. What is it about the production that you are most excited about?
That people I know are in the production. Pene Pati, the Samoan tenor who is part of the SOL3 MIO group, was in San Francisco Opera’s young artists program, and he is just amazing. Quinn Kelsey, who is Hawaii-born, has an international reputation that started with Hawaii Opera Theatre — to see him on this stage where he got his start is really thrilling to me. Our soprano, Danielle Talamantes, is going to be thrilling in the (title) role. I’m also thrilled that we have a female director and a female conductor; I think it’s really important in all classical music to promote female leaders.
Where would you like to see HOT going in the next few years?
I have a broad range of interests in operatic repertoire, from chamber to grand huge operas, and I’m a huge fan of baroque opera. I’d like to see this company do a broader range of those things. I’d also like to explore the intersection of opera and hula — without pandering.
What are you looking forward to doing outside of work?
When my husband and I came to Hawaii in the past we were tourists. Now we want to become part of the community. That’s what I’m most looking forward to — getting to know the nooks and crannies that you don’t get in the guidebooks.