This opera presents a partially fictionalized narrative of the events of the [in]famous “Massie Case” that happened in Honolulu, Hawaii, 1931-1932. The opera takes place entirely in Honolulu, Hawaii (before it was a U.S. state). The story concerns itself with the cascading consequences of the first (and the hundreds of subsequent) lies told, repeated, exaggerated, and believed.
A psychological drama that created national political uproar to the highest echelons of society and government, The First Lie is a story of mother love, media power, convoluted local and national gossip, and cascading lies set in 1930s paradise, and yet remarkably suggestive of today’s news.
The opera includes two courtroom scenes, the first car chase in opera history, opportunities for combining video and stage production as well as eclectic mixture of classical and modern opera, jazz, and Hawaiian music. The six lead roles provide excellent opportunities for development of musical characters. Each role is conceived in the contemporary sense of the ‘singing actor’. Joe Kahahawai is the tragic hero of the opera, the most direct victim of the lies and the man who stands up for himself and Hawaiians. The scene where he is murdered, his funeral, and, speaking from the grave for the final lines of the opera, are the centerpieces of the story and the drama. The chorus roles of Newspaper, Gossips, and Locals used to tell much of the story are reminiscent of the chorus in Greek tragedy.
As the audience enters the theater, they enter Hawaii of 1931. 1930s Hawaii travel posters and a slide show of historical photos of Waikiki Beach projected onto the curtain provide a trip into paradise—and like all excursions to paradise, this one is fraught with drama, chaos, and eventual but tragic resolution.
OPERA IN FOUR ACTS
MUSIC: MICHAEL-THOMAS FOUMAI
LIBRETTO: CAROL MAXYM