Special Reports

MA Top 30 Professional: Josh Shaw

December 5, 2023 | By Hannah Edgar

Founding Artistic Director and CEO
Pacific Opera Project

How many opera companies would dare set The Magic Flute in the Nintendo universe? Or rechristen the Merry Widow as The Merry Widder, transplanting the action to the Wild West? Or reimagine the inciting event of The Abduction from the Seraglio as an alien abduction, with Belmonte and Pedrillo as sendups of Captains Kirk and Spock?

Josh Shaw is the Regie behind Pacific Opera Project’s (POP) bold, cheeky brand of Regietheater. Trained as an opera singer, Shaw got his start working in dinner theater and the musical theater world. He returned to opera after moving to Los Angeles in 2004, but it wasn’t until 2011, when he founded POP, that he turned his attention to directing. An early hit—and recurring favorite—was La bohème aka the Hipsters, which not-so-secretly satirized Highland Park, the hipster-y northeastern L.A. neighborhood where the company is based. But Pacific Opera Company productions “POP” up everywhere, from a Pasadena church (for an immersive Tosca in 2014) to Title I schools (through its Opera Explorers program, teaching students how to create their own operas).

To date, Shaw has directed over 50 POP productions in addition to his own freelance directing schedule; many of these stagings feature his original, singable English libretti—now something of a POP calling card. The company also mounted a nearly unheard-of 26 live performances in 2020 and 2021, on outdoor stages and drive-throughs; the Los Angeles Times credited POP with “the first major musical or theatrical event in Los Angeles Country presented for a live audience in nearly 14 months.” Through it all, POP has maintained its commitment to having $15 tickets available, in part by raising prices across its premium ticket class. Opera News recently gushed that “the chances of [opera’s] survival in the years ahead will, in part at least, be dependent on the energy of companies such as Pacific Opera Project.” Surviving—and thriving, too.




Law and Disorder by GG Arts Law

Career Advice by Legendary Manager Edna Landau

An American in Paris by Frank Cadenhead



Search Musical America's archive of photos from 1900-1992.