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A THOUSAND NIGHTS: Series marks milestone with brilliant soprano

Just about everybody who is anybody has appeared on the Harriman-Jewell Series. Or so it seems these days, 58 years after the Series was founded by two William Jewell College professors, Richard Harriman and Dean Dunham, Jr. Let’s put it this way: If you are a classical performing artist or ensemble or dance company or even a Broadway singer who has not been on Kansas City’s world-renowned Series, you might want to have a heart-to-heart with your management.

Pretty Yende / Kim Fox Photography

This Saturday, January 7th, at the Folly Theater, South African-born Soprano Pretty Yende will present what is, astonishingly, the 1,000th performance in the Series’ august history.

The star of major houses (Metropolitan Opera, Covent Garden, Opéra National de Paris, La Scala, Staatsoper Berlin) makes her local debut with a program of songs and arias by Bellini, Donizetti, Rossini, and Liszt. Her collaborative pianist is Indian-American Conductor and Pianist Kamal Khan, who will perform solo piano works by Chopin and Verdi/Liszt.

Pretty joins the company of nearly every major opera singer of the last half-century, including (just to name some of the sopranos) June Anderson, Elly Ameling, Martina Arroyo, Kathleen Battle, Grace Bumbry, Régine Crespin, Victoria de los Ángeles, Renée Fleming, Evelyn Lear, Birgit Nilsson, Jessye Norman, Leontyne Price, Renata Scotto, Beverly Sills, Joan Sutherland, Ruth Ann Swenson, Renata Tebaldi, Kiri Te Kanawa, Carol Vaness, and Deborah Voigt.

The Harriman-Jewell Series is especially known for having presented world- or United States debuts of several major singers of our time, most notably that of Luciano Pavarotti in 1973. Pretty will, coincidentally or not, sing some of the same Bellini works that the great tenor performed on that recital a half-century ago.

Kamal Khan / Photo by Aslan Studios

Saturday’s event will also include, in a post-performance event, a presentation of the Richard Harriman Award to artists or groups that have appeared 10 or more times on the Series.

Kansas City native and internationally lauded Choreographer David Parsons will be on hand to present the awards to Marilyn Horne, Itzhak Perlman, Emanuel Ax, Joyce DiDonato, David Parsons and Parsons Dance, Wynton Marsalis, The King’s Singers, Collaborative Pianists Martin Katz and Warren Jones, Canadian Brass, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, and Yo-Yo Ma.

For tickets go to hjseries.org or call 816-415-5025. For information about the singer, seecprettyyende.com.

Paul Horsley, Performing Arts Editor 

Paul studied piano and musicology at WSU and Cornell University. He also earned a degree in journalism, because writing about the arts in order to inspire others to partake in them was always his first love. After earning a PhD from Cornell, he became Program Annotator for the Philadelphia Orchestra, where he learned firsthand the challenges that non profits face. He moved to KC to join the then-thriving Arts Desk at The Kansas City Star, but in 2008 he happily accepted a post at The Independent. Paul contributes to national publications, including Dance Magazine, Symphony, Musical America, and The New York Times, and has conducted scholarly research in Germany, Austria and the Czech Republic (the latter on a Fulbright Fellowship). He also taught musicology at Cornell, LSU and Park University.



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