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Backstage And Beyond

ART TRUMPS POLITICS (AGAIN): With wars and revolutions behind, pianist continues spinning poetry

By Paul Horsley Her mother tried to keep her away from the piano, but three-year-old Dubravka Tomšič insisted. Soon afterward, having learned how to read notes, she acquired a teacher in her native Slovenia, former Cortot pupil Zora Zarnik, who had never taught children before. “She was a very sensitive, very beautiful pianist,” Dubravka said […]

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A HISTORY STILL BEING TOLD: KC Rep’s ‘Angels’ lifts us from our smug seats and slaps us in the face

By Paul Horsley Angels in America, currently playing at the Kansas City Repertory Theatre’s Copaken Stage, is an odd duck in American theater and is likely to remain so. Set during the height of the AIDS crisis in the mid-1980s, the two-part, six-hour epic contains some of the greatest writing by an American in modern […]

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JUST NORTH OF HERE: Chorale’s program of music by Canadians draws attention to America’s ‘other’ border

By Paul Horsley Even the humblest of choirs can sound good in a lush, warm acoustic, but it takes an excellent choir to come across as clear, accurate and well-balanced in a dry space. The Kansas City Chorale sounded lovely in its February 22nd concert “Oh! Canada! Music from North of the Border,” sung in […]

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JOYOUS MOMENT: KC Lyric tackles bold new opera asking ‘big questions’ about war

By Paul Horsley Silent Night is the product of a top-flight librettist, Mark Campbell, and a marvelous American composer, Kevin Puts, and it features some of the most beautifully intricate sets, projections and costumes that the Lyric Opera of Kansas City has put on the stage. Created and designed for Minnesota Opera and three other […]

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SHE DIES, HE LIVES, THE END: KC Ballet seeks inner core of problematic classic

By Paul Horsley Rich Boy disguises himself as Poor Boy in order to win Poor Girl, who falls for him despite Mom’s suspicion there’s something a little “off” about him. Poor Girl, who has a heart condition, can’t stand the shock of finding out he’s actually engaged to Rich Girl. She dies and joins a […]

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REALMS OF GLORY: KC Rep takes on ‘Angels’ with preeminent storyteller at the helm

By Paul Horsley Maybe all you know about Angels in America is that it’s a monumental, mystical, two-part, seven-hour stage work that wrestles with gigantic subjects such as good and evil, sex and human frailty, love and hypocrisy, and death. Or that it changed the course of American theater. Or that it dealt with AIDS […]

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LAST LAUGH: Performance suggests that a composer’s final thoughts are his best—or are they?

By Paul Horsley Composers throw us a curve ball when they drastically revise works and leave the original for us to mull over alongside the new version. Of course there’s nothing that classical listeners love more than to debate the relative merits of the results: Dresden Tannhäuser, or Wagner’s more elaborate Paris/Vienna version? Bruckner’s original […]

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THAT’S ECLECTICISM! Playhouse shines wide-ranging spotlight on classic film musicals

By Paul Horsley Americans are surprisingly narrow-ranged in their cultural exposure these days, internet or no internet. For most people it’s either hip-hop or ballet but not both, hillbilly or Haydn, Disney or Dostoyevsky. But audience tastes weren’t always this balkanized: Quality Hill Playhouse’s current month-long production, “That’s Entertainment: The MGM Years,” reveals the extent […]

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I YAM WHO I YAM: In KC Symphony premiere, Previn proves that knowing thyself has no shelf life

By Paul Horsley At 85, André Previn has nothing to prove. As one of the great musical geniuses of the 20th century and for that matter the 21st, the Berlin-born American whose family fled the Nazis has headed several international orchestras, won four music-category Oscars, and received fistfuls of kudos including the Kennedy Center Honors, […]

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LYRIC NIGHT: Prize-winning World War I opera, soon to make KC premiere, strikes at the heart of human conflict

By Paul Horsley Silent Night, the World War I opera that is taking the music world by storm, is not a history lesson, and it’s not a sermon. It’s an image of what can happen in wartime when men and women who have been told they are enemies sit down and talk, in defiance of […]

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COME, THOU FOUNT: Choreographer and star team create dazzling new vision of Handel

By Paul Horsley If you’re not sure whether Mark Morris’ Acis and Galatea is opera or dance or theater or what, then you’re probably on the right track. “That’s historically accurate,” said Mark recently on the phone, pointing out that in the Baroque “opera included all of those things: That’s the whole point.” The choreographer’s […]

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MUSIC PAST, MUSIC PRESENT: Choral composition honors Harriman’s life and the Series he founded

By Paul Horsley Any celebration of the Harriman-Jewell Series is to some extent a tribute to Richard Harriman, the late William Jewell College professor who cofounded the world-renowned series that bears his name. What a shame that Richard, who died in 2010, didn’t live to see this season’s 50th anniversary celebration, for among other things […]

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ADIEU, ‘MR. B’: KC Ballet presents Bolender ‘Nutcracker’ one last time with help of Todd protégé

By Paul Horsley Ballet is ephemeral at its core, the product of a certain time and place, a specific set of dancers, musicians and designers. This year it’s with no little sadness that the Kansas City Ballet bids farewell to Todd Bolender’s durable production of The Nutcracker, which after 34 years has run its course […]

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NO HAREM APPARENT: Lyric production brings out musical treasures in zany Rossini comedy

By Paul Horsley The Italian Girl in Algiers contains as much delightful music as about any Rossini opera you could name, and though it is hardly a rarity worldwide it had, up to now, been produced only twice by the Lyric Opera of Kansas City, most recently in 1998. The production that opened November 8th […]

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PRESCIENCE AND POETRY: Harriman series celebrates golden anniversary with returning pianist

By Paul Horsley Just as Kansas Citians often think of themselves as residing at a geographic and a spiritual center-point of the United States, Macedonians characterize their nation as occupying a special place at the heart of Europe. So it’s especially apt that in 2004 the late Richard Harriman, whose mind was always working several […]

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WONDERING ABOUT ‘ALICE’: KC Ballet’s production is colorful, entertaining, and just plain strange

By Paul Horsley There are many reasons to make a ballet: One is to entertain. Some of our “serious” choreographers forget this at times, and the results are often overly abstract works that leave us saying, “Well, that was pretty, but what was it?” Septime Webre’s Alice (in wonderland) functions at the other end of […]

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IT’S ABOUT THE ART: KC Friends of Alvin Ailey, celebrating 30 years of community-building, presents the full AAADT in schools and at the Kauffman Center

By Paul Horsley The staggering 30-year success of the Kansas City Friends of Alvin Ailey has been built on community-based projects, educational initiatives for children and annual visits of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater and its youthful Ailey II. But at the heart of that success is something that Tyrone Aiken, the Friends’ executive […]

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PASSION WITH A FLICKER OF FIRE: Lyric brings attractive production, fresh voices, to Verdi classic

By Paul Horsley The challenge of Verdi’s La traviata is to present plausible characters and convincing emotional heat within the context of a famously, perhaps notoriously, contrived story line. This is a tall order even for the greatest opera companies, which have tended to rely on fabulous singing, high production values and Verdi’s durable if […]

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WACKY WONDERLAND: KC Ballet opens season with an explosion of color, design and dance

By Paul Horsley The beauty of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, in its original literary version by Charles Dodgson (Lewis Carroll) and in its many retellings through the last century and a half, is that it actually tells two stories at once. The first is that of a very curious little girl who through a series […]

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FALLING HARD: Lyric’s production of Verdi staple features stellar cast, lush production

By Paul Horsley If you read Francesco Piave’s libretto for Verdi’s La traviata carefully, one startling notion jumps out at you: Violetta Valéry, the “courtesan” of the title role, whose profession is to entertain wealthy gentlemen in whatever fashion they desire, has despite all her savvy fallen in love for the first time. It’s something […]

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NO LETTING UP: After passing 40-year mark, Unicorn forges ahead with all pistons firing

By Paul Horsley [NOTE: For a full transcript of our interview with Cynthia, check back here next week at kcindependent.com.] When Cynthia Levin took the reins of the Unicorn Theatre in 1979, she had a specific vision: To produce plays that no one else was doing at the time, and to cultivate local talent to […]

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