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Backstage And Beyond

‘NINE,’ MEIN HERR: Classical giants dish out Germans, Austrians and a buffet of others

By Paul Horsley Within the space of a month, from January 16th through February 15th of this year, no fewer than nine major classical instrumentalists performed in Kansas City: violinists Pinchas Zukerman, Gil Shaham and Nicola Benedetti, pianists Garrick Ohlsson, Leon Fleisher, Jean-Yves Thibaudet and Luis Fernando Pérez, cellist Colin Carr, and percussionist Martin Grubinger. […]

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HUMBLE BEFORE BACH: Violinist brings daring solo program to Harriman-Jewell Series

By Paul Horsley Gil Shaham has been playing Bach’s Sonatas and Partitas for Solo Violin privately since he was a wunderkind, but only in the last few years has he begun to perform them publicly. These six masterpieces, which Bach composed in the first quarter of the 18th century, during a period of creativity that […]

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WHAT WOULD WILLIE SAY? KC Rep’s production of well-worn tragedy revisits the bard’s own text

By Paul Horsley Love is like a virus: It infects not just the lovers themselves but all those around them. Armed with this premise Kansas City Repertory Theatre artistic director Eric Rosen has begun building his daring new production of Romeo and Juliet, a co-production with UMKC Theatre that opens January 17th. Inspired by his […]

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ARRIVEDERCI, 2013: KC performing-arts scene experiences notable shifts in “the year that was”

By Paul Horsley Kansas Citians might look back at 2013 as a year of sea-change in the local performing-arts scene. It was the year the Lyric Opera spent record amounts on magnificent productions that garnered substantial national attention. It was the year the Harriman-Jewell Series brought the greatest Wagnerian soprano of our time to town, […]

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LOCAL HERO: Armed with Midas touch, Patterson built KC’s opera company from the ground up

AN APPRECIATION By Paul Horsley Russell Patterson was a “player,” and not just in the musical sense. Anyone who played tennis or bridge or even poker with the Lyric Opera of Kansas City’s founding general director, who died October 1st in Cape Cod, Massachusetts, at age 85, knows that his single-minded goal was to win. […]

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OLD WINE IN NEWISH BOTTLES: KC Ballet presents bright, dusted-off version of holiday classic

By Paul Horsley When traditional holiday performances continue to meet public and critical success year after year, presenters may show understandable resistance to tinkering with them. The “if-it-ain’t-broke” cycle is of course partly about revenue stream, so one always moves forward with stealth. The Kansas City Ballet’s durable production of The Nutcracker has stood up […]

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By Paul Horsley Devon Carney, who began as KC Ballet’s new artistic director in July, has made some tweaks to Todd Bolender’s Nutcracker for 2013, though most of the changes will be unnoticeable to all but the most seasoned KCB fans. “I really don’t want to fool around with Todd’s production too much,” says the […]

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SOMETHING OLD, NEW, BORROWED: KC Ballet spiffs up Nutcracker as it sets sights on a new one

By Paul Horsley It’s true that the production of The Nutcracker Todd Bolender created for the Kansas City Ballet is more than 40 years old, but through the years many a hand has helped freshen up the holiday classic, which runs at the Kauffman Center from December 7th through the 24th. An altered variation here, […]

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BACH AS HE MIGHT HAVE HEARD IT: Leipzig choir’s local debut is another coup for Harriman series

By Paul Horsley When a choir counts J.S. Bach among those who have led it over its 801-year history, and still functions in the church where the master and his offspring thrived, performance expectations are high. The Thomanerchor, or St. Thomas Boys Choir of Leipzig, has weathered all manner of political and cultural vicissitudes through […]

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PEACEFUL REST: Symphony explores Fauré’s ‘up-side’ of death

By Paul Horsley Just because Gabriel Fauré’s Requiem uses standard Catholic liturgy as texts doesn’t mean its messages are strictly Christian or even inordinately religious. Indeed its message of consolation is universal, and its gentler approach to death stands in stark contrast to that of some of the more severe Requiems in the repertoire. “The […]

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GARDEN OF VISUAL DELIGHTS: Lyric’s ‘Flute’ rides on top-flight vocals, over-the-top designs

By Paul Horsley That the Lyric Opera’s new production of Mozart’s The Magic Flute is a banquet of visual delights is beyond question. Its wildly colorful scenic designs, digital animations and costumes by world-renowned sculptor Jun Kaneko are quite unlike anything we’ve seen on the Lyric stage: Playful and fun in often explosively eye-dilating ways, […]

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WRITING ABOUT WRITING: Unicorn’s swift, witty production of Rebeck play is like a runaway train

By Paul Horsley Artists are always being told to create art about what they know, even though many live such insulated lives that they know little beyond the world of their own art. But it can work: From Nabokov’s Pale Fire to Fellini’s 8 ½, from 30 Rock to Rembrandt’s “The Artist in His Studio,” […]

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DEBBY RIDES AGAIN: Met Valkyrie brings smart, wistful, low-key program to Harriman series

Paul Horsley Deborah Voigt is one of the great sopranos of our age or any other, and although her voice has diminished in recent years she can still delight an audience at the drop of a hat, in just about any context. At her Harriman-Jewell Series recital on October 25th she presented a personal side […]

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MAGIC INDEED: Lyric brings designs by world-renowned artist to Kauffman stage

By Paul Horsley Mozart’s The Magic Flute is so full of opportunities for visual display that an opera company would be lax not to take advantage of them. But hiring a real-live artist to design an opera presents problems, too: If the scenic and costume designs are too overwhelming you don’t even need the opera. […]

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GLORY BE: Trumpeter, composer, visionary brings magnum opus to the Harriman-Jewell Series

By Paul Horsley In 2008 the world-renowned trumpeter and Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Wynton Marsalis determined to commemorate the 200th anniversary of Harlem’s Abyssinian Baptist Church with an ambitious mass for choir, soloists and jazz orchestra. Abyssinian 200: a Celebration was a hit, and on October 19th the Grammy-winning performer, author, classical celebrity, ambassador of peace […]

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WELCOME BACK: Dance company returns in fine form after eight-year pause

By Paul Horsley What a delight it was to see the Dance Theatre of Harlem back on the local stage, in its first appearance on the Harriman-Jewell Series, or in Kansas City for that matter, since April of 2001. After experiencing an eight-year hiatus, the performing company returned to the stage last season, and it […]

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RING OF FIRE: In anticipation of her third Harriman-Jewell appearance, soprano looks to shining future

By Paul Horsley Deborah Voigt is at an enviable point in her life where she can make career choices on the basis of what she wants to do. “I’m very lucky in that I’ve sort of already done the dream roles,” says the Illinois-born soprano, who recently captured the world’s heart in the Metropolitan Opera’s […]

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CONTAINING THE FIRE: Violinist continues to establish his place in the string firmament

By Paul Horsley Violinist Stefan Jackiw’s official bio and press clippings read pretty much like those of any young musician these days. He is “one of his generation’s most significant artists” who possesses “talent that’s off the scale” (Washington Post) with playing that is “striking for its intelligence and sensitivity” (Boston Globe). Like their biographies, […]

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EMBRACEMENT OF RICHES: Ballet’s ‘state-of-the-company’ season-opener offers rewards

By Paul Horsley One of the challenges of the Kauffman Center these days is for the resident companies to prove that the brilliant successes of the first two seasons were not a fluke. The Kansas City Ballet’s first 2013-2014 program that opened October 11th augurs well for the company’s attempts at constant renewal: Its generous […]

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SUM OF PARTS: Choreographer creates freedom, innovation from a wide range of life experiences

By Paul Horsley Jodie Gates has danced, choreographed, staged ballets, created festivals, served as mentor for young dancers. But few things excite the California native more than creating new choreography, not only for its invitation to creative expression but for its potential for passing on the huge amount of knowledge she’s gained over a 30-year […]

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FAMILY TIES: Eternal ‘clash of clans’ shines in Lyric’s polished, beautifully sung production

By Paul Horsley The operatic version of the Romeo and Juliet legend that Bellini and his librettist Felice Romani created from Italian sources predating Shakespeare is at least as action-packed as the bard’s telling, perhaps even more so. The Lyric Opera has devoted considerable resources to its production of this gripping bel canto opera, The […]

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