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Backstage And Beyond

Europeans have a different concept of the passage of time than we do. The “New College” at Oxford and the famous choir associated with it were founded in the 14th century (imagine how old the oldcollege was!). Six centuries later the Choir of New College continues to sing services six days a week at one of […]

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We have a fascination with tales of man-made things that come to life — whether to fascinate us (Pinocchio), hurt us (Frankenstein) or steal our hearts (Tales of Hoffmann, the Pygmalion of Greek mythology). In ballet, the favorite doll-come-to-life-(but-not-really) story is Coppélia, the tale of a mysterious inventor who creates a beautiful doll that is so lifelike […]

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A well-oiled operatic production relies on the convergence of so many elements that it seems a miracle when it actually does all come together. The Lyric Opera of Kansas City was thrown a curve-ball recently when the singer contracted to sing the title role of Don Giovanni pulled out because of illness. Less than two weeks before opening, the […]

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Dolls that come to life, a village love story, iconic ballet moves: Coppéliais hard to resist even in a so-so production. The version by the Moscow Festival Ballet, presented here on May 1st by the Harriman-Jewell Series, was a considerable cut above the average, with youthful dancers, faux-naïve set designs, and fine dancing in the Russian tradition. […]

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As recently as 20 years ago it was rare to find works by women on the programs of professional ballet companies. That’s changing, albeit slowly. On May 6 the Kansas City Ballet opens its spring program with new works by not one but two of the most sought-after choreographers in America — both of whom just happen […]

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The Kansas City Ballet has scored a home run with its spring program that opened May 6 at the Lyric Theatre, with an appealing lineup ranging from classical ballet to Balanchine-does-jazz, from Todd Bolender to two adventurous new ballets receiving their world premieres. It was a gratifying conclusion to an erratic 2009-2010 season that has […]

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Like many Southerners of her generation, choreographer Mary Pat Henry had a front row seat for the explosive events surrounding desegregation and the Civil Rights Movement. As a child in Columbus, South Carolina, she remembers being continually jolted by the racism she encountered all around her. For two years now she has grappled with reenacting some of […]

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Symphony in the Flint Hills this year features not only the live strains of the Kansas City Symphony echoing out over the verdant hills of Chase County, Kansas, but also the hickory twang of country superstar Lyle Lovett, who will sing a few tunes. Scheduled for June 12th with a rain date on June 13th, it’s an all-day […]

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Bruce Sorrell has spent a great deal of his life thinking about Mozart, and it shows when he conducts the composer’s music: He has a special understanding of this most challenging of Classicists. Astonishingly, the founding music director of the Kansas City Chamber Orchestra finds that he has never conducted Mozart’s iconic Requiem, and this week […]

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The Kansas City Ballet continues to be the envy of mid-sized American companies, maintaining fiscal health while continuing to challenge itself artistically. At Thursday’s season finale opener, veterans and younger dancers mingled like a well-oiled machine in two distinguished world premieres and a reprise of Twyla Tharp’s elegant Nine Sinatra Songs. And the company showed that it has a […]

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Is there anything worse than an evening of bad Gilbert & Sullivan? If there is, let me know. The Lyric Opera of Kansas City’s production of The Pirates of Penzance came as a shock to my system, perhaps because I’ve become too accustomed to mediocre-to-awful productions of the operettas by this celebrated team of Victorian satirists. This version, to my […]

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Saying goodbye is an art form unto itself. You want a farewell to be just the right length, use just the right words and contain the perfect mix of sentiment and encouragement, tristesse and hope. Saturday’s Friends of Chamber Music concert at the Folly Theater was part of a 60-city farewell tour of the Guarneri String Quartet, […]

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In the famous opera scene in Pretty Woman, Julia Roberts asks Richard Gere how she’s supposed to know what’s happening onstage if everyone’s singing in Italian. “Oh, you’ll know,” he replies. “Believe me, you’ll understand. The music’s very powerful.” I’ve always scoffed at the pre-supertitle cliché that if a performance is good enough you can follow an […]

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There are several reasons why you might expect Benjamin Bagby’s performance of Beowulf to fall flat on a contemporary American audience. The renowned medievalist performs the epic as a one-man bard, accompanying himself on a diminutive six-string harp that is his only prop. He recites-sings the monodrama in the original Anglo-Saxon, which to non-expert ears sounds like a mixture […]

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The Academy of St. Martin in the Fields is one of the most venerated musical establishments in England, one could even say in the history of English music. You know a chamber orchestra has clout when it can convince a composer of the stature of Sir William Walton to compose a new work for it. Well, almost […]

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The final seconds of Yuri Possokhov’s Firebird contain a simple event that is so natural, so poignant and dramatically satisfying that it made my heart clutch up. Naturally I’m not going to spoil it: You’ll just have to see the Kansas City Ballet’s winter program that opened Thursday at the Lyric Theatre. Let’s just say it’s just one […]

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Chen Yi’s musical world is a cheerful place teeming with activity and populated by stately emperors, raucous villagers, artful calligraphers and lovers boating through lotus blossoms — always against the backdrop of the gorgeous Chinese landscape. Her new seven-movement song cycle for choir and string quartet From the Path of Beauty feels so all-encompassing it’s like a miniature […]

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Competition was fierce this year for the best of 2008, for one simple reason: Kansas City’s culture remains on such an upward trajectory that it’s not out of line to say this might have been the city’s best-ever year for classical music and dance. I mean ever, as in, during Our Town’s 155-year history. Whoa, baby. […]

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One local holiday tradition that changes little from year to year is the Kansas City Ballet’s production of The Nutcracker, and that will be either good or bad news depending on whether you’re a traditionalist or an adventurist. At the opening performance on Saturday afternoon, December 6, I found myself not minding a bit that I was […]

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Konstantin Lifschitz, the Ukrainian-born pianist, is one of those restless musical spirits who sails uncharted waters seeking ever-elusive truths behind musical masterpieces. There was a mystical, almost séance-like atmosphere to his Friends of Chamber Music recital on Friday, the 31-year-old pianist’s only appearance in the United States this season. Expectations were high for this program […]

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No one ever accused Puccini of subtlety for his potboiler Tosca. A diva agrees to “give in” to a lecherous villain in return for her lover’s freedom. Instead she stabs him. Villain betrays her. The lover is executed. She leaps to her death. Didn’t I see this on the Lifetime Channel? The cast and crew […]

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