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Backstage And Beyond

A ‘MESSIAH’ LIKE NO OTHER: Spire employs unique model to build world-class performances

Spire Chamber Ensemble, now in its 10th season, distinguishes itself each year for what can quite honestly be described as one of the most bracing versions of Handel’s Messiah one can hear anywhere in the nation. A peculiar alchemy can result when you bring musicians of the caliber of the Juilliard School of Music’s Elizabeth […]

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WEB OF TRADITIONS: Guitarist formed local group to explore a myriad of styles

Career and family: It is possible to have both, but it takes work. Guitarist Beau Bledsoe is a peripatetic soul by nature, and over the years he has explored the roots of music he loves through travels to Seville (flamenco), Lisbon (fado), Buenos Aires (tango), Istanbul (Middle Eastern styles), and Mexico. More recently he has […]

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STUCK IN A LOOP: Fugard play speaks to America’s racial stalemate

The more you examine the work of South African playwright Athol Fugard, the more you realize that the racial dynamics in his dramas reveal as much about our own social ills as they do about the specific culture in which he was raised. Though it’s true that many of the 87-year-old author’s 40 or so […]

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ROADS LESS TRAVELED: ‘Yule’ not want to miss these four holiday offerings

Every arts lover has a favorite holiday performance or two, traditions which over the years become part and parcel of the season. And while I wouldn’t want to discoursge anyone from attending one of Kansas City’s more durable large-scale presentations of music, theater, or dance, as the holiday season becomes ever-more crowded with (often quite […]

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TOP CLEF: Harriman presents local debut of refreshing new star

Nadine Sierra shot to the top of the opera world with a glittering burst of speed. At age 20, the Florida-born soprano became the youngest-ever Grand Finalist at America’s most prestigious vocal competition, the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions. She went on to score big at major houses (San Francisco, Paris, La Scala, Berlin’s Staatsoper). […]

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ONE GIANT LEAP: Symphony opens season with world premiere commemorating American milestone 

“The last rail is laid. The last spike is driven. The Pacific Railroad is completed.” Thus began the report that was telegraphed to the Associated Press on May 10th, 1869, announcing the completion of one of the great engineering feats of the 20th century: The North American Continental Divide had been spanned by rail, and […]

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RIGHT HERE, FOR THE FIRST TIME EVER: New Dance Partners builds bridges of innovation

New Dance Partners is built on such an ingenious concept that it’s surprising it hasn’t gained footing in more cities than it has. The idea is simple: Each professional company in town is paired with an eminent choreographer toward creating a new work, and an “umbrella” organization presents the works on a joint program each […]

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THREE, BY THREE: New companies join the Lyric Opera in presenting audience-friendly fare

One of the many things that we owe Mozart is his determination to wrest opera from the clutches of European nobility. Beginning with his 1782 Abduction from the Seraglio, a “singspiel” written in the language of the Viennese public, he helped establish opera as an art-form “for the people.” Opera has been striving to maintain […]

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KNOCK KNOCK: Theater companies embark on daring collaboration

Few moments in theater have stimulated discourse on the role of women in society as compellingly as Nora’s abrupt departure at the end of Ibsen’s A Doll’s House. “The door-slam heard ’round the world,” as it’s been called, was one of the boldest acts in all of literature, yet it remains almost as controversial today […]

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SOUL OF THE CELLO: Cathedral series begins with that warmest of instruments

Even at age four, Ho Anthony Ahn was absolutely certain he was not going to be a violinist. His father, a prominent violinist and teacher, had assumed his firstborn would play “first fiddle” in what he pictured as a family string quartet. Ho wanted no part of it. “It just hurt so badly, that metal […]

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DEATH & DESPAIR IN DES MOINES: Metro Opera continues its remarkable ascent

The best summer festivals highlight the unexpected: The juxtaposition of idyllic landscapes with the sort of high-end performances that we usually experience in urban settings sometimes permits us to view great art in fresh ways. Three hours north of Kansas City, nestled in verdant Iowa hills, stands one of America’s most delightful and distinguished opera […]

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ANYTHING GOES: Musical conventions for weddings are all over the map

At the end of Wagner’s opera Lohengrin, the source of the most famous bridal march of all, poor Elsa collapses and dies as her heroic groom (who is a Knight of the Holy Grail, after all) sails off to a higher destiny. Misogynistic much? Perhaps it’s a relief that this tune, “Here Comes the Bride,” […]

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LOVE AT FIRST PLIÉ: Dancers find love through artistry and understanding

Lilliana Hagerman and Lamin Pereira dos Santos may thrive on dancing the hyper-romantic characters of 19th-century ballets, but in real life their romance is as contemporary as it gets. They met, in fact, on Facebook Messenger: After a mutual dancer-friend “introduced” them, they spent three months getting acquainted online, through chat and Skype. And already […]

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TELL ME A STORY: Summerfest makes new friends (but always keeps the old)

Continuity and renewal are key to any arts organization that wants to stick around. Summerfest, now in its 29th season, has remained vigilant on both fronts, with a core of chamber musicians (many of them Kansas City Symphony members), a solid if at times shifting pool of additional colleagues, and a long-term view of artistic […]

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GREEN GRASS, GOLDEN JUBILEE: Theatre in the Park celebrates 50 years with big musicals

What could possibly motivate someone with a full-time job and perhaps a family and a mortgage to devote an entire month of his or her life to something that will not reap one red cent? Gene Kelly said it best in Singin’ in the Rain: “Gotta dance! … Broadway rhythm, it’s got me, everybody sing […]

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IN REVIEW: ‘Hamilton’ finally takes the stage in Kansas City (and good luck getting a ticket)

Part of the genius of Hamilton lies in Lin-Manuel Miranda’s recognition that rap and hip-hop, which have already brought enormous energy to nearly every aspect of American culture, might also cast light into some of the more obscure, moribund corners of the Broadway musical. From the very first number of this instant classic (“Alexander Hamilton”) one […]

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SHADOWS ON THE PLAIN: MTH ‘clarifies’ classic musical by paring it to basics

If you still think of Oklahoma! as a wholesome slice of Americana and cheerful life on the prairie, you might want to take another look. You don’t have to scratch hard find darker elements beneath the surface of this musical from 1943: misogyny, gun violence, bullying, anti-immigration sentiment. And although Musical Theater Heritage at Crown […]

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IN REVIEW: With a single program, the Kansas City Ballet has altered the tone of the performing arts in our community

Four women far upstage in pajama-like outfits skip in place, their limbs flying in precisely crafted, whimsical calisthenics. Downstage, a ballerina in red pointe shoes is dancing, now two ballerinas, and now with men, in a juxtaposition of classical and contemporary styles that appears all the more startling because of the ensemble’s placement in front […]

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HUMOR IN THE MIX: KC Ballet nabs world-renowned local hero for commission

David Parsons embodies the kinds of values and ideals that any Kansas City artist would do well to emulate. He is as comfortable hacking through weeds at the Leawood home of his hardy 91-year-old father, UMKC Emeritus Professor Stanley Parsons, as he is gathering accolades (with the New York-based company he founded in 1985) in […]

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WHAT CRISIS? Kansas City bucks national odds with ever-new, ever-fresh arts groups

If there really is a crisis in the performing arts in America, somebody forgot to send Kansas City the memo. In the past decade, our city has seen the formation of dozens of small non-profit organizations, from theater companies to chamber ensembles, dance groups to jazz orchestras, choruses to opera companies. And there’s no reason […]

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REVIEW: Visually appealing ‘Pearl Fishers’ entertains by embracing the opera’s conundrums

Contrary to popular opinion, Bizet’s The Pearl Fishers does not rely on a single beautiful duet: It has several quite lovely numbers and a few choruses that are worth your time. To be sure, taken as a whole this opera, which preceded the inimitable Carmen by 12 years, is a bit of a mess. Yet to […]

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