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THREE LONELY SAILORS, A LOCAL PHENOM AND A DANCE LEGACY REBORN: Our picks for the performing-arts highlights of fall 2013

By Paul Horsley

Joyce DiDonato crop

Can anything good, to paraphrase scripture, come out of Prairie Village? Many around the world have proclaimed Joyce DiDonato the greatest mezzo-soprano of our time. The peerless world-renowned star, who appears in the Lyric Opera’s The Capulets and the Montagues, is just one standout in a fall arts season that also includes the rebirth of a great dance company, a Tony Award-winning play, a jazz legend, six new choreographic works, the Metropolitan Opera’s most recent Brünnhilde and the man I believe will soon be called the greatest violinist alive (if he isn’t already). So light a fire under it and start making plans!

Sept. 11th through Oct. 6th: The Rainmaker (Metropolitan Ensemble Theatre). A visiting con-man stirs up things in a drought-plagued Midwestern town. The MET kicks off an impressive season with a production of Richard Nash’s 1954 classic that features Scott Cordes, Jessalyn Kincaid and others. 816-569-3226 or kcmet.org.

Sept. 21st-29th: The Capulets and the Montagues (Lyric Opera of Kansas City), Kauffman Center. Bellini’s take on the Romeo and Juliet story, based on sources earlier than Shakespeare, casts the male lead as a “trousers role.” Enter our own Joyce DiDonato, in a role that has won her international accolades. The Lyric has built a fine new production around our returning hero(ine). 816-471-7344 or kcopera.org.

Sept. 21st-22nd: Petrushka and other works (Owen/Cox Dance Group), Polsky Theatre, JCCC. Jennifer Owen and Bradley Cox collaborate with musicians from Park University for a program that includes choreography to the solo piano suite of Stravinsky’s classic score. 913-469-4445 or owencox.org.

Jodie Gates
Jodie Gates

Sept. 27th-28th: New Dance Partners (JCCC Performing Arts Series), Yardley Hall, JCCC. This collaboration of JCCC Performing Arts Series with local dance companies will feature newly commissioned works, including one by former Joffrey Ballet principal dancer Jodie Gates, for Kansas City Ballet (to be repeated on the Ballet’s October program), Wylliams/Henry Contemporary Dance and Owen/Cox Dance Group. 913-469-4445 or jccc.edu/theseries.

Sept. 27th through Oct. 27th: “Your Hit Parade” (Quality Hill Playhouse). From 1935 through the late 1950s the radio and TV program “Your Hit Parade” provided an informal history of popular music during a critical evolution from Tin Pan Alley to Swing, doo-wop, Elvis and beyond. J. Kent Barnhart is your host for this stroll down “American Songbook lane.” 816-421-1700 or qualityhillplayhouse.com.

Oct. 4th: Dance Theatre of Harlem (Harriman-Jewell Series), Kauffman Center. Founded in 1969 by former Balanchine dancer Arthur Mitchell, this company has remained on the forefront of contemporary dance. Its triumphant return to the stage in 2012, after an eight-year budgetary hiatus, received warm acclaim. 816-415-5025 or hjseries.org.

Stefan Jackiw
Stefan Jackiw

Oct. 4th-6th: Stefan Jackiw, violin (The Kansas City Symphony), Kauffman Center. During Stefan’s first appearances here I found myself sputtering for superlatives. His “unspeakably beautiful” Tchaikovsky Concerto was followed by a Harriman-Jewell Series recital in 2007: “I’ve heard hundreds of violinists in my lifetime,” I wrote, “and presently there is not one I would rather listen to.” This time he’ll play the Mendelssohn Concerto, with Michael Stern. 816-471-0400 or kcsymphony.org.

Oct. 11th-13th: Kansas City Ballet season opener, Kauffman Center. In addition to three new works (by Jodie Gates, William Whitener and KCB’s new artistic director, Devon Carney), this program also offers Balanchine’s Allegro Brillante and a rare performance of Jerome Robbins’ Fancy Free (with music by Leonard Bernstein, later adapted for Broadway as On the Town). 816-931-2232 or kcballet.org.

Oct. 16th through Nov. 10th: Seminar (Unicorn Theatre). Theresa Rebeck’s searing play about a group of contentious writers stars Robert Gibby Brand, Chioma Anyanwu, Noah Whitmore, Logan Black and Courtney Salvage. It’s a co-production with UMKC Theatre. 816-531-7529 or unicorntheatre.org.

Wynton Marsalis
Wynton Marsalis

Oct. 19th: Wynton Marsalis (Harriman-Jewell Series), Kauffman Center. Marsalis reprises his jazz masterwork created for the 200th anniversary of Abyssinian Baptist Church, featuring his own Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra plus the 70-voice gospel choir Chorale Le Chateau. 816-415-5025 or hjseries.org.

Oct. 20th: Orchester Jakobsplatz München, conducted by Daniel Grossmann (JCCC Performing Arts Series), Yardley Hall. Musicians from 20 countries perform music by Jewish composers and others. The program includes music of Mendelssohn, Erwin Schulhoff, Gideon Klein and Gustav Mahler. 913-469-4445 or jccc.edu/theseries.

Deborah Voigt as Brünnhilde
Deborah Voigt as Brünnhilde

Oct. 25th: Deborah Voigt, soprano (Harriman-Jewell Series), Folly Theater. Chosen as the inaugural Brünnhilde for the Met’s new Robert LePage production of Wagner’s Ring, Deborah is riding high in the opera world. Her recital here is heavy on Strauss, Bernstein and Bolcom. 816-415-5025 or hjseries.org.

Oct. 31st: Jordi Savall and Hespèrion XXI (Friends of Chamber Music), Folly Theater. “Blood and Honey: The Cycles of Life in the Mosaic of the Balkan Peoples” is the latest in this early-music master’s restless explorations – this time of an area where Christian, Jewish and Muslim cultures have long mixed. 816-561-9999 or chambermusic.org.

Nov. 1st-3rd: Behzod Abduraimov piano, (Kansas City Symphony), Kauffman Center. Park University prodigy Behzod, who won the London Piano Competition in 2009, makes his second appearance with KCS, this time with the Saint-Saëns Second Piano Concerto. 816-471-0400 or kcsymphony.org.

Shanghai Ballet
Shanghai Ballet

Nov. 7th: Shanghai Ballet, “The Butterfly Lovers” (JCCC Performing Arts Series), Yardley Hall. This 33-year-old company makes its KC area debut with an ancient Chinese folk tale reminiscent of Romeo and Juliet. 913-469-4445 or jccc.edu/theseries.

Nov. 9th-17th: The Magic Flute (Lyric Opera of Kansas City), Kauffman Center. See Jun Kaneko’s striking visual designs in this co-production with San Francisco Opera, directed by Harry Silverstein and featuring local favorite Daniel Belcher. 816-471-7344 or kcopera.org.

Nov. 16th: Luis Fernando Pérez, piano (ICM Concert Series), Graham Tyler Memorial Chapel, Park University. In his KC area debut the Madrid-born pianist presents a rare performance of the complete Iberia Suite by Isaac Albéniz. The former student of Pierre-Laurent Aimard, Alicia de Larrocha and others is a leading European virtuoso. park.edu.

Nov. 29th through Dec. 22nd: The Santaland Diaries (Kansas City Repertory Theatre), Copaken Stage. David Sedaris’ irreverent one-man take on Christmas, featuring the curmudgeonly elf Crumpet, is a perfect alternative to more traditional holiday fare. 816-235-2700 or kcrep.org.

Dec. 1st-10th: A Boy Was Born (Kansas City Chorale), various venues. This program celebrating the centennial of Benjamin Britten’s birth also features holiday music, Christmas carols and a sing-along encore. 816-235-6222 or kcchorale.org.

Bruce Norris

Dec. 4th-29th: Clybourne Park, Unicorn Theatre. Bruce Norris’ play about race and real estate won the 2012 Tony Award for Best Play, the Pulitzer Prize and the Olivier Prize. A must-see. 816-531-7529 or unicorntheatre.org.

Dec. 7th-24th: The Nutcracker (Kansas City Ballet), Kauffman Center. Former KCB artistic director Todd Bolender’s version of the holiday classic remains one of the best Nutcrackers in the nation. 816-931-2232 or kcballet.org.

PAULNOW

To reach Paul Horsley, performing arts editor, send email to phorsley@sbcglobal.net or find him on Facebook (paul.horsley.501) or Twitter (@phorsleycritic).

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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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