Opening the Lyric Opera’s 2019-2020 season is Mozart’s The Abduction from the Seraglio. This risqué rom-com is an exciting start to the season, with a production set in the glamour of 1930s Hollywood. What makes it even more exciting is that Prairie Village native Ben Bliss will grace his home stage for the very first time, alongside his mother, Judy Bliss, a longtime member of the Lyric Opera Chorus.
When we talked with these two Kansas Citians, it became abundantly clear that the entire Bliss family has no shortage of talent. Judy has shared her glistening soprano with Lyric Opera audiences since 1976. Ben’s tenor voice is now heard on leading opera company stages. Ben’s dad Bob is a cartoonist/caricaturist, and Ben’s sister Becky and her husband tour internationally with their band, Barnaby Bright.
Left: Little Ben Bliss, singing into a karaoke machine. Right: Judy Bliss, in costume backstage at the old Lyric Theater.
Judy has a treasure trove of favorite memories of Ben’s singing. She was so proud when he landed a solo in a high school choir concert, singing the Scottish tune “Loch Lomond.” It’s that same song that got him into the Chapman University Chorus on a scholarship, and into the vocal studio of Patrick Goeser. Ben attributes much of his success to Mr. Goeser, who threatened to lower Ben’s grade if he didn’t audition for the The Magic Flute that year. (He got the part of Tamino.)
While Ben was not particularly fond of opera while growing up, preferring to fantasize about playing pro football for the Chiefs, he has great memories of watching his mom perform at the old Lyric Theater. When Judy was singing in a production of Carmen, she smoked a cigarette on stage. Ben remembers nearly falling out of his seat when he saw her take a puff, not knowing it was fake!
As an alumnus of two of the country’s most prestigious young artist programs at LA Opera and The Metropolitan Opera, Ben has had access to the best training and operatic experiences. He says he’ll never forget when he was asked to step in as Belmonte in The Abduction from the Seraglio at The Metropolitan Opera in 2016. He took a moment just before his first entrance to look around and fully appreciate the opportunity he had been given. Now, with several years and many experiences under his belt, he will return to his hometown.
Lyric Opera of Kansas City has been, and always will be, like family. If you have been a longtime subscriber, or were gifted a ticket, you’re sure to remember the first time you saw the curtain go up on a Lyric Opera production. There are more stories in our audience like the Bliss family’s that we hope you take great pride in sharing with each other. This is your opera company, and one that resolutely aims to serve its community and make you proud.
As we end another phenomenal season, we invite you to join the Lyric family by making a gift of any size to the Annual Fund.
Please make your gift by June 30, 2019.
Above left: Ben Bliss with opera superstar and LA Opera General Director Plácido Domingo.