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At Ease With Opera

The Kansas City Lyric Opera Guild is proud to present the award-winning At Ease With Opera lecture series. All programs are FREE to attend. All programs will be conducted online, via Zoom. No in-person programs will be scheduled. 

If you are unable to attend the scheduled At Ease With Opera, please reach out to Bill Everett at to request a copy of the presentation recording.

October 19, 2020 | 8:00 p.m.

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Opera

Opera can be funny, and not always intentionally so. This program will explore some of the funny stories about opera singers, opera conductors, and hilarious occurrences that have taken place during opera productions. The presentation will include some videos of opera humor. This is a reprise of an At Ease With Opera presentation given several years ago which, according to audience reaction at the time, was one of our most popular programs.

Join us to share a laugh, which we all need in these challenging days!

Speaker: Don Dagenais

Please note the special start time for this program, 8:00 p.m. rather than 7:00 p.m., in order to avoid a conflict with a Kansas City Chiefs football game scheduled for 4:00 p.m. on that same day.


October 26, 2020 | 7:00 p.m.

Modernizing Operas is Nothing New, Even Mozart Did It! Early Re-envisionings of Don Giovanni and Così fan tutte

Present-day operagoers are often outraged at the liberties some directors take with the stories and sometimes also the music of historical operas, particularly the most canonic ones. But opera, unlike most other artforms, was always saturated with an ambiguity of textual and musical content. Learn about the ambiguities that have dominated the conception and reception of Don Giovanni and Così fan tutte from Mozart’s time into the early nineteenth century.

Mozart himself created two different versions of Don Giovanni, an earlier one for Prague in 1787 and an altered version, with significant musical revisions, for Vienna in 1788. Soon after Mozart’s death, Don Giovanni and Così fan tutte underwent further revisions in different Central European theaters: they were translated into vernacular languages, the recitatives were replaced with spoken dialogues, new characters and scenes were added, and the plot was often radically altered. Contemporary directorial interventions into Mozart’s operas are in fact quite tame compared to what the norm was at the time of their creation.

Speaker: Dr. Martin Nedbal from the University of Kansas


November 2, 2020 | 7:00 p.m.

Dvorak’s American Opera: It Might Have Been

When Czech composer Antonin Dvorak came to America in the years 1892-1895, it was to assume the directorship of a newly established Conservatory of the Music of America.  During that time, inspired by the music he heard from African Americans and Native Americans, he proposed an American opera based on the epic poem by Longfellow, The Song of Hiawatha.  What happened to those plans is the subject of this presentation.

Our speaker’s book, Dvorak in America, brought to light this important Might-Have-Been American Opera.  He shares with us now his own research and some of the words and music that Dvorak left with us.

Speaker: John C. Tibbetts, Emeritus Professor of Film and Media of the University of Kansas


November 23, 2020 | 7:00 p.m.

From a Family Project to an International Megahit: The Story of Engelbert Humperdinck’s Hansel and Gretel

Engelbert Humperdinck’s opera Hansel and Gretel is a perennial favorite at holiday time, so we’ve chosen to investigate that opera as the holiday season begins.  The composer’s sister, in 1890, asked Humperdinck to set scenes from the Grimm fairy tale Hansel and Gretel so that her children could perform them at a family event. He obliged, and from these modest beginnings, a beloved opera was born. After the full-length opera’s first performance in 1893, the work’s fame quickly spread.

But what makes this opera so distinctive? Its memorable score includes actual folk songs alongside “fake” ones of Humperdinck’s own creation, Lutheran-sounding hymns, and the overt influence of Richard Wagner.

The storyline deals with serious themes, befitting its German origin, including childhood starvation and parental responsibility. The opera nonetheless has become a favorite during the festive winter holiday season.

Speaker: Dr. William Everett of the UMKC Conservatory


November 30, 2020 | 7:00 p.m.

Silent Night: A Union of Peace in A World of Chaos

As the Christmas season nears, it seems appropriate for us to revisit a popular Christmastime opera presentation by the Lyric Opera of Kansas City several years ago, the contemporary work Silent Night. 

Global unrest, nationalism on the rise, political chaos – it could be the world as we know it now, but it could also be the world as it was a little over 100 years ago. Though the 1918 Flu Pandemic hadn’t yet struck, it was only a few years away from that 1914 Christmas season in France … that season whose beginning resonated with the famous sentiment “we’ll be home for Christmas” but ended with something far different. And as persons from different nations, ethnicities, and faiths struggled to make sense of the upended world in which they found themselves, they found – as do we – that at least one commonality outweighs any difference. The common wish for peace – even if just for a moment – peace into the Christmas season.

The opera Silent Night (2011) tells the story of British, French, and German soldiers and civilians who were enemies in war, yet kindred spirits in the hope and love for Christmas peace. Through the evocative music of Kevin Puts and very human libretto of Mark Campbell, this Pulitzer Prize-winning opera convinces us that what binds us is greater than what divides us – even if for a fleeting moment. Our speaker will take us through this haunting opera based on true events using musical and video excerpts.

Speaker:  Dr. Rebecca Johnson, Metropolitan Community Colleges


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