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. Feel free to dress casually and please arrive early to guarantee a seat. Programs are held at the Kauffman Foundation at 4801 Rockhill Road, Kansas City, MO 64110 unless otherwise noted.
Lucia di Lammermoor
Marriage and Madness: Performing Lucia di Lammermoor in Flaubert’s France
February 17, 2020 | 7:00 p.m.
MRIGlobal Mag Auditorium (4920 Cherry St)
Lucia’s Mad Scene has become the opera’s modern interpretive touchstone. But the aria performed today was not the one heard outside Italy after the work’s Neapolitan premiere in 1835. The story of this substitution goes a long way toward explaining the comparative “instability” of living operatic texts (particularly Italian ones) vis-à-vis their literary sources. First used in Paris (in both Italian and French productions) and then in French provincial theatres, the borrowed aria (from Donizetti’s earlier Rosmonda d’Inghilterra) was to serve as the backdrop for novels by Honoré de Balzac and Gustave Flaubert, and explains how Lucia’s marital “resistance” was actually understood in nineteenth-century Europe. Tonight’s speaker, Dr. Janet Johnson, was a professor of musicology at the University of Southern California for twenty years and an NEH fellow and scholar-in-residence at the Newberry Library in Chicago. She has published extensively on performances of Italian operas in Paris, among other topics.
When Kansas City Went Wild Over “Our Emma”: English-Language Opera, Middle-Class Audiences, and 1880s Performances by Emma Abbott Opera Company
February 24, 2020 | 7:00 p.m.
The American soprano Emma Abbott was the artistic director and star of a phenomenally successful opera company that toured the United States during the 1880s. She and her husband-manager were brilliant at marketing, and their company mounted English-language performances of the standard continental operatic repertory, presented not as an elite or aristocratic activity but rather as spectacular and engaging entertainment for middle-class Americans. Known as “the people’s prima donna,” Abbott was especially popular in Kansas City, where her company sold out the Coates Opera House every season between 1880 and 1890. Join Dr. Katherine K. Preston, David N. and Margaret C. Bottoms Professor of Music Emerita at the College of William and Mary and author of Opera for the People: English-Language Opera and Women Managers in Late 19th-Century America, as we explore some of Kansas City’s own operatic history!
You are invited to the Ashton-Bucklaw Wedding. Bring your own knife
March 2, 2020 | 7:00 p.m.
Gaetano Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor is rightly regarded as one of the most powerful of all Italian dramatic operas, based upon a classic Romantic tale by Sir Walter Scott and set to ravishing music in one of Donizetti’s greatest scores. In this presentation Lyric Opera preview speaker Don Dagenais will address the historical background of the story, the Scott novel, its adaptation for the Italian stage, background about the composer, and Donizetti’s magical score. Even those who have seen this opera many times will hopefully gain a new appreciation in advance of your attendance at the Lyric Opera production. You will enjoy audio and video excerpts from the opera, including not only the famous “mad scene” beloved by sopranos for 185 years, but also powerful tenor and baritone arias as well as probably the greatest operatic sextet ever written. And if you don’t know what a glass harmonica is, this is your chance to find out!
What Makes a Mad Scene?
April 6, 2020 | 7:00 p.m.
A blood-covered wedding dress, a woman dancing alone in the shadows, a blood-red moon, a barber’s raised razor, and a ghostly hotel. Against such haunting visual backdrops, some of the most iconic operatic music has appeared. From Handel’s operas to the present day, characters in some sort of heightened psychological distress often perform their anxieties through vocally demanding and thrilling music. Title characters ranging from Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor, Meyerbeer’s Dinorah, Berg’s Wozzeck, and even Sondheim’s Sweeney Todd, along with their descendants in more recent works such as The Shining, captivate audiences with the intense emotional and physical power of their mad scenes. Join actor Robert Gibby Brand and soprano Roberta Gumbel as they lead us in an informed exploration of operatic heroes and heroines who lose their minds and show off their high notes.
Author of Our Anxiety: Stephen King’s The Shining as a Late Twentieth-Century Novel
April 13, 2020 | 7:00 p.m.
When Stephen King published The Shining in 1977, it was only his third book, coming just a few years after the successful Carrie (1974) and Salem’s Lot (1975). Since then, The Shining has been adapted numerous times, including into Stanley Kubrick’s famous 1980 film starring Jack Nicholson. Despite the film’s extraordinary popularity, the author has always insisted that the original book is not exclusively a horror novel, as Kubrick’s film made it out to be. Instead, King sees The Shining as a psychological exploration of how fear and anxiety can take over the mind, leading easily to tragic downfall. Join us as UMKC musicologist Dr. Alison DeSimone leads us through a discussion of The Shining’s place in Stephen King’s early oeuvre. Then, in order to contextualize the novel historically, we will explore some of the themes embedded in The Shining that enhance its status as a book of the late twentieth century. Although set in a remote, haunted hotel, the book revolves around a family struggling with issues salient to many in the 1970s.
Shining Light Into a Dark Mind and a Ghostly Hotel: Paul Moravec and Mark Campbell’s The Shining
April 20, 2020 | 7:00 p.m.
Whether you are a fan of the iconic 1980 movie, a lover of Stephen King’s book, or don’t like scary stories but know that it has something to do with some guy chopping up a bathroom door yelling “Heeeere’s Johnny”; this heart-breaking drama will take you through the eerie supernatural straight into the heart of man fighting his own personal demons. No worries, there will be plenty of spooks spectacular in the infamous Overlook Hotel, but due to the sweeping score and thoughtfully worked out libretto, this opera moves us beyond the fright and deep into the soul of our tortured anti-hero, Jack Torrance. The opera, like the book, is both horror story and psychological thriller – and maybe even a love story – albeit one that doesn’t end with “happily ever after”. Join us as popular At Ease and preview speaker Dr. Rebecca Johnson teases out unique perspectives between the movie, book, and opera. Using excerpts from the opera, a bit of history, a run through the plot, and discussion about the music and libretto– you might understand the significance of “redrum” before the curtain ever goes up.