Opera Dives Deep
This free lecture series provides audiences with fresh insights from regional scholars and industry professionals to enrich appreciation and understanding of the operas in our season. Both established opera goers and curious newcomers alike are sure to make discoveries.
Opera Dives Deep (formerly At Ease with Opera) is held at the Kauffman Foundation Conference Center, Brookside Room, 4801 Rockhill Road, Kansas City, MO 64110.
Opera Dives Deep: Sondheim on Sondheim
Monday, April 24, 2023, 7:00-8:00 pm
Speaker: Sara McClure
Title: Sondheim in the Opera House
Description: Several of Stephen Sondheim’s works sit at the junction of opera and musical theater, especially Sweeney Todd and A Little Night Music. This presentation explores the characteristics of these shows while considering Sondheim’s education, influences, and early experience working with another genre-bending composer, Leonard Bernstein, on West Side Story. Through Sondheim we can ask, do genre designations still matter in the 21st century?
Monday, May 1, 2023, 7:00-8:00 pm
Speaker: Dr. John Tibbetts
Title: Finishing the Hat
Description: One of Sondheim’s most famous songs is “Finishing the Hat” from Sunday in the Park with George. What is it about? Bending to his painting, George confesses that his obsession with art takes him away from the world outside the painting. It is more important to him than worrying about people’s feelings. Instead, he has a painting to create—he has to “finish the hat.” This presentation tracks this central theme in Sondheim’s work—THE TENSION BETWEEN THE LIFE OF ART AND THE ART OF LIFE—ARTIFICE VS REALISM—as it fuels two of his stage musicals: one is very well known, of course, Sunday in the Park with George (1984); and the other is a work relatively unknown, Evening Primrose (An ABC Stage 64 television presentation November 16, 1966).
Opera Dives Deep: Carmen
Tuesday, September 6, 2022, 7:00-8:00 pm
Speaker: Allison Lewis
Title: Carmen’s History, Power, and Engagement
Description: Using the Carmen-centric chapter in Dr. Naomi André’s 2018 book Black Opera: History, Power, and Engagement as a guide, this presentation explores Carmen’s representation from iterations of the story in nineteenth-century France to the more modern interpretations in the United States and South Africa. Speaker Allison Lewis is a singer, PhD student in American Studies at the University of Kansas, and a protégé of Dr. André.
Monday, September 12, 2022, 7:00-8:00 pm
Speaker: Dr. Colin Roust
Title: Adapting Carmen
Description: This presentation examines the adaptations and transformations found in four versions of the Carmen story. The works discussed include Prosper Mérimée’s novella (1845), Georges Bizet’s opéra-comique (1875), Ernest Guiraud’s grand opera version of Bizet’s opera (1875), and Peter Brook’s controversial spectacle La tragédie de Carmen (1981).
Monday, September 19, 2022, 7:00-8:00 pm
Speaker: Karen Brown
Title: Carmen– Movement, Music, and More
Description: In her varied and enduring career as a ballerina, artist, teacher, and lecturer, Ms. Karen Brown has encountered Carmen a few times, to say the least. This presentation examines the dance rhythms and styles utilized in Bizet’s masterpiece and considers the broader history and function of dance in opera.
Opera Dives Deep: La traviata
Monday, October 17, 2022, 7:00-8:00 pm
Speaker: Dr. Jane Sylvester
Title: Stage to Screen and in Between: Violetta and La traviata in Contemporary Popular Culture
Description: With its beautiful, flawed, and virtuosic heroine, Verdi’s La traviata has been staple in the operatic repertory since its premiere nearly 170 years ago. While celebrated as a muse and icon today within the worlds of film and high fashion, the lead character of Violetta was critiqued in her early inception, with issues of characterization, identity, and body image at center stage. This talk explores Violetta then and now, acknowledging the tensions that surrounded her creation while celebrating her reincarnations in our own popular imagination.
Monday, October 24, 2022, 7:00-8:00 pm
Speaker: Dr. Raffaele Cipriano
Title: La Traviata: Painting a Musical Portrait
Description:Premiered nearly 170 years ago, La traviata and its music continue to endure. Composer Giuseppe Verdi’s writing for the orchestra yields a rich display of interwoven themes crafted to highlight the voices and paint a sound-portrait of the complex characters on the stage, especially the main character Violetta. Kansas City-based conductor Dr. Raffaele Cipriano presents an interactive lecture exploring the music of Verdi’s beloved opera.
Monday, November 7, 2022, 7:00-8:00 pm
Speaker: Dr. Felicia Londré
Title: The Lady of the Camellias: The Romantic and The Real
Description: Alexandre Dumas fils wrote his novel and play– both titled La Dame aux camélias – after the death of his mistress Marie Duplessis (née Alphonsine Plessis). Paris society was shocked by both the realism and the romanticization of a fallen woman. Dumas fils was caught between the moral watchdogs of mid-19th-century Realism and his profligate father who had written over-the-top Romantic dramas of the 1830s.
Opera Dives Deep: Amahl and the Night Visitors
Monday, November 28, 2022, 7:00-8:00pm
Speaker: Dr. Neal Long
Title: ‘Tis the Season: A Survey of Holiday Operas
Description: Amahl and the Night Visitors has endured on stage and on screen since its premiere in 1951. Although Amahl is often regarded as the most popular Christmas opera, it is by far not the only opera drawing on holiday themes. Opera has embraced Christmas, holiday, and winter stories beginning with its origins as an artform in the 17th century. This presentation will survey Christmas and holiday operas ranging from stories of the Nativity to settings of Dickens’ A Christmas Carol to recently-premiered works of the 21st century.
Monday, December 5, 2022, 7:00-8:00pm
Speaker: Rev. Scott Myers
Title: Art of the Night Visitors
Description: Art depicting, interpreting, and illuminating the Magi narrative within the Nativity Story is global, arising from all continents—Africa, Asia, Europe, North, Central and South America. The art of the “Night Visitors” who surprised Amahl and his mother is Modern, Ancient, Middle Ages, Renaissance, and Post-Modern. Let’s look at this for an evening and take in its beauty and meaning.
Opera Dives Deep: The Shining
Tuesday, February 21, 2023, 7:00-8:00 pm
Speaker: Dr. Alison DeSimone
Title: All Work and No Play: Stephen King’s The Shining (1977) and What Keeps Us Up at Night
Description: Stephen King’s third novel The Shining appeared to public acclaim in 1977; its popularity all but ensured a film adaptation, which came out three years later in 1980, directed by Stanley Kubrick. While the movie has lived on in infamy, the novel is very different, exploring and enhancing themes that are more insidious than ghosts and a haunted hotel. In this talk, I’ll introduce you to the Torrance family of the novel, and we will dive into the book’s perspective on family trauma, the toll of creativity, and of course, what happens to us when we’re snowed in– in the mountains– in a place with a lot of unsavory history.
Monday, February 27, 2023, 7:00-8:00 pm
Speakers: Paul Moravec and Mark Campbell
Title: So It Begins: Paul Moravec and Mark Campbell in Conversation
Description: Prior to arriving in Kansas City for Lyric Opera’s production of The Shining, composer Paul Moravec and librettist Mark Campbell join Opera Dives Deep via Zoom to discuss their careers, inspiration, and secrets behind the making of the opera. Note—this is a live presentation.
Monday, March 6, 2023, 7:00-8:00 pm
Speaker: Dr. Rebecca Johnson
Title: Shining Light Into a Dark Mind and a Ghostly Hotel
Description: 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.” 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.