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[VIDEO] The Pounding Rhythms Of 'Carmina Burana' Open The Kansas City Ballet Season

Carl Orff's “Carmina Burana” is based on Medieval poems about love, drinking, and spirituality – some bawdy and irreverent.


For the Kansas City Ballet's epic-scaled production, music director Ramona Pansegrau leads the Kansas City Symphony, and a chorus, on-stage and in the balconies.


Choreographed by Toni Pimble, the Kansas City Ballet's production pf "Carmina Burana" continues through October 21, at the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts.

"Most of our listeners and viewers will relate to 'Carmina Burana' through 'O Fortuna,'" William Whitener, artistic director of the Kansas City Ballet.

Interview Highlights
"'Carmina' is incredibly approachable music-wise, but it is also very visceral," said Ramona Pansegrau, music director of the Kansas City Ballet. "Those pounding rhythms are, it's one of a kind."

"'Carmina' is very exciting for all of us. We are using the Kauffman Center like its never been used before," Pansegrau said. "I will have the (Kansas City) Symphony Chorus stacked to the ceiling on both sides of the stage as well as the Ragazzi, the children's chorus from Liberty High School, as well as 24 singers on stage, and the full Symphony in the pit. So the sound should be extraordinary."

"'Carmina Burana' comes from, depending on what your sources are, the 11th, 12th, 13th century texts and poems from students of the clergy. They were satirical, irreverent, so it's a rather bawdy piece," said Whitener. "Carl Orff, in 1936, took these poems and texts and put them to music."

"Carl Orff's score is really a powerful choice for a ballet because there are so many rhythms involved, and the power of the voice and all of the underlying layers of beats and percussion, as well as the delicacy of some of the strings, and some of the other instruments," said James Jordan, ballet master of the Kansas City Ballet. "There are so many choices for the choreographer to make."

"Choreographers are very musical and especially in the case of Toni Pimble," said Pansegrau. "The tempo, for example, for one of the sections here is as fast as I've ever heard it, but it is Orff's original tempo marking. But no one ever tries it because the Latin is vicious at that tempo. She's got it that fast and it is so exciting."

"A really special addition to this particular production of 'Carmina' is the fact that Toni Pimble has chosen to have 24 of the chorus members and the three soloists really interacting with the dancers onstage," Jordan said.

"The singers onstage obviously have issues to deal with. They have to know where they are spatially on stage," Pansegrau said. "They have directions they have to turn. They will have dancers running in and around them as well as trying to sing."

"The singers are really physically challenged," said Jordan. "They are trying to really to be just like the dancers and she wants them to look like they are all a part of this Medieval community together. That it's this whole community and I think she's really achieved that. But it is challenging to pull it all together."

"But what's really exciting to me is that we have probably the largest number of singers, dancers, and musicians in the Kauffman Center for one particular event, 'Carmina Burana,' and that is a remarkable use of talent in the Kansas City area," Whitener said.

The Kansas City Ballet presents its season opener, including Toni Pimble's "Carmina Burana," Lynne Taylor-Corbett's "Mercury," and Ben Stevenson's "End of Time," through October 21 at the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts. For tickets call 816-931-2232 or go to kcballet.org.

Julie Denesha is the arts reporter for KCUR. Contact her at julie@kcur.org.
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