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Immersion In Music Inspires Jun Kaneko's 'The Magic Flute'

Artist Jun Kanekogrew up in Japan, but he's been based in Omaha, Neb. since the mid-1980's.  He's known for his monumental ceramic sculptures, including his signature "dangos," or rounded forms - and he’s also created scenic and costume design for opera.

Mozart’s The Magic Flute marks Kaneko's third opera. The set is almost entirely digital animated projection, with colorful, whimsical costumes. The Lyric Opera of Kansas City opens the production this weekend at the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts.

Interview Highlights: Jun Kaneko

On developing a design for opera

"Each opera, when I start, I just listen to the music. I mean four times, three times a day; that's about almost eight hours of listening, until some image comes out. So, usually, this process takes at least two months, sometimes three months...I really believe opera is music.

"Music and the visual part, it has to fuse as one, as a final statement."

On putting his studio practice on hold

"Three years not doing studio work is a lot. For me, I still consider I'm a visual artist, a studio artist. Opera design (is) something special. Unfortunately, I don't know how to do it - opera design and studio work simultaneously.
"Because opera design for me...once it starts, it's like a stream. It just has to keep on flowing design-wise, with the concept and music and everything. So if I stop even one day in between, it distracts my conceptual flow for the design. So, once I start, I just concentrate on the design completely - in this case (The Magic Flute), three years.

"So I'm trying to not catch up, but trying to make a balance in my life again."

On the importance of viewing his designs in different venues

"I'm curious...because even (the) same design depends on stage designer. They're actually (the) one who is making all visual decisions after the design. So, I'm curious how someone might use costume design and stage set design and then to try to express their idea of the stage. It is a really interesting thing to see."

The Lyric Opera of Kansas City presents Mozart’s 'The Magic Flute,' November 9, 13, 15, and 17, 2013, Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts. 816-471-7344.

'Jun Kaneko: Solo,' November 1 - 21, 2013, Sherry Leedy Contemporary Art, 2004 Baltimore Avenue, Kansas City, Mo. 816-221-2626

Kaneko's artwork is also on display in downtown Kansas City, Mo., near the Kauffman Center, outside the Bartle Hall Convention Center.

Kansas City is known for its style of jazz, influenced by the blues, as the home of Walt Disney’s first animation studio and the headquarters of Hallmark Cards. As one of KCUR’s arts reporters, I want people here to know a wide range of arts and culture stories from across the metropolitan area. I take listeners behind the scenes and introduce them to emerging artists and organizations, as well as keep up with established institutions. Send me an email at lauras@kcur.org or follow me on Twitter @lauraspencer.
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