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Lyric Opera Announces Plans To Bring Productions To Kansas City Audiences, But Not Yet In The Kauffman Center

Don Ipock
The Lyric Opera of Kansas City has performed its Soundscapes in the City series around the city, including at the National WWI Museum and Memorial.

Outdoor productions, small venues and online performances are in the works as the Lyric Opera continues its year of "New Visions."

The Lyric Opera of Kansas City announced Tuesday that mainstage productions at the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts will remain on hold for now, while the opera explores new ways of bringing performances to audiences.

"We're calling the whole year's work 'New Visions' because, in fact, that's what it is," general director and CEO Deb Sandler said. "It's a new way of seeing things in a new way of doing things and a new way of imagining things."

Lyric leaders announced they were postponing the two major productions scheduled for 2021 in the Kauffman Center — The (R)evolution of Steve Jobs and Carmen — "until the productions can be performed safely."

Instead, the Lyric is focusing on productions that will be offered online, as well as outdoor and indoor performances with limited seating. Those offerings will include Opera in Eight Parts, a digital series on the history of opera, and a new production and world premiere of "Amahl and the Night Visitors."

courtesy Steven C. Kemp Design
A set rendering of 'Amahl and the Night Visitors' inside the Lyric Opera's production arts building in the Crossroads.

"And so we intentionally tried to create work which could be delivered digitally," Sandler said, "or which could be done before a very small audience in our production art center with all good precautions taken."

Opera in Eight Parts is designed as a guide, in two parts, "through the history and development of the operatic art form, from its beginnings in the 1600s to the present day." The digital episodes features UMKC and KU musicologists, artworks from the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art collection, and of course, opera singers.

Each package includes four 15-minute episodes, and the first will be available on October 15.

In December, the Lyric will present a new production of the holiday opera, "Amahl and the Night Visitors." Four performances will take place indoors, with limited seating, at the Lyric Opera's production arts building in the Crossroads, and showcase new puppets designed by Paul Mesner.

"We think it will be the beginning of a new holiday tradition," Sandler said. "And of course, you know, we're in the business of creating, so we couldn't be happier than to create."

Don Ipocc
The Lyric Opera of Kansas City has been performing outdoors since August, such as this Soundscapes in the City performance at the KCK Farmers Market in Rosedale.

The Lyric plans to continue a free outdoor series called Soundscapes in the City, which launched in August. Performances have taken place at farmers' markets, parks, as well as in the Lyric's Crossroads parking lot and the lawn of the National WWI Museum and Memorial.

"It gives us an opportunity to have a kind of freedom that we don't often have the opportunity to get. We're traveling, we're going out into the community, people aren't coming to us, we're going out to them," Sandler said.

More performances are scheduled on October 8 at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, and on November 21 at Powell Gardens.

She added, "And we would hope to continue this even post-COVID. And I say post-COVID with great happiness and expectation because I know it will come."

Later in the year, Sandler said, the Lyric will announce the company's plans for the spring.

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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