Parvan Bakardiev is bringing the Wichita Grand Opera to the Carlsen Center Saturday, Oct. 15, in a production of “La Boheme” that he promises will exemplify all the qualities he holds dear in opera: a traditional approach, great singing and sumptuous sets and costumes.
Bakardiev has been putting the grand in the Wichita Grand Opera since he became its president and CEO 16 years ago. The Wichita Grand Opera has attracted some of the world’s greatest opera singers, including Luciano Pavarotti, Placido Domingo and KC’s Joyce DiDonato. The company also takes opera all over the state of Kansas, giving those in smaller communities a taste of the art form.
To help Bakardiev spread the good news of opera, bass-baritone Samuel Ramey has been named Wichita Grand Opera ambassador and artistic adviser, effective Nov. 1.
“We’re delighted to have Sam Ramey among the ranks of our team,” Bakardiev said. “He is a world-renowned artist from Colby, Kansas, and his stature, persona and dedication to his home state is going to be very important to promote the Wichita Grand Opera and make it a household name.”
Ramey, who is a distinguished professor of opera at Wichita State University, also maintains a distinguished opera career. He has appeared as a headliner in major productions at the Metropolitan Opera and opera houses around the world. Ramey is singing two roles in “La Boheme”: the landlord, Benoît, and the elderly government minister and admirer of Musetta, Alcindoro.
“The rest of the cast is wonderful, too,” Bakardiev said. “And we have beautiful sets that were built in Italy by Stivanello, an important set designer and studio. Absolutely gorgeous. When the curtain opens you’re transferred right into Paris because it’s like a movie picture. It’s a feast for the eyes when you see it.”
“La Boheme” is one of the most popular operas in the repertoire. Baz Luhrmann’s “Boheme” ran for 228 performances on Broadway, and the opera also inspired the hit musical “Rent.” Filled with memorable melodies and a heartbreaking story of impoverished artists living in a Parisian garret, Puccini’s masterpiece never seems to lose its appeal.
“When Puccini wrote ‘La Boheme,’ he stated that he actually lived the life of the bohemians,” Bakardiev said. “The story is timeless. It could be happening today or a hundred years ago. And it will be happening a hundred years from now.
Renée Fleming at Helzberg
Soprano Renée Fleming is one of those classical music superstars, like Yo-Yo Ma, whose popularity transcends the world of classical music. Just witness her rendition of the national anthem at the 2014 Super Bowl that led to a social media frenzy usually reserved for the latest Beyoncé video.
The beloved diva will be making her fourth appearance on the Harriman-Jewell Series Saturday, Oct. 15, at Helzberg Hall.
“In execution, she’s technically perfect,” said Clark Morris, executive director of the Harriman-Jewell Series. “She’s able to sing a wide variety of repertoire, but on top of that there’s something very, very special.”
He’s also looking forward to hearing her inside Helzberg Hall.
There aren’t many tickets left for Fleming’s recital, which will include a wide variety of repertoire, ranging from songs by Camille Saint-Saëns and Robert Schumann to New World Latin composers like Manuel Ponce and Antônio Carlos Gomes.
“It’s the kind of program that we love,” Morris said. “She’s going to conclude with a set of songs from ‘The King and I,’ which is a lovely way to end a series program.”
Musica Sacra at Rockhurst
Musica Sacra led by Timothy McDonald will open its new season with three lesser-known sacred works of the 18th century for chorus and orchestra, just the sort of music that distinguishes this fine ensemble. The concert is Oct. 16 at Arrupe Hall on the campus of Rockhurst University.
The program will include the Vespers psalm “Beatus Vir” and a Credo by Antonio Vivaldi and a Passion chorale by Dietrich Buxthude, “Gott, mein Werk ich Lasse,” based on the familiar Lenten hymn “O Sacred Head Surrounded.”
“We’re also featuring a Mass setting that the 18th-century composer Leonardo Leo wrote for the royal chapel in Naples in the early 1740s,” McDonald said. “Leo was very highly regarded in his time for sacred music and his operas.”
American Early Music
The Early Music movement is generally associated with European music, but there was also a thriving musical culture in 18th century America.
Te Deum Antiqua will explore American Early Music in a concert called “Sacred Shapes” Oct. 16 at the Rainbow Mennonite Church.
Matthew Christopher Shepard will lead his ensemble in music by the colonial composer William Billings, generally considered America’s first choral composer, and shape note hymns, a congregational singing style that originated in New England and became especially popular in the American South.
7 p.m. Oct. 16. Rainbow Mennonite Church, 1444 Southwest Blvd., Kansas City, Kan. $15 suggested donation. Te-Deum.org.