Summer can be just too hot for classical music. When the sun is beating down, you’d rather listen to some pop confection than a complex, emotional work by Ludwig Van Beethoven or Gustav Mahler.
So welcome back, autumn.
It’s time again for music with depth, music that rewards careful listening.
This fall, the opportunities for great music and dance in Kansas City are as numerous as the falling leaves.
“Roma: Music of the Gypsy” and “Spirit of India”
One of the marvelous things about music is its ability to take you to the far corners of the world simply through sound.
In October at the RecordBar, Ensemble Iberica (led by guitarist Beau Bledsoe) will present “Roma: Music of the Gypsy,” which will trace the wanderings of the Roma people from their homeland of India, through Central Asia and throughout Europe.
“The prevailing linguistic wisdom is that the Roma were an Indian military tribe,” Bledsoe said. “They still have a lot of military-style Sanskrit words in their language. Even when someone is speaking Calo, the Spanish Gypsy dialect, they still have those words in there.”
Ensemble Iberica is in its second year, and so far the group has been warmly received for its innovative programming, which draws on Hispanic cultures from around the world.
Bledsoe, the founder and artistic director of Ensemble Iberica, is a Kansas City treasure whose immense experience with both the European classical repertoire and non-Western music is rare and deep. He goes to the source to learn his craft. For example, he has studied Gypsy music in Mexico, Spain and Turkey.
“There are more Gypsies in Turkey than any other place I’ve been,” he said. “And the music, to my ear, is a real blending of Turkish classical music and art song and the typical Gypsy music. They have these houses which are like our Mutual Musicians Foundation where people drink raki and play all night.
“The best instrument I own is a Turkish oud. I play it all the time. I’m really serious about it. So we’re going to do a big Turkish set on the Roma program and try to re-create the feel of a raki house.”
Later in October, the Performing Arts Series of Johnson County Community College will present a program of exotic music on, shall we say, a larger scale. “The Spirit of India” features the Bollywood Masala Orchestra and Dancers of India. It should be a sight and sound extravaganza.
Presenting concerts like “Spirit of India” dovetails perfectly with the mission of Johnson County Community College, said Emily Behrmann, general manager of the Performing Arts Series. In the series’ 25-year history, it has brought 65 world cultures to the Carlsen Center.
“We’re always encouraging people to learn for a lifetime, so if we can introduce you to a new genre or art form, that’s a wonderful opportunity for us,” Behrmann said. “We’ve presented programs like Chinese acrobats, the Brazil Guitar Duo, concerts with Ensemble Iberica and now the Bollywood Masala Orchestra and Dancers. These are things that you just don’t see in Kansas City every day.”
Behrmann was introduced to Bollywood music several years ago by her husband, who is something of a Bollywood buff.
“He knew I loved musicals and dance and theater, so we rented something and we watched it,” she said. “It was great. So when this opportunity came to present Bollywood live, I thought, well, let’s give it a try.
“There’s so much going on onstage. There’s an orchestra of 17 players playing different instruments, and dancers performing throughout. It kind of tells a story, but if you’ve ever seen a Bollywood movie, you know that sometimes the story just gets you from one musical number to the next. I think those who like Broadway and pop artists and folk music are going to have a lot of fun.”
▪ “Roma: Music of the Gypsy”: Oct. 5 at the RecordBar, 1020 Westport Road. ensembleiberica.org.
▪ “Spirit of India” with the Bollywood Masala Orchestra and Dancers of India: Oct. 23 at Yardley Hall, Johnson County Community College. 913-469-4445 or jccc.edu/theseries.
Kansas City Symphony
As the weather turns colder, the Kansas City Symphony will be serving up some hearty meat-and-potatoes classics.
In October, the Symphony, conducted by Michael Stern, will take us on a trip to sunny Italy with music from the operas of Gioacchino Rossini, Giuseppe Verdi and Giacomo Puccini.
The Kansas City Symphony Chorus will join the orchestra for a selection of popular overtures and favorite choruses.
Carlos Miguel Prieto has established himself as a favorite guest conductor when Stern is away. He has a special way with Russian music, as those who heard him conduct Dmitri Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 10 and music from Sergei Prokofiev’s “Romeo and Juliet” in previous concerts can attest.
He’ll conduct Prokofiev again when he returns in November. Prokofiev’s Fifth Symphony is one of the greatest works of the 20th century and, based on Prieto’s previous outings with the Kansas City Symphony, one should expect another electric performance.
On the same program, pianist Benjamin Hochman will join the orchestra for Manuel de Falla’s Spanish showpiece “Nights in the Gardens of Spain.” If you’re looking for something exciting to do Thanksgiving weekend that doesn’t involve football or shopping, this is it.
▪ Festa Italian: Oct. 23-25. Helzberg Hall, Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts
▪ “Spanish Nights” and Prokofiev’s Fifth: Nov. 27-29. Helzberg Hall.
Kansas City Symphony: 816-471-0400 or kcsymphony.org.
Lyric Opera of Kansas City
Despite the tumult over the recent departure of its longtime artistic director, Ward Holmquist, there seems to be no loss of forward momentum at the Lyric Opera of Kansas City.
This fall, the company continues its trajectory of innovative productions and expanding repertoire.
In September, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s “Don Giovanni” will get the film noir treatment. Many opera updatings that push the envelope seem forced, but for Mozart’s dark masterpiece, this promises to be a perfect fit, with the Don as a womanizing antihero right out of the pages of a James M. Cain novel.
I’m especially looking forward to November, when the Lyric will present its first-ever production of Antonin Dvorak’s “Rusalka.” The opera is based on the fairy tale of a mermaid who wants to become human, a story that also inspired Hans Christian Andersen and a Disney movie. With memorable melodies like “The Song to the Moon,” Dvorak’s rich, romantic score perfectly captures an enchanted undersea world, and the Lyric’s production promises to match the music in magic.
▪ “Don Giovanni”: Sept. 26-Oct. 4. Muriel Kauffman Theatre, Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts.
▪ “Rusalka”: Nov. 7-15. Muriel Kauffman Theatre.
Lyric Opera: 816-471-7344 or kcopera.org.
Kansas City Ballet
These are epic times at the Kansas City Ballet.
Over the next few months, Devon Carney, the ballet’s artistic director, is going to unveil two big new productions. In October, it’s “The Three Musketeers.” The classic swashbuckler gets the ballet treatment, and the men of the Kansas City Ballet will get a workout. Lots of swordplay and romance should make this appealing to even non-ballet fans.
In December it’s the debut of Carney’s multimillion-dollar “Nutcracker.” The Todd Bolender “Nutcracker,” which delighted Kansas City audiences for 30 years, was retired at the end of last season. Now it’s time for Carney to take a crack at the holiday classic.
Carney is a traditionalist when it comes to the great storybook ballets, so those who cherish the Bolender approach should not be disappointed. But Carney has a lot of new toys at his disposal in the Muriel Kauffman Theatre, so expect lots of Christmas glitter and stunning new sets and costumes. Let’s hope this new production lives up to our sugar plum fantasies.
▪ “The Three Musketeers”: Oct. 9-18. Muriel Kauffman Theatre, Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts.
▪ “The Nutcracker”: Dec. 5-24. Muriel Kauffman Theatre
Kansas City Ballet: 816-931-8993 or kcballet.org.
It’s hard to pick out a couple of stand-outs from the Harriman-Jewell Series. It seems that everything this fine group presents is golden.
But there are a couple of concerts this fall that are not to be missed.
In September, it’s the legendary Audra McDonald. This Tony and Emmy Award-winning singer can do it all, from Broadway to opera. Her program is yet to be announced, but count on it, it will be grand.
The Chicago Symphony Orchestra, one of the world’s finest, hasn’t been to Kansas City in decades. Thankfully, we now have a concert hall that will do them justice when they perform in Helzberg Hall in October. Riccardo Muti will conduct two powerhouse works: Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5 and Mahler’s Symphony No. 1. Now that’s a classical music one-two punch.
▪ Audra McDonald: Sept. 26. Helzberg Hall, Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts
▪ Chicago Symphony Orchestra: Oct. 27. Helzberg Hall
816-415-5025 or hjseries.org.
Friends of Chamber Music
In October, the Friends of Chamber Music will present the great Hungarian pianist Andras Schiff in a program of great piano sonatas, music that should deepen introspection.
Schiff will play sonatas by the unparalleled Viennese masters Beethoven, Franz Joseph Haydn, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Franz Schubert.
Every couple of years, Peter Phillips and the Tallis Scholars return to Kansas City, and we’re very glad they do. This December, the Friends of Chamber Music will present the Tallis Scholars in a Christmas program of Renaissance polyphony and the music of contemporary Estonian composer Arvo Part.
▪ Andras Schiff: Oct. 16. Folly Theater, 300 W. 12th St.
▪ The Tallis Scholars: Dec. 11. Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, 416 W. 12th St.
Friends of Chamber Music: 816-561-9999 or chambermusic.org.
You can reach Patrick Neas at email@example.com.