What better way for the Harriman-Jewell Series to celebrate its 50th anniversary than with an opera-ballet with a story from the golden age of Latin literature?
The Mark Morris Dance Group will perform George Frideric Handel’s “Acis and Galatea” on Friday and Saturday at the Kauffman Center.
The Harriman-Jewell Series co-commissioned the work from Mark Morris along with four other prestigious arts presenters around the country: Cal Performances at the University of California, Berkeley, the Celebrity Series of Boston, the Krannert Center for the Performing Arts in Illinois and Lincoln Center in New York City.
“About five years ago I began discussions with arts managers that we know to see if there’s some special project that we could participate in for our 50th season,” said Clark Morris, executive director of the Harriman-Jewell Series.
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“A lot of ideas were generated through those discussions, and we chose what we thought was the boldest and best idea we could possibly manage to bring to Kansas City. It’s an enormous collection of really talented artists all smashed together in the same project.”
This isn’t just a ballet, it’s also an opera. In addition to the Mark Morris dancers, there are also a full orchestra and choir. In the baroque era, the line between opera and ballet was not always so clear.
“In my opinion and my historical understanding, baroque opera always had a full combination of the lyric arts, dancing and music and singing and declamation,” Mark Morris said.
“It was a complete production, and that’s what I’ve done with this. Baroque music has always, always appealed to me very profoundly. It was such an incredible period of expressiveness and drama and fabulous situations and had a very, very big point of view about the world and how people function in it.”
The story for Handel’s opera-ballet is taken from the ancient Roman poet Ovid’s “Metamorphoses.” The first act is pure pastoral pleasure with the nymph Galatea and the shepherd Acis declaring their love for each other and enjoying Arcadian bliss. The second act turns darker with the appearance of the giant ogre Polyphemus who also “burns” for Galatea. But the opera ends on a high note with, yes, a metamorphosis.
“‘Acis and Galatea’ is a joyful work,” Clark Morris said. “It’s very colorful and beautiful. The scenery was designed by Adrianne Lobel and it’s gorgeous, just visually stunning. Isaac Mizrahi, the celebrity designer, did all of the costumes. So it has a lot of wonderful people involved. The lighting is brilliant. It’s really something to see.”
This is one of the rare events on the Harriman-Jewell Series that will be presented for two nights. Clark Morris says the series made a substantial investment in “Acis and Galatea” and wants to give Kansas City ample opportunity to see the work.
And according to critics in New York where the work has already been performed at Lincoln Center, it’s one of Mark Morris’ finest.
New York Times critic Alastair Macaulay called it “a constant source of life and sensuous color” and the New Yorker’s Joan Acocella called it “a new small jewel in Morris’ crown.”
“Audiences can expect a beautiful, excellent, very high quality, fabulous show,” Mark Morris said. “I can’t guarantee you people will like it because that’s not my job, but my suggestion is watch and listen. That’s all that’s required of you. It’s not very long and it’s very, very satisfying. It’s a beautiful tragedy.
“You don’t have to know a thing about it and you don’t have to decide in advance what it’s going to be like because it won’t be whatever you think it’s going to be.”
7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Muriel Kauffman Theatre, Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts. $25-$70. 816-415-5025 or www.hjseries.org.
Joyce DiDonato, Juan Diego Florez
One of the most anticipated concerts of the year will take place Sunday at Helzberg Hall.
(And “anticipated” is a bit of an understatement.)
Two of the world’s greatest opera singers, mezzo-soprano and beloved hometown girl Joyce DiDonato and tenor Juan Diego Florez, will give a duo recital of bel canto repertoire that promises to be a crowd-pleaser.
Tickets are extremely limited. The box office opens at noon, so if you’d like to go, you’re encouraged to acquire your tickets as early as possible. If anything could possibly top DiDonato singing at the World Series, this is it.
Kansas City Symphony
Fifteen years ago when the Kansas City Symphony would perform the music of Gustav Mahler, one would attend out of a sense of duty or morbid curiosity. Not anymore.
Michael Stern has transformed the Kansas City Symphony into a superb Mahler orchestra. Now when Mahler is on the program, audiences look forward to the concert with great anticipation.
The Kansas City Symphony will perform Mahler’s Symphony No. 5 on Friday, Saturday and Feb. 8 along with Franz Joseph Haydn’s Symphony No. 22, “The Philosopher.”
Mahler’s Fifth is a long work, more than an hour, but the right performance will keep you engrossed every second. The famous fourth movement, the adagietto, was supposedly Mahler’s love letter to his wife, Alma. As a profoundly beautiful statement, the movement is often performed by itself.
Leonard Bernstein conducted it for Robert Kennedy’s funeral Mass in 1968 and it was memorably used in Luchino Visconti’s film “Death in Venice.”
But the whole work is refulgent from beginning to end. The great conductor Herbert von Karajan once said that while listening to a symphony “you forget that time has passed.… The fantastic finale almost forces you to hold your breath.”
Kansas City Ballet
“New Moves” is an opportunity to experience the raw power of dance as performed by the Kansas City Ballet in an intimate setting.
It’s also a chance to discover the work of some talented choreographers before they become well-known names.
Beyond the excitement of the up-close physicality of the performance, it’s always a thrill to visit the Todd Bolender Center for Dance and Creativity, a rehabbed architectural wonder that never fails to make the jaw drop.
Bach Aria Soloists
Narong Prangcharoen is a rising star among young composers.
Born in Thailand and now based in Kansas City where he is teacher at the Community Music and Dance Academy of the University of Missouri-Kansas City Conservatory of Music and Dance, Prangcharoen has won a slew of international awards for his compositions and is the recipient of a 2013 Guggenheim Fellowship.
The Bach Aria Soloists led by violinist Elizabeth Suh Lane will perform a work that it commissioned from Prangcharoen on a program entitled “Dialogue” on Saturday at Village Presbyterian Church. The group also will perform works by Bach and other music.
Super Bowl Sunday recital
For those disheartened by the recent NFL football scandal, organist Jan Kraybill has just the ticket.
She will perform a Super Bowl Sunday recital at 3 p.m. Sunday at the Community of Christ Temple in Independence. Her inspiring program promises to lift your spirits and get you in the proper frame of mind for the Super Bowl.
Kraybill will play the Temple’s Casavant organ with its 5,685 pipes in a program of music by Eugene Gigout, Samuel Barber, Charles Stanford and Louis Vierne. She also promises you’ll be home in plenty of time for the big game.
3 p.m. Sunday. Community of Christ Temple, 201 S. River Blvd., Independence. Free. www.cofchrist.org/visit-temple-organ.