Deborah Sandler, general director and CEO of the Lyric Opera of Kansas City, has wanted her company to expand its offerings for quite some time, and it’s finally happening.
This September, the company is launching its Explorations Series.
With performances at the Lyric Opera’s Michael and Ginger Frost Production Arts Building and Grace & Holy Trinity Cathedral, the series will explore the world of vocal music beyond the fully staged grand operas that are the Lyric’s usual fare.
Explorations also will showcase the singers in the Lyric’s new Resident Artists Program.
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“I have spoken in the past about the vision and mission of the company and our desire to have a bigger footprint in the community,” Sandler said. “We are always committed to what we do at the Kauffman and so fortunate to have that space, but we also want to experiment with different kinds of works and explore a different kind of repertoire. We want to expand our offerings and attract new audiences.”
Explorations will be bookended by concerts featuring the four singers of the Resident Artists Program: soprano April Martin, mezzo Samantha Gossard, tenor Casey Candebat and baritone John Viscardi.
“They’re four very, very talented young people,” Sandler said. “On our first program, we’re going to meet them and they’re going to tell us a little bit about themselves and how they got to be here and where they studied, and they’re going to sing some of their songs. Then we’re going to hear them at the end of the year, and we’re going to see what their year was like developmentally.”
The two middle concerts of the season bring a pop sensibility to classical vocal music. In October, the lieder of Franz Schubert will be performed alongside the songs of the Beatles. Leonard Bernstein considered the Beatles songs, with their lyricism and pure beauty, the Schubert lieder of our age.
“There is something so magical hearing these singers do the Schubert lieder, and then a switch is flipped, and they sing the Beatles, but in absolutely the most beautiful arrangements you’ve ever heard,” Sandler said. “It is a very moving program. The songs will be accompanied by piano and violin, but the way the violin is used is beyond the way you usually hear it played for the classical repertoire.”
The Schubert/Beatles program is a collaborative effort with the New York Festival of Song.
In January, it’s “The Juliet Letters” by the very eclectic rock musician Elvis Costello, known as a “pop encyclopedia” for his wide-ranging stylistic influences. Costello’s “The Juliet Letters” for voice and string quartet shows the composer embracing classical art song.
“The combination of voice and string quartet is somewhat unexpected,” Sandler said. “We’re not just going to do a concert, but we’re going to create an environment, so there will some scenery and there will be some movement. It will be semi-staged. That’s what we’re trying to do. We’re trying to do neat things.”
The final concert of the season, featuring the Resident Artists singers, is a program of art songs by American composers.
By the way, what exactly is an “art song”?
“It’s just a musical term to differentiate it from a pop song,” Sandler said “I could say they’re all ballads, in a way. They all tell a story. They all express a sentiment. Songs are songs, right? Art song, I guess, is one of those terms that music people use to feel very important, but it’s just words set to music.”
After doing considerable market research, Sandler and her team have discovered that people were interested in programs that were shorter and more intimate. So none of the Explorations programs will be longer than an hour and a half. There also will be receptions with libations following all of the concerts.
“We want it to be informal, we want it to be friendly and we want to meet a whole bunch of new people,” Sandler said. “We want to deepen the relationship with our current audience and hopefully throw the net wider on future audiences. I do see this as audience development. We’re looking to make connections with new people, and we expect people to leave these programs smiling.”
For more information, visit KCOpera.org.
▪ Meet the Resident Artists: 2 p.m. Sept. 11. Lyric Opera Michael and Ginger Frost Production Arts Building, 712 E. 18th St. Free.
▪ Schubert | Beatles: 8 p.m. Oct. 1. Grace & Holy Trinity Cathedral, 415 W. 13th St. $30-$35.
▪ Elvis Costello’s “The Juliet Letters”: 8 p.m. Jan. 28 and 2 p.m. Jan. 29, 2017. Lyric Opera’s Michael and Ginger Frost Production Arts Building. $30-$35.
▪ Art Song Series: American Voices: 2 p.m. March 26. Lyric Opera Michael and Ginger Frost Production Arts Building. $15-$20.