Fate is always present in William Shakespeare’s play “Romeo and Juliet,” in which the “star-crossed lovers” are swept along to their inescapable, tragic destiny.
Fate also permeates Devon Carney’s new production of Sergei Prokofiev’s ballet version of “Romeo and Juliet,” which will be presented by the Kansas City Ballet for five performances beginning Oct. 13 at the Muriel Kauffman Theatre.
Carney has an almost karmic connection to the ballet. In his 20-year career as a dancer, he has danced the role of Romeo more than 30 times, the first being in May 1984, when he was a principal dancer with the Boston Ballet. Now he is passing along his wealth of experience and insight to the dancers of the Kansas City Ballet.
“One of the things I’m trying to convey to each dancer is that they need to be a real person,” Carney said. “They need to let go of that formality. It’s a passionate role. It’s a great love story as well as a tragedy, and you have to have that kind of passion and it has to be believable from the back of the house.”
The sense of fate is even present in the sets and costumes. The Kansas City Ballet is using the same sets and costumes that were used in that fateful 1984 production in which Carney first danced the role of Romeo. In fact, Carney’s name is still in the costume that the Kansas City Ballet’s Romeos will wear.
“The paint hadn’t dried and the tights were still wet from being dyed when the production was first done,” Carney said. “It’s really kind of cool to come full circle like that.”
It was also on that 1984 production that Carney met Alain Vaës, the designer of the “Romeo and Juliet” sets who would eventually design the Kansas City Ballet’s dazzling production of “The Nutcracker,” which made its debut in 2015. It’s also not the first time Carney is using costumes he’s worn before; in March, for “Sleeping Beauty,” KC Ballet’s dancers used sets and costumes from the Cincinnati Ballet, where Carney used them for his production there.
With all of these serendipitous elements, it was only natural that Carney add a new character to “Romeo and Juliet.”
“I’m personifying the character of Fate,” Carney said. “It is very much a part of ‘Romeo and Juliet,’ that reality of destiny and fate. The lovers are destined to meet each other and whatever fork in the road they take. It’s going to be very cool to have her — it’s a female, of course — this sense of a driving force throughout the whole play.”
Carney describes his choreography as being neoclassical and musical but edgy and unpredictable.
“It’s ‘Romeo and Juliet,’ a very inspiring story for new couples and old couples,” Carney said. “A lot is riding on the last scene, kind of like the ‘mad scene’ in ‘Giselle,’ or the 32 fouettes for the Black Swan in ‘Swan Lake’ or the ‘Rose Adagio’ in ‘Sleeping Beauty.’ This ballet hinges on the crypt scene. It all comes down to are they believable. Do you believe that person is willing to take their own life for the love of another? I’m dying — dying, ha! — to see what it looks like.”
7:30 p.m. Oct. 13, 14, 20 & 21 and 2 p.m. Oct. 15 & 22. Muriel Kauffman Theatre, Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts. $35.50-$`130.50. 816-931-8993 or www.kcballet.org.
Riccardo Muti and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra received thunderous applause when they played a sold-out Helzberg Hall two years ago.
When the cheers finally died down, the world-renowned conductor came onstage and promised the audience that he and the Chicago Symphony would return. Muti will make good on that promise when the Harriman-Jewell Series presents him and the Chicago orchestra on Oct. 11 at Helzberg Hall.
With the “William Tell” Overture and Anton Bruckner’s Symphony No. 4, on the program, it promises to be another powerful evening of music.
Muti first visited Kansas City in 1986 when the Harriman-Jewell Series brought him to town to conduct his band at the time, the Philadelphia Orchestra. Kansas City and, especially, the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art made quite an impression on Muti.
“When I visited your fantastic museum, I saw a painting by the 18th century artist Corrado Giaquinto,” Muti said. “I have a Corrado Giaquinto in my house. When I saw that painting in your museum and it said the artist was born in Molfetta, the town where I grew up, I suddenly felt like I was at home. Immediately, Kansas City became a sort of hometown for me.”
When Muti returned to his “hometown” in 2015, Kansas City made an even bigger impression.
“I was looking forward to play again in Kansas City because my first experience was so wonderful,” Muti said. “My experience with the Chicago Symphony was even more warm. Your new hall and the audience were so musical. I don’t speak about my performance because you have to judge, but the atmosphere was like a big European hall. Once again, I felt at home.”
For his next appearance in Kansas City, Muti will start with the ultimate curtain-raiser, Gioachino Rossini’s “William Tell” Overture. Rossini’s opera about the great Swiss hero is hardly ever performed in this country, but its overture is a fixture in American pop culture.
“It’s a five-hour opera,” Muti said. “The first time I did it in Florence, it lasted from eight o’clock in the evening to two o’clock in the morning. When I finished the last chord in C major, a cellist held his cello in the air and shouted ‘Viva, Rossini! Viva, Italia!’ I am very shocked that in the United States the William Tell Overture is a pop piece called ‘The Lone Ranger.’ This is an insult. This is music of the revolution to conquer freedom. It’s not just Speedy Gonzalez running in a cartoon.”
Rounding out the first half of the concert is a brand new piece by Chicago Symphony composer-in-residence Elizabeth Ogonek, “All These Lighted Things.” The main event, however, is Bruckner’s majestic Symphony No. 4, known as the “Romantic.”
The “Romantic” is what Bruckner himself called his symphony, first performed in 1881. In a letter to the conductor Hermann Levi, Bruckner wrote, “In the first movement after a full night’s sleep the day is announced by the horn, 2nd movement song, 3rd movement hunting trio, musical entertainment of the hunters in the wood.”
The work is, indeed, evocative of a dark, medieval Germanic forest. Bruckner’s Fourth is an archetype of musical Romanticism, and Muti calls it “Romantic baroque.”
Muti is an experienced Brucknerian. He first recorded the Bruckner Fourth with the Berlin Philharmonic in 1986. In June, he and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra released a recording of Bruckner’s Ninth and later in October, Deutsche Grammophon will release a live recording of the Bruckner Second that Muti recorded with the Vienna Philharmonic, an orchestra he has worked with for 46 years.
As steeped in Bruckner as he is, there is one quality in the composer’s music that Muti values above all others, and that is his mysticism.
“Most of Bruckner’s music is a sort of gratitude or prayer to God,” Muti said. “But not in the superficial sense, like somebody who goes to church every morning saying ‘mea culpa, mea culpa.’ It’s like a bridge that takes you to heaven.”
The Harriman-Jewell Series in partnership with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra will present master classes conducted by musicians from the Chicago Symphony from 3 to 5 p.m Oct. 11 at the University of Missouri-Kansas City campus. The public is invited to observe at no cost and no reservations are needed.
7:30 p.m. Oct. 11. Helzberg Hall, Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts. $30-$85. 816-415-5025 or www.hjseries.org.
iLuminate at JCCC
Combining ballet with high-tech light suits and complex computer synchronizations, iLuminate is a dance company like none other. The group that’s been called “best new act in America” on “America’s Got Talent” is coming to the Yardley Hall on Oct. 13.
With the help of costumes of electroluminescent wires and LEDs, iLuminate — created in 2009 by Miral Koth, a software engineer and dancer — takes ballet into a dazzling new realm of light and movement.
A $30 pre-show dinner will be available at the college’s Café Tempo at 6:30 p.m.
8 p.m. Oct. 13. Yardley Hall, Johnson County Community College, 12345 College Blvd., Overland Park. $28-$44. 913-469-4445 or www.jccc.edu/theseries.