Classical Music & Dance

The Classical Beat: KC Symphony’s new season features Joyce DiDonato, Bernstein & Harry Potter

Kansas native Joyce DiDonato will perform with the Kansas City Symphony in March 2018, singing “La Mort de Cléopâtre” by Hector Berlioz and a selection of songs by Bernstein.
Kansas native Joyce DiDonato will perform with the Kansas City Symphony in March 2018, singing “La Mort de Cléopâtre” by Hector Berlioz and a selection of songs by Bernstein. Special to The Star

Joyce DiDonato, an evening-length symphony by Gustav Mahler and several concerts featuring the music of Leonard Bernstein. Those are just some of the highlights of the well-balanced and intriguing 2017-18 Kansas City Symphony season.

DiDonato will make her appearance in March 2018 singing “La Mort de Cléopâtre” by Hector Berlioz and a selection of songs by Bernstein. That same month, Yo-Yo Ma will perform a cello concerto by Franz Joseph Haydn in a show that also includes a commission/world premiere piece by Chris Rogerson.

The year will also feature fantastic young musicians who are superstars-in-the-making, like pianists Natasha Paremski and Andrew Tyson and violinists Stephen Waarts and Augustin Hadelich.

Bernstein’s musicals are, of course, universally acclaimed, but his serious music deserves a much stronger hearing. Stern, whose connection to Bernstein goes back to his childhood when the great man was a regular visitor to the Stern home, should bring special insight to works like the “Chichester Psalms” and “The Age of Anxiety.”

There are many special concerts, too, including an evening with Broadway legend Audra McDonald and concerts that celebrate the genius of Prince and Freddie Mercury, the lead vocalist of Queen.

It’s also great to see the return of “Messiah.” Although the Independence Messiah Choir is no longer participating, the legacy of performing George Frideric Handel’s masterpiece every holiday season, established locally 100 years ago in Independence, will continue.

All concerts in Helzberg Hall, Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts. For more information, 816-471-0400 or

Classical series

Sept. 15-17: Sergei Rachmaninoff and “Capriccio Espagnol” (Natasha Paremski, piano)

Oct. 27-29: Josef Suk: “Scherzo Fantastique”; Dmitri Shostakovich: Violin Concerto No. 1; Antonin Dvorák’s Symphony No. 8 (Mayu Kishima, violin)

Nov. 3-5: Johannes Brahms: German Requiem; Maurice Ravel: “Pavane Pour une Infante Défunte”; Claude Debussy: “Nuages” and “Fêtes” from Nocturnes (Robert Spano, guest conductor; Kansas City Symphony Chorus with Jessica Rivera, soprano, and Nmon Ford, baritone)

Nov. 24-26: Alexander Borodin: Overture to “Prince Igor”; Frédéric Chopin: Piano Concerto No. 2; Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky: Symphony No. 6, “Pathétique” (Yoav Talmi, guest conductor; Andrew Tyson, piano)

Jan. 12-14, 2018: Esa-Pekka Salonen: La Variations; Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: Sinfonia Concertante for Violin and Viola; Jean Sibelius: Symphony No. 5 (Noah Geller, violin; Christine Grossman, viola)

Jan. 26-28: Gustav Mahler: Symphony No. 7

Feb. 2-4: Leonard Bernstein: Symphonic suite from “On the Waterfront”; Sergei Prokofiev: Violin Concerto No. 2; Robert Schumann: Symphony No. 2 (David Zinman, guest conductor; Stephen Waarts, violin)

March 16-18: Hector Berlioz: “Le Corsaire” overture and “Le Morte de Cléopâtre”; Bernstein: Songs and symphonic dances from “West Side Story” (Joyce DiDonato, mezzo-soprano)

March 23-25: Chris Rogerson: commission/world premiere to be announced; Franz Joseph Haydn: Cello Concerto in D; Bernstein: Three meditations from “Mass”; Ottorino Respighi: “Pines of Rome” (Yo-Yo Ma, cello)

April 13-15: Bernstein: “Chichester Psalms”; Tchaikovsky: “Concert Fantasy”; Ludwig Van Beethoven: “Choral Fantasy” (Kansas City Symphony Chorus; Eldar Nebolsin, piano)

June 1-3: Richard Wagner: Selections from “The Ring”; Beethoven: Piano Concerto No. 5, “Emperor” (Johannes Debus, guest conductor; Martin Helmchen, piano)

June 15-17: Einojuhani Rautavaara: “Cantus Arcticus”; Haydn: Violin Concerto No. 1 in C; Thomas Adès: Violin Concerto, “Concentric Paths”; Felix Mendelssohn: Symphony No. 4, “Italian” (Augustin Hadelich, violinist)

June 22-24: Bernstein: “The Age of Anxiety” (Symphony No. 2) for Piano and Orchestra; Berlioz: “Symphonie Fantastique” (Ran Dank, piano)

Special concerts

Sept. 8 & 10: Screenland at the Symphony: “Star Trek Into Darkness” Live

Oct. 21: Screenland at the Symphony: “Nosferatu” (Dorothy Papadakos, organ)

Nov. 18: Queen’s Greatest Hits with the Kansas City Symphony (Brent Havens, guest conductor; Brody Dolyniuk, vocalist)

Feb. 15-18, 2018: “Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets” in Concert

March 10: The Music of Prince (Marshall Charloff, vocalist)

May 5: Audra McDonald

Holiday concerts

Dec. 1: Canadian Brass: “Christmastime Is Here!”

Dec. 8-10: Handel’s “Messiah” (Matthew Halls, guest conductor; Kansas City Symphony Chorus; Kiera Duffy, soprano, Dann Coakwell, tenor, Allyson McHardy, mezzo-soprano and Morgan Smith, baritone)

Dec. 15-19: Christmas Festival (Kansas City Symphony Chorus)

Dec. 22 & 23: Disney in Concert: Tim Burton’s “The Nightmare Before Christmas”

Candlemas concert

Pagan holidays, like the Celtic Imbolc and the Roman Lupercalia, were appropriated by the Roman Catholic Church, baptized and transformed into Candlemas, which is celebrated Feb. 2, exactly 40 days after Christmas.

“Candlemas in Light, Music & Poetry” at Grace & Holy Trinity Cathedral will celebrate this ancient Christmas holiday with music by English Renaissance composer William Byrd performed by the Sacred Arts Chorale conducted by Rebecca Johnson. Lutenist Beau Bledsoe will also perform, and Vern Barnet’s sonnets will be read by actor Matt Schwader.

Barnet, a beloved local interfaith leader and founder of the Center for Religious Experience and Study, has written 154 sonnets in imitation of those by William Shakespeare. Deeply influenced by Barnet’s immersion in the world’s religions and wisdom traditions, the poems will add to the sacred atmosphere of the evening.

“Light is a spiritual metaphor in many of my sonnets,” Barnet said. “ ‘Wound Wick,’ for example, uses the burning of a candle to explore the illumination when passionate lovers find God in each other.”

The feast of Candlemas, which originated in the fourth century, commemorates Mary’s ritual purification after the birth of Christ. The story, recounted in the gospel of Luke, is also the source of the popular “Nunc Dimittis,” Simeon’s canticle of praise when Joseph and Mary presented Jesus in the temple.

“Now you may dismiss your servant, O Lord, according to thy word in peace.”

“Candlemas in Light, Music & Poetry” is not strictly Christian, however, but draws on the traditions and customs of many religions.

“This is an interfaith celebration of light, music and poetry, using a Jewish menorah and a Hindu oil lamp, incense from Mount Hiei’s famous Enryaku-ji Buddhist temple and an American Indian drum,” Barnet said. “A Qur’an will be opened to the place where Allah is named ‘the Light,’ and waters from 13 world religions represented here in Kansas City, collected on the first anniversary of 9/11 to embody our tears of grief and joy, will be used to bless those in attendance.”

People are also invited to bring candles to be blessed and the cathedral itself will be bathed in candlelight. Complimentary chocolate truffles from André’s Confiserie Suisse will be given out to provide a sweet coda to the evening.

7 p.m. Feb. 2. Grace & Holy Trinity Cathedral, 415 W. 13th St. $10.

“Juliet Letters”

In Verona, Italy, the setting of Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet,” it’s a custom for those in love to leave letters addressed to Juliet at her legendary balcony. Rocker Elvis Costello was inspired by this lovely custom to write his own “Juliet Letters” and set them to music.

As part of its Explorations Series, the Lyric Opera of Kansas City will present Costello’s “The Juliet Letters” Jan. 29 at the Michael and Ginger Frost Production Arts Building. They’ll be sung by the Lyric Opera resident artists: soprano April Martin, mezzo-soprano Samantha Gossard, tenor Casey Candebat and baritone John Viscardi. The Fry Street Quartet will accompany.

“The Juliet Letters” will feature a “special scenic environment” designed by Jeff Ridenour and will be directed by Fenlon Lamb, director of opera at the University of Missouri-Kansas City’s Conservatory of Music and Dance.

Jan. 29 at 2 p.m. Lyric Opera’s Michael and Ginger Frost Production Arts Building, 712 E. 18th St. $30-$35. 816-471-7344 or

You can reach Patrick Neas at and follow his Facebook page, KC Arts Beat.