CD jackets and album covers for Carl Orff’s “Carmina Burana” often reproduce Hieronymous Bosch’s “The Garden of Earthly Delights,” which shows sinners in various states of debauchery being poked and prodded — sometimes in the most obscene places — by demons, as they fall into the fiery pit of hell.
It’s an apt image. Orff’s oratorio celebrates excess while acknowledging that you better enjoy it now because you never know where you’re going to land next on the wheel of fortune. “Carmina Burana” has also become one of the most familiar works of classical music, its huge sound used to great effect in film and television.
The Kansas City Symphony will present “Carmina Burana” in all its sonic glory for four performances beginning March 28 at Helzberg Hall.
“Carmina Burana” is the “Game of Thrones” of classical music. Its bombastic medievalism is liberally laced with plenty of sex and carousing. Orff based his text on poems taken from a medieval collection of poetry found in 1803 in the Benedictine monastery of Benediktbeuren. There are a couple of religious works in the collection, but mostly they’re songs of love, mockery and gaming. These were some randy and rambunctious monks.
The dramatic opening and close of “Carmina Burana” are the most well-known parts of the oratorio, but there’s never a dull moment in the entire work. “Carmina Burana” alternates between soloists and full orchestra, just like Handel’s “Messiah.” Throughout, Orff’s music is full of drama, memorable melodies and surprises. There’s also a good-humored quality that brings to mind Pieter Breughel’s images of peasants drinking wine out of goat skins.
Ryan McAdams, who has previously conducted “Carmina Burana” with the Israel Philharmonic, will guest conduct the Kansas City Symphony. Charles Bruffy is prepping the Kansas City Symphony Chorus, which will be joined by the Lawrence Children’s Choir. The soloists are soprano Jennifer Zetlan, tenor Nicholas Phan and baritone Hugh Russell.
Opening the concert will be two works by two contemporary American composers: “Something for the Dark” by Sarah Kirkland Snider and “EOS: Goddess of the Dawn” by Augusta Read Thomas. Thomas writes that EOS exhibits “rhythmic syntaxes, radiant colors, and resonant harmonic fields.” Snider’s “Something for the Dark” was inspired by the poetry of Pulitzer Prize-winning Philip Levine, the former U.S. poet laureate. Snider says she wanted “Something for the Dark” to reflect the “kind of clear-eyed reflections on endurance” expressed in Levine’s poetry.
7 p.m. March 28, 8 p.m. March 29 and 30 and 2 p.m. March 31. Helzberg Hall, Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts. $30-$90. 816-471-0400 or www.kcsymphony.org.
Kansas City Ballet — New Moves
There’s something extra exciting about watching ballet in the Bolender Center. The rawness of dance is much more in your face, and it can be an intense experience. The Kansas City Ballet invites you to experience dance up close and personal when it presents “New Moves” for five performances beginning March 28.
The program features works by emerging choreographers, including Haley Kostas and Gary Abbott as well as three members of the company: James Kirby Rogers, Emily Mistretta and Courtney Nitting.
7:30 p.m. March 28, 29 and 30 and 2 p.m. March 30 and 31. Michael and Ginger Frost Studio Theater, Todd Bolender Center for Dance & Creativity, 500 W. Pershing Road. $40. 816-931-8993 or www.kcballet.org.
The sound of a gamelan orchestra is as golden as the instruments on which it is played. As soon as you hear that distinctive tinkling, you are transported to a golden Balinese pavilion. It’s easy to see why Debussy, Ravel and Britten were entranced by the gamelan’s spell.
How lucky that Kansas City gets a chance to have that experience via Gamelan Genta Kasturi. The homegrown gamelan ensemble will give a performance March 24 at the Atkins Auditorium.
Performing on exquisite instruments decorated with scenes from the Ramayana, Gamelan Genta Kasturi, led by Patrick Alonzo Conway, will be accompanied by dancers performing various styles of Balinese dance. The program will begin with the dancers welcoming the audience by showering them with flowers.
Also on the program is a piece written in the “Kebyar” or “Lightning” style of gamelan music, which Conway says is highlighted by “abrupt bursts of sound, shifts in tempo, rapid stops.”
Groups like Gamelan Genta Kasturi and Beau Bledsoe’s Ensemble Iberica are what make Kansas City’s music scene so special. These incredible musicians are bringing the world to Kansas City, and for that we should truly be grateful.
1 p.m. March 24. Atkins Auditorium, Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art. Free ticket can be acquired at info desk or www.nelson-atkins.org. To learn more, visit www.gamelangentakasturi.org.