courtesy: Lyric Opera of Kansas City

The Lyric Opera of Kansas City announced this week, just days after the season finale of Tosca, that artistic director Ward Holmquist is out of a job — one he's held since 1998. 

"Lyric Opera of Kansas City is reorganizing along the lines of standard industry structure for the purpose of improved effectiveness and efficiency in our operation and has eliminated the position of Artistic Director. Lyric Opera of Kansas City today announces the departure of Artistic Director Ward Holmquist. We thank him for his years of service," Board chair Kenneth Hager said in a statement issued Thursday.

On Wednesday, NPR released a "Field Recording" of internationally renowned opera star and Kansas City native Joyce DiDonato at the Stonewall Inn in New York City.

The riots that took place at the bar in 1969 are widely credited with launching the modern gay rights movement in the U.S. 

Here is DiDonato's video, and below is a link to the full NPR story explaining why she made it.

Local Listen: Vinson Cole

Jan 9, 2015

Vinson Cole may not be a household name, but the operatic tenor is revered in Kansas City's artistic circles.

This week's edition of Local Listen features a splendid track from Cole's 1993 album "In Love With Love."

Cole's contributions will be recognized in a concert benefiting the Lyric Opera of Kansas City on Sunday, January 11 at 4 pm at the Folly Theater, 300 W. 12th Street, Kansas City, Mo.

Julie Denesha / KCUR

As the Kansas City Symphony warmed up in the pit, some 300 metro-area students filed into Muriel Kauffman Theatre for The Lyric Opera of Kansas City’s Thursday night dress rehearsal. The production of "The Italian Girl in Algiers" updates Gioachino Rossini’s zany farce by turning the heroine Isabella (Irene Roberts) into an adventurous aviatrix. She's determined to rescue her one true love Lindoro (Taylor Stayton) who has been taken captive by the Turkish Bey Mustafa (Patrick Carfizzi).

Laura Spencer / KCUR

Richard Gibson, 33, enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps just after high school and was stationed in Iraq. When his service ended in 2003, and he returned to Kansas City, he was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder. 

With a love for singing and performance, Gibson turned to opera. For the past eight years, he's been a member of the Lyric Opera of Kansas City chorus. He's also taking on a new role, as conductor of a Veteran's Chorus

courtesy: Joyce DiDonato

Update Monday, 4:45 pm: 

Kansas City’s homegrown opera diva Joyce DiDonato won’t be singing the National Anthem during the World Series, at least during the first four games.

A vigorous social media campaign, including an online petition signed by more than 3,000, lobbied Major League Baseball to #letjoycesing.  

Julie Denesha / KCUR

As they waited for other musicians and singers to arrive, composer Hunter Long and mezzo-soprano Anna Hoard lounged among music stands and percussion instruments in a sixth-floor room in the Town Pavilion building in downtown Kansas City, Mo. Hoard sings the role of Charlotte in Long’s new chamber opera titled Lost in Translation, one of five new operas that will have their world premiere on Friday.

Laura Spencer / KCUR

It's a Thursday morning in the rehearsal space at the Lyric Opera Center in the Crossroads Arts District. About 20 students from the Kansas City Art Institute stand on either side of a long table covered with sketches, floor and building plans and colorful set drawings. They reach into pockets to snap photos with cell phones, or focus in with larger cameras.

Julie Denesha / KCUR

For the past 25 years, the Lyric Opera of Kansas City’s apprentice program has offered graduate-level voice students at the University of Kansas and the University of Missouri-Kansas City a chance to develop their operatic skills on a professional stage.

Auditions for the two-year program are competitive; there are only about a handful of positions. The apprentices then have the opportunity to appear in either two or three productions at the Lyric each year.

Julie Denesha / KCUR

When American soprano Katie Van Kooten came down with a cold just before the final dress rehearsal of the Lyric Opera of Kansas City's "La Bohème," it became clear that she was not going to be able to "sing out" in her role as Mimì.

But the show - or at least the rehearsal - went on.

Julie Denesha / KCUR

The Magic Flute, by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, first premiered in Vienna in 1791. A comic tale of love buffeted by the forces of good and evil, the opera is a singspiel, including both spoken dialogue and song.

For the Lyric Opera of Kansas City's production, artist and ceramicist Jun Kaneko, based in Omaha, Neb., designed the fanciful set design and costumes.

Cory Weaver

Artist Jun Kaneko grew up in Japan, but he's been based in Omaha, Neb. since the mid-1980's.  He's known for his monumental ceramic sculptures, including his signature "dangos," or rounded forms - and he’s also created scenic and costume design for opera.

Mozart’s The Magic Flute marks Kaneko's third opera. The set is almost entirely digital animated projection, with colorful, whimsical costumes. The Lyric Opera of Kansas City opens the production this weekend at the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts.

Updated: Friday, October 4, 11:15 a.m.

Russell Patterson, general artistic director of the Lyric Opera of Kansas City for four decades, as well as one of its founders, died Wednesday; he was 85. Patterson was also the first music director for the Kansas City Symphony.

From 1957 to 1998, Patterson served as the Lyric's artistic director. In a history of the company posted on its website, he's credited with sparking the idea:

Julie Denesha / KCUR

The story of the rivalry between the Capulets and the Montagues is familiar to fans of Shakespeare. But a variation on the theme of the secret, doomed love between Romeo and Giulietta is explored in the Lyric Opera of Kansas City's production of The Capulets and the Montagues (I Capuleti e i Montecchi).

Vincenzo Bellini's opera premiered in 1830 and looked to early Renaissance sources for inspiration. Unlike Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, Bellini's work  focuses as much on the conflict between the families as it focuses on the bond between the lovers.

From London to New York, Joyce DiDonato has performed on some of the world's biggest stages, but Kansas City holds a special place in her heart.

In the second part of Tuesday's Up to Date, Steve Kraske talks with the Prairie Village native about her latest role in the Lyric Opera's The Capulets & The Montagues. Opera general director and CEO Deborah Sandler joins the conversation, too.


Julie Denesha / KCUR

Lyric Opera of Kansas City's production of The Capulets and the Montagues (I Capuleti e i Montecchi) premieres later this month. It's the story of Romeo and Juliet, told by Italian composer Vincenzo Bellini.

Julie Denesha / KCUR

To celebrate the opening of the 2013-2014 season, Lyric Opera of Kansas City and Kansas City Ballet threw open their doors to scores of First Friday crowds. 

Julie Denesha / KCUR

Love conquers all in "The Mikado," a comic opera by Arthur Sullivan and W. S. Gilbert introduced in London in 1885. The Lyric Opera of Kansas City presents the satirical comedy in five performances through April 28.

Julie Denesha / KCUR

"The Flying Dutchman" is an early opera by Richard Wagner. And, like many of Wagner's later works, it's rooted in myth. The Lyric Opera of Kansas City presents this tale of a ghost captain, cursed to roam the high seas. Every seven years, the captain goes ashore – and if he finds true love, he’ll be released from the curse.

Laura Spencer / KCUR

Composer Kirke Mechem grew up in Topeka, Kansas, but he's lived in San Francisco since 1963. He says he still considers himself a Midwesterner: "You can take the boy out of Kansas, but you can never take Kansas out of the boy."

Opera superstar Joyce DiDonato won a Grammy this year for Best Classical Vocal Solo.

The Prairie Village native and mezzo-soprano was the star of a TV special titled "Homecoming" produced by Kansas City's KCPT and PBS Arts. The concert with the Kansas City Symphony at the newly-opened Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts was broadcast nationally, and now, she has a new disc out titled "Drama Queens," which she recorded in Italy in July.

Julie Denesha / KCUR

When it comes to the plot of Giuseppe Verdi's opera Il Trovatore - which revolves around a love triangle, murder, and revenge - audiences are advised to suspend their disbelief and enjoy the music.

Julie Denesha / KCUR

The tragic tale of love and betrayal marks the return of soprano Elizabeth Caballero to the Lyric Opera as the title character in "Madama Butterfly." Cabellero performed the role of Liù, a slave girl, in the Lyric's production of "Turandot" in 2011. 

Laura Spencer / KCUR

The Lyric Opera of Kansas City on Friday marked the official opening of its new $10.5 million, two-building facility in the Crossroads Arts District.

Changes are happening at Kansas City’s Lyric Opera. Its general director, Evan Luskin, is retiring next month after 26 years with the company. 

Nick Heavican / Virgin Classics

Prairie Village native Joyce DiDonato just won a Grammy for best classical vocal solo and travels the world performing in opera houses far and wide as one of this planet's best-loved mezzo sopranos.

A daily digest of headlines from KCUR.

  • UMKC Business School Breaks Ground
  • Kansas Republicans Ready For Caucuses
  • Missouri House Votes to Protect Gun Owners
  • Workplace Discrimination Bill Heads To Governor Nixon
  • Opera Explores Nixon’s Visit To China
  • A Fan's Notes: The Madness of March

Laura Spencer / KCUR

It’s difficult today to imagine a time when the United States and China didn’t have trade relations or communicate at all. But, in 1972, President Richard Nixon’s visit to China, a once-demonized Communist regime, was heralded as “the week that changed the world.”

The Lyric Opera of Kansas City today announced the appointment of Deborah Sandler as the new general director as of July 1, 2012.

If you hear the word opera and think of a stuffy art form - with horned helmets and a large singing lady - think again. A new opera, co-commissioned by the Lyric Opera of Kansas City, is based on Lois Lowry’s The Giver - a popular but controversial novel about a dystopian society.

Turning a Novel into an Opera