Kelts Prepares For Second Season

Christopher Kelts, Conductor
Christopher Kelts, Conductor

A native of St. Louis, Christopher Kelts is ready to begin his second season as music director/conductor of the Kansas City Civic Orchestra. He also conducts the Eastern Jackson County Youth Orchestra, and has guest conducted with the Chamber Orchestra of the Ozarks and the Atchison Symphony Orchestra. Mr. Kelts is also the former assistant conductor of the Kansas City Ballet.

Mr. Kelts is currently finishing a doctoral conducting degree from UMKC-Conservatory of Music & Dance. He holds degrees in orchestral conducting; studying with such teachers as Robert Olson, Glenn Block, and Paul Vermel. Alongside his conducting training, Mr. Kelts is also a trained violist. His teachers include Karen Tuttle, Kate Hamilton, and Amy Muchnick. While at UMKC, Mr. Kelts served as assistant conductor of the Conservatory Orchestras and Opera. He has performed such operas as Le nozze di Figaro, Il Ritorno di Ulisses in Patria, Sussanah, Pirates of Penzanc e, Hansel and Gretel, Guilo Cesare, and Puccini’s Suor Angelica and Gianni Schicchi. [nggallery id=1]

For the past seven years, Christopher Kelts has served as faculty and conductor for Missouri State University’s Summer String Institute. Mr. Kelts is currently faculty for the Stringedo String Insitute through the Conservatory’s Academy of Music & Dance.

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Civic Opera’s ‘Edgar’ a solo success

OPERA Review: Civic Opera’s ‘Edgar’ a solo success

Posted Tuesday, Aug. 16, 2005
By PAUL HORSLEY
The Kansas City Star

In opera, you can hear only so many “La Bohèmes” before you are ready to move on to fresh fare.

On Sunday at the Folly Theater, I found myself fascinated and more than a little amused by Puccini’s early opera “Edgar,” in a shoestring production by the Civic Opera Theater of Kansas City.

Despite being the composer’s first completed opera, it is hardly a primitive piece: It predates his “Manon Lescaut” by only four years and “Bohème” by just seven. It contains the Debussian parallel chords and Wagnerian orchestration of the later works, not to mention the ferocious choral climaxes. Its voluptuous vocalism is, if anything, refreshingly unfettered compared to the more mannered restraint of the later works.

The Civic Opera’s “Edgar” won the heart with remarkable solo singing and an inventive stage setup that might prove revelatory for future small-scale opera productions here.

The orchestra was upstage, largely hidden by the stage set — designer Laura Burkhart’s lowlying representation of a wall, a set of glass doors and so forth — and a choir of monks.

This allowed the leads to sing from the stage extension, which thrust them into the audience’s front-and-center view. Three video monitors allowed them to follow conductor Andy Anderson, who was well behind them.

The setup somehow filled the hall with amazingly rich sound. From the balcony, I heard a blend between soloist and orchestra that was as fine as you get in any theater in Kansas City.

Granted, the performance remained earthbound by marginal choral males and unpredictable orchestral playing by the Kansas City Civic Orchestra. And the supertitles were so faint as to be unreadable, leaving us to rely on our college Italian.

But none of this obscured the fine solo performances. Bruce Burstert as the hotheaded Frank sang with a warm, mellow sound. Robert Grady in the title role belted out the high notes, at least, with precision, and commanded the part despite some lack of vocal support, which might explain why his voice was failing by Act 3. Phil Eatherton showed off a highly polished voice in the small role of Gualtiero.

Stacey Stofferahn Uthe’s focused, penetrating voice made her ideal for the torchy Gypsy

Tigrana. Act 3 belonged to Megan King as Fidelia, which she inhabited with a sparkling, textured soprano and a mature dramatic grasp.

The Civic Opera continues to take risks and to score marginal successes despite its use of volunteer performers. For a few dollars more, the company could easily pass into the ranks of truly significant local arts groups.

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An operatic portrait of Puccini…

MUSIC AND DANCE NOTES
An operatic portrait of Puccini…
Posted Sunday, Aug. 07, 2005

By PAUL HORSLEY
The Kansas City Star

Even those with a casual acquaintance with opera have probably seen or heard something from Puccini’s “Tosca,” “Madama Butterfly” or “La Boheme.”

But you’d be hard-pressed to find anyone, even opera fans, who have seen the composer’s “Edgar” on the stage.

This week Kansas Citians will have a chance to see Puccini’s first completed opera, a youthful morsel with flashes of the greatness that would bloom in later verismo masterpieces.

At 8 p.m. Friday and 2 p.m. Aug. 14 at the Folly Theater, the Civic Opera Theater of Kansas City opens its 21st season with “Edgar.” Andy Anderson is conductor and stage director of this semi-staged production.

“It’s a love triangle. Actually it’s a love square,” Anderson said of the story. “Boy and girl are in love, but boy (Edgar) has loved another girl before that. And the girl has loved others, too.

Several others. It happens that the boy’s best friend, Frank, is in love with the girl he loved earlier.”

And on it goes. “It’s very Carmenesque,” Anderson said.

The musical language, he added, is that of the Wagner and Verdi that the young Puccini was hearing at the time.

“In a lot of ways, it’s the Puccini that we’ve come to know, with a twist.” The female lead sings in a florid bel canto style, he said, while the other characters are more in keeping with the later Puccini.

“The orchestra is thick and lush, like all his other operas,” Anderson said. This “Edgar” marks the inaugural collaboration between the Civic Opera Theater and the Civic Orchestra of Kansas City, which Anderson also directs.

The cast includes Robert Grady in the title role, Bruce Burstert as Frank, Megan King as Fidelia, Stacey Uthe-Stofferahn as Tigrana and Phil Etherton as Gualtiero, the father.

Tickets cost $18 ($15 for students and seniors, $10 for persons in groups of six or more). Call (816) 235-6222.

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