An American Tradition

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Sunday, October 16, 2011 – 3:00pm

Pre-concert talk: 2:20 p.m.

Yardley Hall
Johnson County Community College
12345 College Blvd.
Overland Park, KS 66210

Christopher Kelts, conductor

Haekyung An, soprano

  • Copland, Billy the Kid Suite
  • Barber, Knoxville: Summer of 1915
  • Gershwin, Lullaby for String Orchestra
  • Gershwin, An American in Paris


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Uthe stands out in fine rendition of Puccini’s ‘Edgar’

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Posted Thursday, August 18, 2005
by Timothy McDonald, Arts Writer
The Johnson County Sun

The Civic Opera Theater of Kansas City and the Kansas City Civic Orchestra presented a fine production of the rarely performed opera “Edgar” by Italian composer Giacomo Puccini at the Folly Theater last weekend.

“Edgar” was Puccini’s second opera, written for Milan’s Teatro alla Scala in 1889. While it does not approach the name recognition of the composer’s more mature works (“Madama Butterfly,” “La Bohème” and “Tosca), “Edgar” contains its fair share of voluptuous melodies.

The semi-staged production featured an onstage orchestra partially hidden from view by sets, a small chorus veiled in monks’ robes, and five principal singers. The placement of the orchestra resulted in a better balance between voices and instruments than has been the case in previous productions employing the Folly pit.

The opera was cast well, particularly with regard to the women’s roles. Megan King portrayed the pure-hearted shepherdess Fidelia, and sang splendidly with her lovely, light soprano voice.

Stacey Stofferahn Uthe was the standout singer in the role of the lusty and wild Tigrane. The darker coloring made a fine contrast with King’s, and her rapid passages were nicely delivered. In her opening piece, though, the low range did not project well.

Bruce Burstert as Frank and Robert Grady in the title role of Edgar generally sang well and with expression. Grady sang with a tight upper range that was not always attractive in Act I, but improved markedly in later acts.

Opera librettos can be convoluted, but that of “Edgar” was downright silly at times, with plot twists and references that make you want to jump up and say “huh?” The music was wonderful, though, and included a welcome number of marvelous orchestral interludes, played with passion by the Civic Orchestra under the direction of Andy Anderson.

The Civic Opera and Orchestra are to be commended for taking a chance on a little known work by a major composer and turning into a wonderful evening of summer opera.

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Civic Opera’s ‘Edgar’ a solo success

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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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