From Ward Holmquist, artistic director
As regular attendees of Lyric Opera of Kansas City performances over the last decade will know, productions with greater intellectual or less familiar musical depths are sparingly interspersed between fare that is more easily appreciated by the uninitiated to what can be considered an unknown art form by many KC patrons. This programming choice is intentional, and by no means a put-down of those who might be coerced to lay down hard-earned coin of the realm to cross our threshold and partake of our goods with no prior knowledge of what is in store for them. For goodness’ sake, as a small town Minnesotan and the son of a grocer, I didn’t become enthralled by this art form to such an extent that I would dedicate my entire professional career to it after witnessing Parsifal, either live or on recording.
Like any pleasurable hobby, pastime, obsession or affliction, opera seems to grab folks indiscriminately. Before they know it, they’re comparing Gedda and Björling, Pavarotti and Domingo, Zeffirelli and Taymor, buying CDs or downloading tracks at odd hours of the night, and subscribing to arcane listservers. It just happens, and it’s far less detrimental to character than gambling or whoring (either actual or virtual) and so far is not listed in the Catechism of the Catholic Church as a sin of either classification (although my Papa Benedict XVI is clearly not enthralled with my choice of livelihood). Sometimes what we put on is the thinking person’s equivalent of the Monster Truck Show at the local arena or state fair grounds.
Since it is an American’s habit in this era to rush through his or her multi-tasked life, we arts producers have accommodated ourselves to the requirements of our potential constituencies. We offer our fare from the gods in modern, eye-catching, pre-digested, synopsized and Wikified commercial bytes, calculated to attract and elicit a “two thumbs up” response from our paying clientele that will result in a season subscription and at least minimal donation for a “privileged society/free parking pass for performance” membership.
But let’s be frank. We really want more from you – much more.
We chose our dubious professions because we hold insane, irrational opinions of the artistic, cultural and redemptive capacities of our beloved art forms. We are more sincere than the Fàtima children, and more enthusiastic than Carrottop. What’s more, we’d like you to join our number.
And we’re not telling you the whole truth. Most of the works we present were not just meant to entertain you for the duration of the performance. As a matter of fact, these works were usually labors of love, created in a era without residual earnings, copyright laws, MTV or any kind of file sharing (other than that of communal farriers).
These works were meant to last longer than your Izod, your iPod or your IRA. They were created with timeless, human struggles in mind, and they are meant to take some time to digest, understand and appreciate.
Please remember that the next time you go to an arts event and see something you “don’t like.” It is possible – as I have repeatedly discovered in my own life, to my embarrassment – that the creators/recreators have placed something before you for your examination that could change something about what you think about an aspect of life – perhaps your own life – if you open yourself to the possibility of your own change, growth and evolution.
As my mother told me in my formative years when I was acting on a blind, previously developed impulse rather than by evaluating the situation with the fresh, new, unfamiliar facts at hand – “Ward, use your noodle!
Mom, I’m still trying…