Lyric Opera Artistic Director Ward Holmquist sat down recently and talked about the new production of Turandot, opening October 1st. Enjoy!
On Wednesday, June 8 – the Kansas City Symphony rehearsed in the Muriel Kauffman Theatre’s orchestra pit. For 2 ½ hours, several Lyric Opera, Kansas City Ballet, and Kansas City Symphony staff members wandered the theatre, listening to every note played and assessed how it sounded from different seats. We learned as much about the theatre as we could before we load in Turandot in September. Here is my Top Ten List of things learned:
- The Muriel Kauffman orchestra pit is much larger than the pit in the Lyric Theatre!!! At the Lyric Theatre, due to space requirements, we were limited to 52 musicians in the pit. At Wednesday’s rehearsal, there were 65 musicians in the pit, and we plan on having 74 in the pit during our opening production.
The Kansas City Symphony from above
There will still be some experimentation with the placement of instruments within the pit. Is it better to have the brass on the right or left side? Is it better to have instruments on different levels within the pit? Through experimentation, we will find the answers by opening night!
- Not a single audience member will have issues seeing the Titles during a foreign language opera. There is a mini title screen on the seat back in front of each audience member. What if you are fluent in Italian? Well, you will have the option of turning the titles off.
- The audience will have access to 134 restrooms on the Muriel Kauffman Theatre side of the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts! Lyric Theatre patrons had less than 30 restrooms!!!
A look at the grid above the stage
We will need to be careful about how many donuts we feed to the stagehands and production staff. There is an elevator that goes all the way to the grid at the top of the theatre. This is extremely rare as most grids are only accessible by a very narrow staircase. In fact, you had to climb a ladder to get to the grid at the Lyric Theatre.
- Between the Opera, Ballet, and Symphony staff members that were present at the rehearsal – all were pleased with how “clear” the sound is in the Kauffman Theatre.
Ward Holmquist in the orchestra pit
As great as Maestro Ward Holmquist looks standing on the podium, it will need to be taller allow him to see the singers standing onstage. The depth of the stage is 50 feet as opposed to only 35 feet in the Lyric Theatre.
- The performer’s dressing rooms are first class. Each dressing room has its own bathroom and shower. At the Lyric Theatre, there was one male restroom and one female restroom for all members of the cast and crew to use.
- Between three different levels of support spaces for the theatre, it is completely possible to get lost in the backstage corridors!!!
- The Muriel Kauffman Theatre is stunning from every side. Whether you are backstage in the dressing rooms or front of house in a new, comfortable seat – it will be an amazing experience for all.
Musical Preparations for the 2011-2012 season are already in full swing! About two weeks ago, the orchestra string parts for Turandot arrived. Elena Talley, our Music Librarian is already busy at work marking the bowings into the string parts.
Elena Talley with some of the orchestra string parts
Have you ever noticed when watching the string sections at a Symphony concert that all the bows of the violins are moving in the same direction at the same time? Well, that’s no accident. The process starts with the Concert Master and the Music Librarian. The Concert Master will mark “bowings” into the entire first violin part. The bowings tell a string player what direction to move the bow in and in what style to move the bow. After the Concert Master is done with the part, it will move on to the 2nd violin, violas, cellos and finally to the Principal Bass player. The music librarian will then take the bowings and make sure it is marked in each and every string part. This is why Elena is already working on the parts, 128 days before the opening performance of Turandot. It is a very time consuming process
Sarah Zsohar with some of the Chorus Music
The Chorus for all of our productions has been cast and is ready to roll. Chorus Music Rehearsals will start in mid-August. The past few weeks, our Production Associate, Sarah Zsohar, has been busy preparing copies of music for the Chorus. Chorus members are already coming into the office to pick up their music and start learning the many notes that they will sing inTurandot.
Our principal Rehearsal Pianist and Chorus Master, Mark Ferrell, would probably not like the site of a piano on its side. Generous donations have led us to own not one, but two grand pianos. We have a baby grand piano (donated by R. Keith Brumley) and a concert grand piano (donated by Dorothy Warenskjold) over at our Production Center. These are used for Mainstage rehearsals, Education rehearsals, and Coaching’s with singers. Since our Production Center is under construction this summer and there is certain to be a fair amount of dust flying about, we have put our pianos in Storage with Gerber Moving & Storage. Dear Gerber, please take good care of them!!!
Next week, I will be busy monitoring renovations on our Production Center. I will return on June 9th with a story about the Kansas City Symphony’s first rehearsal with Maestro Ward Holmquist in the Orchestra Pit of the Muriel Kauffman Theatre!!!
Posted in 2011-2012 Season, Backstage, Backstage Notes Series, Turandot
Tagged Elena Talley, Gerber Moving & Storage, Lyric Opera, Lyric Opera of Kansas City, Muriel Kauffman Theatre, Sarah Zsohar, Turandot, Ward Holmquist
The Lyric Theatre
Just last weekend the Lyric Opera completed its final season in the Lyric Theatre with an updated production of The Marriage of Figaro that also served as a farewell to the building that had been the Company’s home for over 40 years and 180 productions.
In the lead-up to the final production Allison May, Lyric Opera Intern, sat down with some of the staff members who have been with the Company the longest and interviewed them about the memories they have of the Lyric Theatre. You can click on the links below to read all of the memories shared by our staff.
We know that these people are not the only ones who have memories of the Lyric Theatre so we want to you share yours too. Simply add your memory as a comment below and help us remember the great times had in this stately structure.
Posted in Interviews
Tagged Allison May, Debbie Morgan, Doug Allen, Erin Thompson, Evan Luskin, Lyric Opera, Lyric Opera of Kansas City, Lyric Theatre, R. Keith Brumley, stage crew, Ward Holmquist
With the last Lyric Opera of Kansas City production in the Lyric Theatre just days away from opening, we wanted to share stories we have been compiling about its 41 years hosting the Lyric Opera. Allison May, Lyric Opera intern, managed to sit down with some of our staff members who have called this theatre home for a number of years and get some stories about the building. These stories were recently featured on the KCUR 98.3 FM Arts Blog – Sound and Glass.
From Evan Luskin
Evan Luskin began working for the Lyric Opera of Kansas City in 1986 as the Managing Director and in 1998 he became the General Director for the Company. Throughout the years, Luskin has seen many changes to both the building and the Company. Luskin oversaw two renovations to the Lyric Theatre in 1991 and 1998. Luskin recalled that during this time, “I was looking around and worrying about all of these little things that needed fixing. But a little girl came into the front lobby for a performance and said, ‘Mommy, I didn’t know it’d be so pretty here.’ And she was right; it really is a beautiful building.”
Click to read the full interview
From Ward Holmquist
The Artistic Director for the Lyric Opera of Kansas City since 1998, Ward Holmquist, admits he didn’t know much about the Lyric Opera of Kansas City when he was first considered for the job in 1997. But he said that the Lyric Theatre was one of the most important aspects of the job for him. “I couldn’t help but be impressed that a regional opera owned its own theatre. That was really remarkable and very interesting to me. It was one of the first things that piqued my interest. I assumed, correctly, that the city had a great love and support of opera.” Interestingly, The Marriage of Figaro was the first opera that Holmquist conducted at the Lyric Theatre.
Click to read the full interview
From R. Keith Brumley
R. Keith Brumley, Director of Design and Technical Production, began working for the Lyric Opera of Kansas City in 1984. Brumley recalled that one of his favorite funny memories occurred when he was watching a production early in his career.
Click to read the full interview
The crew assembles the Rigoletto set
Rigoletto opens in nine days! For an opera company, nine days can seem like a long time. Right now the Company is busy preparing for Rigoletto and a flurry of activity can be found on the Lyric Theatre stage as the production takes shape.
Just a few days ago the crew began preparing the technical aspects of Rigoletto starting with hanging the electrics and scrims. The set for Rigoletto is from the New Orleans Opera Association. Because of the size of the Lyric Theatre, sets aren’t loaded in until all of the electrics and scrims are hung, so everything has to happen quickly on stage. After a day for hanging, the set in its many pieces was unloaded. The pieces are being assembled by the crew, quickly putting together what amounts to a giant 3-D puzzle. The good thing is that the crew has done this before, and even though they have never assembled this specific set, they will be finished with the main assembly by Friday.
Richard Paul Fink and Mary Dunleavy chat between photos
Because a part of the set has already been assembled it can be used by another part of the Company. Today, the marketing department held a photo shoot with two of the principal performers. With opera, the visual aspect is just as important as the audible aspect. Lighting, sets, costumes, wigs, and makeup are all part of the visual aspect. Being able to show the public as many of those aspects as possible helps portray an accurate visual of what to expect on stage. This photo shoot of Rigoletto (baritone Richard Paul Fink) and his daughter Gilda (soprano Mary Dunleavy) is in full costume on part of the set. The most dramatic images from the shoot will be used with advertising, and when combined with audio can give a quick summation of what the opera experience is like for both eyes and ears.
While sets are being assembled and cast members are posing for photos behing the curtain, Artistic Director Ward Holmquist rehearses with the orchestra in the pit. Rigoletto has a large orchestra so it is a tight fit in the pit. Each morning this week Maestro Holmquist and the orchestra will work their way through Rigoletto, focusing on one scene or act at a time. Did you know the orchestra only rehearses 2 times without singers before the final dress rehearsals?
By next week rehearsals will move from our Production and Education facility to the Lyric Theatre stage where full stagings with the orchestra and singers will begin.
Artistic director Ward Holmquist and director of education/children’s chorus master Paula Winans audition young soloists for Lyric Opera of Kansas City’s fall 2009 production of Puccini’s TOSCA.
Posted in Education, Ward's commentary
Tagged audition, camp, children, chorus, Lyric Opera, Lyric Opera of Kansas City, opera, Paula Winans, Tosca, Ward Holmquist, youth
Artistic Director Ward Holmquist was a real prince during Sunday’s closing performance of The Pirates of Penzance — he actually donned wig, dress and make-up to play Queen Victoria! View Ward’s debut as a supernumerary below.
Our upcoming production of Gilbert & Sullivan’s swashbuckling tale of duty gone awry will feature local celebrities in their Lyric Opera debuts playing the Queen of England in each performance.
See your favorite Queen during these performances:
The Saturday, April 25, 2009
performance will feature five-time Emmy award-winning writer and reporter Bev Chapman
in the role.
- The Monday, April 27, 2009 performance will feature the Producing Artistic Director of the Unicorn Theatre, Cynthia Levin, in the role.
- The Wednesday, April 29, 2009 performance will feature Crystal Wiebe, the calendar editor at The Pitch in the role.
- The Friday, May 1, 2009 performance will feature News and Arts Reporter, Laura Spencer from KCUR FM in the role.
- The Sunday, May 3, 2009 performance will feature Lyric Opera of Kansas City Artistic Director Ward Holmquist as the Queen.
Posted in 2008-2009 Season
Tagged Bev Chapman, Crystal Wiebe, Cynthia Levin, Gilbert & Sullivan, Gilbert and Sullivan, KCUR, KCUR-FM, KMBC, KMBC-TV, Laura Spencer, Lyric Opera, Lyric Opera of Kansas City, Pirates of Penzance, Queen of England, Queen Victoria, The Pirates of Penzance, The Pitch, Unicorn Theatre, Ward Holmquist
Artistic Director Ward Holmquist was recently interviewed by our friends at the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts about how the Lyric Opera will utilize the space, and how the move will affect the Company. You can read the entire article here.