Kaufmann Center Ends First Season on a High Note
Last year, fans of the arts in Kansas City received one of those gifts that keeps on giving: a new performing arts center designed by architect Moshe Safdie, complete with a world-class stage, a theatre, and a stunning vista of the city below. The Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts, which opened in September, was a long awaited victory within the arts community. The city is home to numerous musical organizations, including the Kansas City Symphony, the Lyric Opera of Kansas City, the Kansas City Ballet. In the past, however, groups such as these have performed in the city’s Music Hall, which was known for its particularly lackluster acoustics. Thanks to generosity of Julia Irene Kaufmann, Shirley Helzberg, and others, the Kaufmann Center was constructed in order to house Kansas City’s arts organizations under one roof and serve as one of the focal points of the city.
In accordance with the spirit of celebration, the Center’s first season was packed with spectacular performances by stars and local groups alike. Itzhak Perlman, Tommy Tune, Patti Lupone, and Placido Domingo were all headliners, complementing the galas that celebrated the grand opening. The Lyric Opera offered several performances that were both spectacularly sung and pleasing on the eye, including a resplendent production of “Turandot” and a very modern “Nixon in China.” One of the highlights of the year at the ballet was the world premiere of “Tom Sawyer,” which was commissioned from the composer Maury Yeston and choreographed by William Whitener. The Harriman-Jewel series, created to attract out of town talent, contributed several guest artists, including tenor Juan Diego Florez, the Red Star Red Army Chorus, and the Hamburg and Vienna Symphony Orchestras.
Clearly, the first season at the Kaufmann Center was a whirlwind of spectacular performances complete with a list of top notch guest artists. And while the Center’s first season drew huge crowds, it left some wondering if the popularity would last. An opening season for any new venue typically includes numerous performances designed to showcase the new structure’s capabilities and brings in many stars to celebrate the grand opening. But will the Kaufmann Center be able to keep up with itself? In a recent recap of the Center’s first season, Patrick Neas argued that the first year’s success was not a fluke; rather, the Kaufmann Center’s success means the best has yet to come. He points out that Kansas City has a vibrant and growing arts community, fueled by two conservatory level schools and a Kansas City Symphony that is transforming into one of the country’s leading orchestras. The high caliber performances by local groups in addition to star power that the Kaufmann Center has attracted won’t fade, Neas claims, but actually grow with the years. The community’s love of the new structure won’t fade because it has so much to offer; Kansas City has only had a glimpse of the great performances they’ll see in the future. It’s encouraging to see a community so excited about classical music and culture in general. Hopefully Neas is right and the Kaufmann Center will be a national attraction for years to come!