Ward Holmquist shares his dreams about the Kauffman Center
It shouldn’t be surprising that Artistic Director Ward Holmquist has grand plans for the Lyric Opera of Kansas City as he thinks about moving to the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts. When asked what will change, Holmquist is only half-joking when he says, "Everything."
Then he explains how exciting that thought is for him and for the Lyric Opera family. "The community is taking an exponential leap forward and the way this project is being conceived and executed, we are going to have one of the world’s great live classical performance facilities. Some cities never have this opportunity." Holmquist feels that the Kauffman Center will affect the Lyric Opera in three main ways.
First, Holmquist says, the Company will be at the same production level and have the same equipment as the world’s best opera houses. "Ours may not be as big as, say the Met’s, but the Kauffman Center is being built with the active consultation of the leaders in the industry — acoustics, design, technical requirements, theater design,” Holmquist says. "Absolutely everything is being tended to by some of the best people in the profession. Once I became aware of that, it gave me a great deal of confidence in how the project would end up."
Second is the positive effect the Kauffman Center will have on the audience experience. "The Kauffman Center is designed to eliminate every obstacle to enjoying a live performance, except the energy it requires to get out of your chair. It will provide an exciting, social experience," Holmquist said. According to Holmquist, audiences will be pampered from ticket purchase, to easy parking and drop-off. "Plus we’ll have comfortable seating, great acoustics and an optimal place to enjoy our art form. It’s a dream-come-true for our patrons."
Third on Ward’s list is the fact that Kauffman Center’s proscenium theatre will expand programming possibilities for the Company. Holmquist points out that, in grand opera, there is a focus on opulent, impressive scenery. Wagner operas are not possible on the Lyric Theatre stage, because of space limitations but the Kauffman Center opens many new opportunities.
"We did an avant garde production of Verde’s Aida, which is grand opera," Holmquist says. "However we barely had enough room for the choristers on stage for the triumphal scene." Plus, the production required a large rock — but only in one scene. The rock was built, but was too big for the door and couldn’t be removed. "So we ended up staging the entire production around this ‘rock,’" Holmquist laughs. "The flexibility of our production team is amazing, but it will be so exciting to have possibilities to work with at the Kauffman Center, instead of limitations to work around."
Holmquist says he’s thrilled to be working with opera and its varied cultural influences — particularly now. "I am privileged to be around during a time when all of this is happening in Kansas City and I look forward to the change it will bring. The Kauffman Center will lift us artistically, through the new space, the facilities and the improved audience experience."
More details are available on the proscenium theatre: