In 1985 eighteen individuals met to form a group interested in promoting quality opera performance in Wichita and beyond. This group soon became Opera Kansas. These individuals were dedicated to bringing opera performances to the state and educating Kansans to this great art form, recognizing that with knowledge, follows appreciation. Opera Kansas was incorporated in December 1985 as a 501 (C)(3).
During the early years, the group sponsored out-of-town trips to enjoy live opera performances, offered opera appreciation classes and presented film festivals that included Aida, Turandot, and La Forza del Destino.
In 1989, Opera Kansas produced its first opera. It staged the one-act opera, An Evening with Amadeus, as an official River Festival event. The production was so well received that for the next ten years, one-act operas were presented annually at the River Festival.
Some of the operas presented were Arabian Nights at the Opera, Gianni Schicihi, The Old Maid and the Thief, The Telephone, Gallantry, The Jumping Frog of County, and The Marriage Contract.
Over the past three decades, the company has brought many national and international opera performers to Wichita audiences. Some of these artists include Joyce DiDinato, Samuel Ramey, Nicholas Saverine, Charlene Ayers, Brian Frutiger, Michael Nansel and a host of other high quality performers that reflect the organizations' mission.
Throughout its history, well-known leaders of Wichita have led Opera Kansas. Foremost was Burton Pell who served as president and producer for many years. Other community leaders have been Willard and Jean Garvey, Mary Koch, Dan and Shoko Severt, Harald Boschmann, Delmar Klocke, Al Buck, Van and Virginia Fiser, Dr. Walter Myers, Dr. George and Mary Jane Gibson, Dr. Jerold and Diane Leisy, and Sherri Pilgreen.
Today, Opera Kansas produces a series of modern and rarely performed operas throughout the state. Additionally, the opera company works with the K-12 school system to create music educational programs that fit with in the core history and literature curriculum. Opera Kansas is also committed to making opera accessible by taking performances into the community, singing in retirement homes, parks and public places in downtown Wichita.
In 2014 the company staged an opera, Comedy On The Bridge, outdoors in College Hill Park that was free and open to the public. They hosted an Oktoberfest Liederabend showcasing traditional German vocal art songs and are performing a number of short concerts as part of Wichita's Final Fridays.
Opera Kansas first staged the Christmas tale of Amahl and the Night Visitors in 1991 and has done so almost every year since. This is an opera about the three wise men who are searching for the Christ child, but change the life of a poor shepherd boy along the way. It has become an annual community favorite to kick off the holiday season. This year, the show performed to a nearly sold out crowd at Century II's Mary Jane Teall Theater with great reviews.
Opera Kansas is also committed to music education in schools across the state. Short opera programs on topics such as Opera 101 and Romeo and Juliette have been performed for K-12 students and in 2015 Opera Kansas will add a show Traveling the Underground Railroad with ten performances scheduled this February. Our artistic director works closely with teachers to develop programs that bring to life subjects that students study in the classroom.
2015 holds the launch of a new program bringing opera into retirement communities. With the goal of bringing the power of opera to audiences in a non-traditional venue, Opera Kansas is scheduled to perform a short opera, Dr. Miracle, at eight senior living facilities in January.
Opera Kansas will return to Wichita's Riverfest this summer with The Island of Tulipatan. The production will mark a return to the summer festival where thousands of Kansans will be able to enjoy a modern opera based on local Kansas history.
After thirty years, Opera Kansas is still committed to bringing the power of high quality opera to people living in a modern world. The opera company is grateful for support from patrons and audiences across Kansas.
The mission of Opera Kansas is to present engaging accessible productions and educational initiatives to enrich audiences by:
DR. PAUL BRODENE SMITH
JERALD LEISY, M.D.
"This Opera Kansas initiative was supported in part by the Kansas Creative Arts Industries Commision, which receives support from from the National Endowment of the Arts."