Some who attend Opera Omaha's production of “The Magic Flute” this week have already seen Jun Kaneko's eye-popping designs.
Dozens of Nebraskans made their way to San Francisco last June to catch the production's premiere.
Fred Simon said he and his wife, Eve, are “certified opera nuts.”
“We go to opera all over the country and in Europe as well. And we love what Jun Kaneko did with 'The Magic Flute,'” he said.
Simon, executive vice president of Omaha Steaks, said he's seen more than 20 versions of “The Magic Flute” over the past 40 years. He ranked Kaneko's among the top two or three, including Metropolitan Opera productions in New York City.
“It's really incredible, how he put all that together into a visual package that worked with the music,” Simon said. “What Jun did was heighten the excitement and anticipation.”
Bob Culver, vice president of leadership learning at Lincoln Financial Group, said he and his wife, Debra Reilly-Culver, sat next to a season ticket holder at the San Francisco Opera.
“He said, with a hint of apprehension, that he thought the show would be something very unusual,” Culver said.
Debra Reilly-Culver and Bob Culver
But at the end, Culver said, the man told him he'd never enjoyed an opera so much.
“I figured we had a convert on our hands,” he said. “He was pretty skeptical before.”
Culver said the color, combined with the digital projection technology, was “just mind-blowing. You can always see great opera, but this takes it to a whole new level — once in a lifetime, in my mind,” he said.
Lynette Krieger of Hastings, Neb., went to San Francisco after learning about Kaneko's work from filmmaker Joel Geyer of Lincoln. Both serve on the Cather Foundation board.
“When that color in the background flashes and changes, always fit to the music, I think any audience is going to go, 'Wow,'” said Krieger, a retired teacher of English and German at Hastings College. She attended with her husband, Paul, who owns Krieger Electric in Hastings and serves on the college's board.
“This is something you don't get every day in your Nebraska life,” she said. “Maybe in New York you can go every so often to something this great. But it's not like this level of opera is consistently available here.”
Geyer said an abstract expressionist artist like Kaneko might not seem the obvious choice to interpret an 18th-century opera written in German.
“But I was in the house for the premiere, and it was magic. To be in that audience, to feel how it was working, was phenomenal. Everybody felt Kaneko's work was not only stunning, but it somehow elevated and added to Mozart. That's magic.”
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