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Lyric Opera of Kansas City brings the 'fairytale' of live shows to retirement communities

Woman stands near piano and sings to audience of seniors
Courtesy of the Lyric Opera of Kansas City
Courtesy of the Lyric Opera of Kansas City
Mezzo-soprano Deanna Ray Eberhart sings to residents at Ashton on the Plaza.

The Lyric Opera of Kansas City's Opera to Go program brings live performances to retirement communities across the Kansas City metro. For the residents of these communities, in-person concerts are an experience that can't be replicated by recordings.

Getting dressed up and going to the Kauffman Center to see an opera is a privilege that many get to enjoy. It's a privilege that isn't possible for everyone, however.

“It’s music, it’s drama, it’s theater, it’s a story… a fairytale put to music," said longtime opera fan Wilda Sandy.

Attending live performances was a favorite pastime of hers. Sandy now uses a walker and physically attending opera performances is a challenging task, as is the case for many residents in retirement communities. While residents can always listen to recordings of an opera, these often don’t have the same impact as a live performance.

“There is something visceral about being in the room with an opera singer, hearing the sheer sound, the sheer power that can’t be beat, so live musical experiences are very very important," said Neal Long, director of learning at the Lyric Opera of Kansas City.

Long oversees all community engagement programs for the organization, including Opera to Go.

"Opera to Go takes singers, takes music, takes musical storytelling out on the road to communities where residents may not have the capability to easily get to a performance venue," explains Long. "So it’s a way of bringing art to people where they live.”

The singers perform various arias and musical theater songs at different retirement communities. Residents are encouraged to ask questions throughout the performance, and even sing along at the end to classics such as “Edelweiss” and “What a Wonderful World.”

According to bass-baritone Jose Olivares, bringing opera to everyone is very important.

"There’s so many people out there that we have no idea — especially in assisted living — that want to experience and continue experiencing that artistry, but they’re not able to make it [in person]. So, I think it’s really important for us to just bring it to them and have them experience it here in the comfort.”

“It’s a special treat to hear good music, in person," said Claridge Court resident, Peggy Evans.

Man stands in front of audience of seniors and speaks
Courtesy of the Lyric Opera of Kansas City
Courtesy of the Lyric Opera of Kansas City
Residents of Claridge Court asking questions to performers from the Lyric Opera of Kansas City

Ashton on the Plaza resident, Anna McCoy was born and raised in Italy, so her love for opera music runs deep.

“It was wonderful. I praise them 100 percent. It gives the people more life, more spirit. What is the world without music? What is the world without [the] chirping of the birds?" said Ashton on the Plaza resident Anna McCoy.

“I think my favorite part about doing opera to go is getting to talk to people afterwards," said soprano and recurring Opera to Go performer Kelli Van Meter.

"Hearing their experiences with music, art, the humanities and getting to hear how they’ve reacted or what they found in our performance that either moved them or maybe they interpreted it differently than how we intended. That’s the beautiful part is that it’s subjective so everyone takes their own thing from it.”

The residents were also eager to talk to the performers after the show.

“I think the first comment that I get from residents is ‘that was so loud’ which is normal because we’re opera singers. But, we get a lot of comments. I think that the most meaningful are the ones that say you know ‘thank you for being here. I don’t get to go experience opera and so it’s nice that you bring it to us,’" said Van Meter.

But for Van Meter, these performances are a little more personal.

“My dad, he recently has become wheelchair bound, and so we try to record as many things as we can, but if he were in a space like this we could bring that to him. And so it’s been really wonderful to be able to do that for other people.”

For McCoy, the performance was far more than just an auditory experience.

“Sound is vital. It’s vital to the universe. Music it’s expressing your heart, your soul, your mind. That’s the way I see it."

You can learn more about the Lyric Opera of Kansas City's Opera To Go program at

Laura Fotovich is the Spring 2024 intern for Classical KC.
Sam Wisman is a senior producer for 91.9 Classical KC and a backup announcer for KCUR 89.3
Brooke Knoll is the Digital Audience Specialist and On-Air Host for Classical KC.