Seven musicians from Kansas University’s School of Music — including its dean — will perform in Eutin, Germany, in January, and could pave the way for another invitation later in the summer.
Lawrence’s sister city in Germany asked the musicians to play in the city this winter, and if all goes well it could mean about 70 representatives from KU could travel back to Germany in the summer for a major summer festival in the city.
This January, David Neely, KU’s symphony orchestra director, will play the piano and Dean Robert Walzel will play clarinet. Five KU students will also be featured: Lukasz Lagun, violin; Robert McNichols, bass baritone; Hugo Vera, tenor; Amy Cahill, soprano; and Kristian Bucy, soprano.
The 60-year-old summer open-air music festival in Eutin typically attracts between 30,000 and 40,000 people, Neely said. That’s well above the city’s population of about 17,000.
The festival is a nod to one of Germany’s noted opera composers, Carl Maria von Weber, who was born in Eutin.
Local businessess in the city are providing funds for the KU delegation to attend.
The festival ran into some financial trouble last year and is looking for a way to reinvigorate interest. So Eutin’s city and state governments are looking to their sister city for help.
“If they make a good impression, it’s very likely that the city will want to have them back for the summer program,” said Frank Baron, a KU German faculty member who is a member of Lawrence’s Friends of Eutin group.
And that would be a big deal, Neely said, for the school and for the students who would get to participate.
The January participants will be performing opera arias, chamber music pieces, American music pieces and popular songs. If invited back, KU would bring an entire symphony along with opera performers, who would perform the opera “Hansel and Gretel” alongside German performers, who would perform the opera “Don Giovanni.”
Neely would serve as the music festival’s director.
“It’s a crazy idea,” Neely said. “I know of nothing similar that’s happened in Europe.”
The program would be heavily sponsored by the government and backed by private funds, as well. That combination of the political aspects of the decision and an appreciation for classical music have generated some interest in the German press.
Neely said Thursday that he had an interview with one of the largest newspapers in northern Germany scheduled later that day.
“This is an amazing sister city collaboration,” Neely said. “It would be a huge boon for our school to be invited back. What a recruiting tool this would be.”