Keeper of the Plans

The library gets loud: Opera will be performed at downtown library this weekend

Wichita’s Advanced Learning Library downtown. (September 18, 2018)
Wichita’s Advanced Learning Library downtown. (September 18, 2018) The Wichita Eagle

First it was an opera in the Sedgwick County Courthouse, now it’s an opera in the library.

Opera Kansas just seems to love staging shows in the quirkiest of venues.

“That’s part of what Opera Kansas hangs its hat on,” said Ashley Winters, managing artistic director for Opera Kansas. “It’s our intention to bring music to the people rather than making the people come to the performance hall.”

Opera Kansas is staging a musical production of “Fantastic Mr. Fox,” a roughly one-hour comedic opera based on the children’s book by Roald Dahl, at 7 p.m. Saturday at the Advanced Learning Library, 711 W. 2nd Street.

It’s the result of a nearly year-long partnership with the Wichita Public Library, Winters said.

The arts organization received an $8,000 matching grant from the state to produce the show, intended as an “innovative partnership.” The grant required Opera Kansas to “take two things you wouldn’t really put together and make something interesting out of it,” Winters said.

“You have a loud opera in a quiet library — those are two things you wouldn’t normally expect,” she said. “We chose a story that you could walk right out the door and check out the book. ... The stories, all those things that drive opera, they are in the library.”

The show will feature a chamber orchestra with a violin, viola, cello, clarinet, bassoon, percussion and piano — conducted by Kenneth Tysick.

It also features a cast of 31 local singers, ranging in age from 6-year-olds to 60-somethings. Chy Billings, who has a master’s in opera performance from Wichita State University, plays the lead, Mr. Fox.

The show, composed by Tobias Picker, is a full production, complete with lights, sound and costumes.

The goal, Winters said, is to showcase what all is possible at the Advanced Learning Library.

“The library’s trying to take people’s expectations of what a library should be and turning them on their head,” she said. “It’s not a quiet place — it’s full of energy.”

“Fantastic Mr. Fox” will be performed at 7 p.m. Saturday in the downtown library’s main conference room. Tickets, which are available online and at the door, are $25 for the general public and $18 for students and seniors.

There will also be two matinee performances at the library, 711 W. 2nd Street, that are free to the public: one at 10:30 a.m. Saturday and another at 2:30 p.m. Sunday.

For more information, visit or call 785-393-1546.

Over 1,000 volunteers lined the streets in downtown as 100 items from the old Wichita library were moved to the new Advanced Learning Library. The ceremonial items included books and various items that represented the library. (June 16, 2018)