"It's true that a lot of people don't know we exist," says Carlo Spiga, founder-conductor of the Los Angeles Pops Orchestra. "But we understand. In these first nine years, our main interest has been in surviving, not in being visible."
Spiga, the personable former violinist of the L.A. Philharmonic, speaks without rancor about the low profile his ensemble has kept all this time. The pops orchestra gave its first performance on Aug. 17, 1977.
"We've been building a foundation," he says earnestly, "And now we are in a position where we think we will last."
Spiga's partners in this enterprise include the orchestra's manager for the past six years, Victor Wong, and what Spiga calls "a first-rate" board of directors now comprising 36 members.
What "building a foundation" means, Spiga and Wong spell out, is: finding corporate support, raising additional funds to meet an annual operating budget of $500,000 and attracting a season subscribership which has now reached 600. Wong, who worked for the San Francisco Symphony during the Jorda/Krips/Ozawa regimes, acknowledges that small deficits at the end of each winter season have been paid off through extra fund-raising activities.
"We started out using the Boston Pops format of three program parts, with two intermissions," says the 45-year-old conductor--a protege of Zubin Mehta, Franco Ferrara and the late Fritz Zweig. "But, for us, that made our programs too long."
And unlike the Boston concerts, Spiga says, performances by his 60- to 75-member ensemble are undisturbed by extramusical sounds in the Los Angeles Room at the Century Plaza Hotel, site of the group's concerts for the past five years--despite the availability of drinks before and after, and at intermission.
"You will hear no clinking at our concerts," Spiga promises. "And no one talks. And the waiters do not serve." Still, he says, people have fun. And, at the opening performance of the four-concert 1986 season on Friday at the Century Plaza, they will also be able to have dinner.
"We have three classes of patrons," the conductor explains. Those who purchase the dinner/concert package will spend $80 per person and begin their evening at 6 o'clock. Those who come for dessert and champagne before the performance will pay $25 and commence their festivities at 8, and those who come for the concert only will pay merely $15." (Ticket information: (213) 453-POPS.)
Pianist Daniel Pollack is soloist at the opening event of the ninth season, Friday night; he will play Rachmaninoff's Second Piano Concerto. On March 21 the soloists will be the four Romeros, playing Rodrigo's "Concierto Andaluz." Soprano Wilhelmenia Fernandez will be the guest artist April 11. And at the final concert, May 16, conductor/pianist Skitch Henderson will appear.
Except for two Santa Monica beachfront concerts played at a private club annually, the pops orchestra has not yet given a summer season. In 1986, Spiga says, that may change; he reveals he is negotiating with the Starlight Bowl in Burbank for an outdoor series there.
AROUND TOWN THIS WEEK: Guenther Schneider-Siemssen, who will design the new production of Verdi's "Otello" scheduled by Music Center Opera this fall, will present an illustrated lecture, Thursday night at 7:30 in the Crocker Center Towers, 330 S. Hope St., downtown. This event begins a series of occasional lectures in preparation for the opera company's 1986-87 season. Next event in the series, Feb. 3, will feature John Bury, designer of the new production of Richard Strauss' "Salome," also scheduled for the fall season. Information: (213) 972-7219. . . . Wednesday night, violinist Isaac Stern is guest soloist on a Los Angeles Philharmonic pension fund benefit concert in the Pavilion of the Music Center. Paavo Berglund will conduct; Stern will play two concertos, the E-minor by Mendelssohn and Max Bruch's G-minor. . . . At subscription concerts of the Philharmonic, starting Thursday night, Berglund begins a two-week visit as guest conductor with a program comprising Schumann's "Spring" Symphony, the First Piano Concerto of Prokofiev (with Juliana Markova as soloist) and Beethoven's Second Symphony. . . . Pianist Peter Serkin plays Anton Webern's Variations, Opus 27, and Bach's "Goldberg" Variations on an intermissionless recital in the Pavilion of the Music Center, Monday night at 8. . . . At the Schoenberg Institute the Kronos Quartet, with assisting artists, presents the complete (four) quartets of Arnold Schoenberg, plus the "Ode to Napoleon Buonaparte," on two evenings, Friday and Saturday at 8. . . . At UCLA, pianist Ilana Vered returns with a recital of music by Scarlatti, Haydn, Beethoven and Schumann on Saturday night at 8. . . . Also Saturday, Western Opera Theater returns to Occidental College with its new, English-language production of Mozart's "Don Giovanni." Curtain is at 8:15 p.m.