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Encore! Celebrating 25 Years Of The Music Center : Tomorrow : The Next 25 Years: A Golden Future

September 10, 1989|JUDITH MICHAELSON | Michaelson is a Times staff writer

"They are all dreams and somebody could say they're silly dreams, but you know you don't get anyplace if you don't dream."- Esther Wachtell, president, Music Center

True, it doesn't cost anything to dream, and when the major dreamers at the 25-year-old Music Center are asked to project their vision 25 years into the future, to the year 2014, imaginations run wild.

Gordon Davidson, artistic director/producer of the Center Theatre Group, jests: "They wheel me out onto the stage, I'll be pushing into middle-80s, and (say), 'As a special reward for your long service, we're asking you, first of all, to retire . . .' "

Outside of that whimsical scenario, Davidson envisions a major repertory company of 100 players, with maybe 40 on leave at any one time, another 20 on tour and the other 40 performing classics on a rotating schedule, including such modern classics as Edward Albee's "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?"

Another of his fantasies: "I would love it if the Music Center were the crucible for new musical theater. It's so important, so indigenous to who we are, so all pervasive in terms of music, the ability to hear it, so powerful and capable of cutting across all lines."

Some look several years ahead if not exactly 25.

Gerald Arpino, artistic director of the Joffrey Ballet, wants a future company of "60-something dancers" doing two seasons of six weeks each. The company will be larger "because it has to be," and it must have time to develop young artists. "That is the threat to America," he says, "not having the luxury to develop the young artist, to be giving the time, not always to produce, produce ..."

Peter Hemmings, general director of the Music Center Opera, wants a 70-performance season within the next five years, about the same level as the Chicago Lyric Opera. He is most enthusiastic about that day when the Philharmonic leaves the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion and moves into Disney Hall in 1994 . Hemmings alludes to that day when "once the Pavilion is ours."

Ernest Fleischmann, executive vice president and managing director of the Philharmonic, is convinced that the orchestra will "grow in quality because it will have its own home in Disney Hall to rehearse and perform as it needs." He hopes that the hall "will become the world focus of orchestral music . . . Every great orchestra has to play in London, in New York, has to play maybe in Vienna, to a certain extent, for its own prestige and so on. I hope to be able to add Los Angeles to these stations."

Esther Wachtell says the Music Center is creating "an absolutely world-class product." She aims for the concept of expanding Los Angeles as a media center. "We would take the product that is created on these stages," she says, "film it--some in live performances, others in a studio--and then you put that into videos, put that on TV, on cable and you begin to bring it to more people.

"We're starting now and in 25 years we will be a media center. The first thing I have to find are sponsors and/or a producing company . . ."

Of course, all these ambitions need fueling. On the matter of money, Charles I. Schneider, chairman of the Music Center Operating Company, figures that the Music Center Foundation will continue growing. "We have about $50 million in its endowment," he says, "and in about 25 years probably it will be about $200 million.

Some people see new alliances in the future. Says Gerald Arpino: "The Los Angeles/New York relationship is one that's going to set a whole new perspective on how the arts can survive in this country, and definitely is going to lead to new avenues of thinking of how the arts will be able to support the large cities . . . All eyes are going to be looking here."

"I'll surprise you with one comment," Charles Schneider says. "I think that you are going to see a much closer relationship between the Orange County Performing Arts Center and ourselves in years to come. I believe Orange County is going to grow. It's going to develop an identity of its own, and performers and shows that come out here are going to be given two venues, which is more economical.

"In the last two years we've been working with Kennedy Center, Denver Center for the Performing Arts and Lincoln Center to put together a circuit of venues and to jointly produce shows."

Then there is the alliance of the art forms. Gordon Davidson says that "my other great fantasy" is regular creative combinations of the resources of the Philharmonic, the opera and the theater.

"I did an opera, 'Midsummer Night's Dream' and I'm doing 'Oedipus,' " he says, "but I'd love to see that happen on a regular basis."

Likewise, Fleischmann says, "I also hope we can work much more closely with the Opera and Center Theatre Group and even with museums. I would love to involve visual arts supporters who are ignorant of what we do. You go to any museum function and there's hardly any crossover, it's amazing."

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