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Gala plans for Disney Hall

The Philharmonic's new home will open Oct. 23 with three fund-raising concerts and a season filled with premieres.

November 22, 2002|Scott Timberg | Times Staff Writer

Walt Disney Concert Hall, a landmark in the making at the Los Angeles Music Center since 1987, will finally be unveiled on Oct. 23, with a ribbon-cutting ceremony at 10 a.m. and the first of three big-ticket fund-raising gala concerts in the evening.

At a news conference Thursday, Deborah Borda, the orchestra's executive director, and Esa-Pekka Salonen, its music director, announced plans for the opening days of the hall and for its first season.

On consecutive nights, Oct. 23-25, in front of patrons paying up to $5,000 each for tickets, the orchestra will present three different inaugural concerts: first, a program meant to show off the hall's acoustics, with works for single instrument up to full orchestra. Next, works from the 20th and 21st centuries, including a Philharmonic-commissioned world premiere from Bay Area composer John Adams and an appearance by star cellist Yo-Yo Ma. Finally, a movie music tribute with another new work created and conducted by John Williams.

Overall in 2003-04, the Philharmonic will present almost 50% more programming than in the past. It plans nine world premieres, a season record for the orchestra. It will present two major international orchestras -- the Berlin Philharmonic, conducted by Simon Rattle, and the New York Philharmonic, conducted by Lorin Maazel -- and a stellar lineup of guest conductors including Pierre Boulez, Christoph von Dohnanyi, Valery Gergiev and Charles Dutoit. It will unveil five new music series from Baroque concerts to jazz and world music programs, and launch partnerships with such organizations as CalArts, the Museum of Contemporary Art and the Getty Research Institute.

Salonen and Borda took the stage after a recorded presentation that included footage of the hall and its supporters. Walt Disney Concert Hall, Borda said, "is a metaphor for music, and I think, for transformation, with its undulating curves." Throughout her address to an audience of almost 300, she stressed the hall's role in democratizing classical music, the Philharmonic's outreach efforts, and the classical repertory as "living music."

In an interview afterward, she described the orchestra's plans as ambitious, but emphasized that the season was "an investment, a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for the orchestra. So we're spending money." Borda also said the orchestra has new sponsors, to be announced later, and that while the Philharmonic was feeling the economic downturn, its finances were fundamentally sound.

One of the season's opening themes, Salonen said, is creation, in honor of the new hall. The orchestra's first regular-season concert, for example, will feature Mahler's Symphony No. 2, the "Resurrection"; its second, Haydn's "The Creation." The preview concerts before the galas are open to children and to invited community members.

"We don't want to open for an elite," Salonen said in an interview following the conference, "but for the people of the area. Of course, it also helps us tune the hall acoustically."

The stainless-steel-clad structure at the corner of Grand and 1st streets -- designed by architect Frank O. Gehry, with acoustics by Yasuhisa Toyota of Nagata Acoustics -- will replace the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion as the orchestra's home.

Created specifically for orchestral music, the new hall has as many as 932 fewer seats than the Pavilion and a "vineyard"-style auditorium of terraced seats meant to put the listeners close to the players. The space also includes the Roy E. and Edna Disney/CalArts Theater, under the direction of CalArts, two outdoor amphitheaters, a public garden, an art gallery and a restaurant to be run by the Patina chain. The Philharmonic shares the space with the Los Angeles Master Chorale.

Disney Hall's construction has been fraught and at times star-crossed. The hall, now expected to cost $274 million, began with a $50-million gift from Walt Disney's widow, Lillian B. Disney, in 1987.

In 1988, Gehry won a six-architect competition to design the hall. In the years following the unveiling of his design, the project faced funding problems, spiraling costs, added earthquake requirements, and work stoppages.

Ground was broken in December 1992, with the hall scheduled to open in 1996 at a far lower cost. In 1995, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors considered abandoning the project, but instead extended the fund-raising and construction deadlines. Construction began again in late 2000 and is on track for the October opening.

In addition to the hall's three opening galas, there will be free "preview," invitation-only concerts before the official opening -- one for schoolchildren, one for educators, community members and county employees, and one for the construction workers. After that, a recital by pianist Evgeny Kissin kicks off the subscription season.

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