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We Finally Get the 'Pasion' That Created a Sensation

September 15, 2002|MARK SWED

Two summers ago in Stuttgart, a serious German audience at the Bach Academy sat in stony silence through the premiere of a passion based on the Gospel according to St. Mark. It was composed by an Argentine Jew, and it included a small encyclopedia's worth of infectious dance-based Latin American musical styles. What was the crowd thinking? Was it shocked? Outraged?

There was no way to know until the end when the audience finally erupted with a joyous, volcanic half-hour ovation rare for a new classical work just about anywhere. It was no fluke.

Osvaldo Golijov's "La Pasion Segun San Marcos" created another sensation at its American premiere by the Boston Symphony last season and again at its repeat at Tanglewood this summer. Now "San Marcos" is coming to a theater near you. The Eclectic Orange Festival snagged the West Coast premiere for the Orange County Performing Arts Center on Oct. 18.

As excellent preparation for the event, on Oct. 15, at the Irvine Barclay Theatre, Eclectic Orange will introduce Golijov--the Los Angeles Philharmonic's composer-in-residence last season--to Orange County in the Kronos String Quartet's program of music from its sensational Mexican-themed CD "Nuevo." Several of the arrangements are by Golijov.

Shostakovich, whose music seemed just about everywhere in the Southland last season, is back as well. On Oct. 16, the Philharmonic continues its Shostakovich symphony cycle with Esa-Pekka Salonen conducting the Sixth. The following week, Los Angeles Opera imports the composer's Stalin-offending "Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk" from the Kirov, as its replacement for "War and Peace," which the company canceled. Each of these Shostakovich works alone would be noteworthy. Together, they present a window on the artist as a victim of political intimidation.

It would be nice to say that Robert Wilson is also back. In a sense he is, given that the peripatetic American director has been to Los Angeles before. But the West Coast still remains one of the few places in the civilized world that has not seen any of his major work. Worse, L.A. is the city where he has suffered his greatest failures--the inability to raise funds for the grandly ambitious "CIVIL warS" project for the 1984 Olympic Arts Festival and the disappointing 3-D "Monsters of Grace" at UCLA three years ago. That should all change when UCLA Live presents "Woyzeck" at the Freud Playhouse on Dec. 3. This will be an entirely different take on the play by Georg Buchner, upon which Berg based his opera "Wozzeck."

The Wilson version, with songs by Tom Waits, promises Wilson's stunning imagery and lighting along with a sample of his taste for the bizarre.

Here are two soloists to put on your list. Mezzo-soprano Lorraine Hunt Lieberson, as dramatically compelling as any singer before the public today, offers a rare recital Oct. 9 at UCLA's Royce Hall. French pianist Pierre-Laurent Aimard, last heard in Los Angeles playing Ligeti with startling virtuosity, has lately turned his illuminating style to Beethoven. He performs the "Emperor" Concerto with Esa-Pekka Salonen and the Los Angeles Philharmonic Dec. 12, 14 and 15.

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Mark Swed is The Times' music critic.

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