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Subscribers Get First Look at Interior of New Disney Hall

October 05, 2003|David Pierson | Times Staff Writer

Peter Schou's notion of prime real estate on Saturday was not about beachfront property or a Beverly Hills ZIP Code. His only concern: the distance between his seats and the Los Angeles Philharmonic.

For the first time, Walt Disney Concert Hall doors were opened to season subscribers, who were allowed in to explore the $274-million Frank O. Gehry-designed hall. Schou, his family and 13,000 others admired the acoustically perfected and visually stunning interior.

A spectacle of color and untraditional forms greeted them as they stepped inside the 2,265-seat auditorium. Red, blue, brown and green beamed from the carpets and seat cushions -- a pattern designed by Gehry to give the room the liveliness of a jungle. Serving as a centerpiece behind the stage was a bronze-colored organ, whose jagged pipes bent like branches from an exotic tree.After gasping at the expanse, Schou led his wife, Sally, and daughter, Emma, 3, past an usher and they quickly collapsed into section seats a dozen rows from the stage.

"It's beautiful. It's strikingly intimate, considering how big it is. But our proximity to the orchestra is what's best of all," said the West Hollywood psychologist, who has been a subscriber for 18 years.

The day was a dress rehearsal for ushers, volunteers and, most of all, patrons. The more than 80 ushers and 60 volunteers guided the estimated 13,000 people through the lobby and up and down the five levels. They showed guests everything from their seats to the bathrooms and restaurants that aren't open yet.

"When some people stepped in, they literally burst into tears," said Deborah Borda, executive director of the L.A. Philharmonic Orchestra. "People are overwhelmed by how beautiful it is."

For most, it was the exterior that was the draw, but on Saturday it was the interior that brought cheers, clapping and awe. Visitors sauntered as they tried different seats. Some tested the acoustics by clapping.

Outside, they wandered the gardens and caught the city views from balconies.

Borda said the day was a chance to learn what still needed to be done before the first concert is held on Oct. 16, a special event for schoolchildren.

She said that aside from a couple of misplaced signs and no hot water in a restroom, there were few kinks to work out.

The tours, which started at 9 a.m., continued until 9 p.m.

The large crowd represented less than half the 27,000 subscribers to the 150 concerts to be held between November and June.

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