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Fall Arts Preview

The best of the season

As Summer Gives Way To Fall, Opportunities To Take In The Arts Are Busting Out All Over.

September 19, 2004

The days may be growing shorter, but as the pages that follow amply demonstrate, the list of arts attractions in Southern California between now and 2005 is correspondingly longer. Hardly anyone would dispute that Los Angeles, long derided as a backwater, has become a bellwether instead.

Last year at this time, Walt Disney Concert Hall emerged as an emblem of that transformation, and the Los Angeles Philharmonic shows no sign of lapsing into routine in its new home. In fact, it will begin its second season by inaugurating the hall's spectacular Frank Gehry-designed pipe organ and, two months later, will launch the ambitious "Tristan Project," a series of concerts that will add up to a complete performance of Wagner's "Tristan and Isolde," directed by Peter Sellars and designed by video artist Bill Viola.

Across the street, the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion will continue as the home of what might have seemed unthinkable a few decades ago: Los Angeles Opera. The company's 17th season will bring a welcome debut when soprano Kiri Te Kanawa takes the title role in Samuel Barber's "Vanessa."

Downtown will boast its share of popular music too. Fresh from a show of her own at the Hollywood Bowl, Norah Jones will join Al Green, Elton John and Stevie Wonder, among others, for a Ray Charles tribute concert at Staples Center. Brian Wilson will perform the songs from his long-aborning CD "Smile" -- at Disney Hall.

As for the visual arts, autumn's got a cornucopia. "Renoir to Matisse: The Eye of Duncan Phillips," a selection from the legendary collector's holdings, is going on view at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. The Museum of Contemporary Art will unveil work by a homeboy with "Cotton Puffs, Q-tips, Smoke and Mirrors: The Drawings of Ed Ruscha." And the Orange County Museum of Art will put its new indoor and outdoor spaces to use for the first time with "2004 California Biennial," showcasing the work of more than two dozen young artists.

The season's dance attractions will feature a couple of notable double-headers. The New York City Ballet will perform in Orange County, then at the Chandler Pavilion, and choreographer Matthew Bourne will bring his idiosyncratic take on Tchaikovsky -- "Nutcracker!" -- to Orange County and go on to present it as part of UCLA Live.

In theater, locally born playwright Jon Robin Baitz will premiere "The Paris Letter" at the new Kirk Douglas Theatre in Culver City before taking it to New York. Meanwhile, two plays that already captivated Manhattanites will arrive here: "Take Me Out," Richard Greenberg's baseball drama, at the Geffen Playhouse, and the musical "Caroline, or Change," Tony Kushner's collaboration with composer Jeanine Tesori, at the Ahmanson.

And what of new buildings a year after Disney Hall? Well, check out the about-to-open Caltrans headquarters downtown, designed by architect Thom Mayne. What this structure that some have labeled the "Death Star" might be an emblem of isn't exactly clear. But like the fall season itself, it's definitely imposing.

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Fall Preview

Listings were compiled by Chris Barton (pop music); James E. Fowler (jazz); Jess Holl (art); Steven Johnson (theater, classical); Bettie Rinehart (dance); Frank Torrez (comedy).

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