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L.A. Phil Live schedule announced

The three Los Angeles Philharmonic concert simulcasts will include a performance of Mahler's 'Symphony of a Thousand' from Caracas, Venezuela.

August 18, 2011|By Reed Johnson, Los Angeles Times
  • Gustavo Dudamel conducting the L.A. Phil at Walt Disney Concert Hall.
Gustavo Dudamel conducting the L.A. Phil at Walt Disney Concert Hall. (Lawrence K. Ho / Los Angeles…)

It could be one of the largest big-screen casts since "Ben-Hur."

When the Los Angeles Philharmonic beams its live concert simulcast from Caracas, Venezuela, in February, several hundred musicians will be gathered onstage to perform Mahler's "Symphony of a Thousand," so-called due to the prodigious number of players it requires. Among them will be the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the Simón Bolivar Symphony Orchestra of Venezuela, and the conductor who made his reputation with both of them: Gustavo Dudamel, the Phil's music director.

That planned Feb. 18 event is shaping up as the blockbuster attraction of the second year of L.A. Phil Live, a series of live concerts broadcast in high definition and high-quality surround sound to specially equipped movie theaters in scores of cities across the United States and Canada. Partnering again with NCM Fathom and Cineplex Entertainment, the L.A. Phil is hoping to build on the apparent success of last season's inaugural series of three simulcasts.

Although the Phil's contractual agreement with Fathom prohibits the orchestra from disclosing ticket sales, the Phil's president, Deborah Borda, said that last year's series drew strong attendance, particularly in large metropolitan areas such as New York, Chicago and San Francisco, as well as across Southern California.

"People literally couldn't get into theaters" in some parts of metropolitan Los Angeles, Borda said. "They had to have additional theaters."

This season's simulcasts will begin Oct. 9 with Dudamel conducting an all-Mendelssohn program of the "Hebrides" Overture and the "Scottish" Symphony, as well as the Violin Concerto with Dutch soloist Janine Jansen, at Walt Disney Concert Hall.

The Feb. 18 concert will be a live broadcast from Caracas' Teresa Carreño cultural center of Mahler's "Symphony of a Thousand" (No. 8). Details of the third L.A. Phil Live concert, next spring, have yet to be announced. That broadcast, the Phil says, will include additional behind-the-scenes footage shot in Caracas.

Last year's debut season of simulcasts went off with only a few reported technical glitches, including a Disney Hall camera that broke down during one concert and temporary sound-quality problems in at least one theater.

Otherwise, the series provided audiences hundreds of miles away with virtual front-row encounters with the Phil, Frank Gehry's iconic concert hall and Dudamel, who appeared to be at ease in front of the multiple cameras that tracked his movements on stage and backstage.

Borda said the orchestra will continue to rotate different guest hosts of the simulcasts — Vanessa Williams was among last year's presenters — in an effort to determine which personalities fit best with the programming and how much interaction is needed between the host, Dudamel and other Phil personnel.

She also affirmed that the Phil would continue broadcasting its concerts to theaters in smaller cities, at least for now. Borda said she's heard anecdotally that in one such market, Dubuque, Iowa, only a dozen souls turned up for the first L.A. Phil Live concert. But by the third concert that number had more than tripled to 40.

"We think this builds the audience for all orchestras," Borda said.

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