Out West Arts: Performance at the end of the world

Opera, music, theater, and art in Los Angeles and beyond

In the Wings - April

April 02, 2009

Elias Sime, Enat 5, 2004
Photo: SMMoA 2009

This is the moment we've all been waiting for. Or maybe it would be better to say the moment we’ve all been dreading with anticipation. April is here, and on top of the list of performing arts events here in Los Angeles will be the final performances from the Los Angeles Philharmonic under outgoing music director Esa-Pekka Salonen. It’s still hard for me to believe that this era, which has revolutionized our local orchestra, is really going to end. But end it will over three sets of shows. The “Green Umbrella” new music series next Tuesday the 7th will feature four world premiere compositions from four different young composers all picked by Salonen for the occasion. The following weekend, Salonen will lead performances of his new Violin Concerto along with Ligeti and Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony. The following weekend will feature four performances of Stravinsky’s Symphony of Psalms paired with a nearly fully staged version of Oedipus Rex. The buzz is that this evening, directed by Peter Sellars and featuring thrones and other design elements from Ethiopian artist Elias Sime, will be quite a production and is sure to be a very emotional event for everyone involved. The programs on both Saturday April 11th and the final concert on Sunday April 19th will be broadcast live on KUSC.

Perhaps the only thing crazier than reaching the end of this road is that while all of this is going on, Los Angeles Opera will be barreling into the highlights of its current season when the second installment of Achim Freyer’s already highly regarded version of Wagner’s Ring cycle, Die Walküre, opens on April 4 with none other than Placido Domingo singing Siegmund. (SPOILER ALERT: I saw the final dress rehearsal last night and it's spectacular, one for the record books.) And if you’re wondering why there are so many out-of-towners there, it’s because the company will simultaneously be presenting Walter Braunfels’ Die Vögel as part of James Conlon’s “Recovered Voices” project. These productions will both wrap up by the 26th of April, and ticket sales have been strong with most of the weekend performances of Die Walküre already near capacity, so act now. (And in perhaps the deftest bit of replacement casting this year, Christopher Ventris is scheduled to take over for Domingo in the last two performances, which may warrant an additional listen in its own right.) And not to be forgotten in the opera mix is the opening of San Diego Opera’s production of Britten’s Peter Grimes starring Anthony Dean Griffey in what is becoming a signature role for him. If you didn’t get to see him perform the role recently in New York, this is your Southern California chance to do so.

Placido Domingo as Siegmund and Anja Kampe as Sieglinde
Photo: Monika Rittershaus/LAO 2009

With all that, you might not have time for much else, but there are some worthwhile options. The L.A. Philharmonic will also feature performances of Handel and Haydn under Bernard Labadie the weekend of the 2nd, and Joshua Bell will return with Lionel Bringuier on the 23rd. The Monday Evening Concert series will wrap up its season with a show on the 13th dedicated to Galina Ustvolskaya at Zipper Concert Hall downtown. There will also be a visit from the Australian Chamber Orchestra at Walt Disney Concert Hall on the 21st. Down in Orange County, Musica Angelica and the Pacific Chorale will join forces for Bach’s St John’s Passion on the 11th. Oh, and also on the not-to-miss list is a visit from Leonard Cohen in a rare live performance at the Nokia Theater on the 10th.

On the theater beat, the Mark Taper Forum will present Octavio Solis’ Lydia starting on the 2nd and a revival of Ain't Misbehavin' on the 17th. Across the street at REDCAT there are several exciting May events including appearances from Gamelan Burat Wangi on the 5th, Caden Manson and the Big Art Group on the 8th, Neil Greenberg‘s Really Queer Dance program on the 15th, and Marc Bamuthi Joseph on the 22nd.

I’ll be checking out for a brief jaunt in the end of the month to New York to catch the swan song of Otto Schenk’s Ring cycle at the Metropolitan Opera. While there, you can also expect updates on the Wooster Group’s staging of La Didone at St. Ann’s Warehouse, and a concert performance of Berlioz’ La Damnation de Faust with the Philadelphia Orchestra under Simon Rattle with Thomas Quasthoff, Eric Owens, and Magdalena Kozena. I’m also schedule to catch opening performances of Ayckbourn’s three part The Norman Conquests on Broadway as well as the Donmar Warehouse production of Schiller's Mary Stuart and the current revival of Ionesco’s Exit the King. That should do for now. If you’re going to be in L.A. this month, this is not the time to be sitting at home.


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