Out West Arts: Performance at the end of the world

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

The Cold Shoulder

July 21, 2010

McGegan with Katia and Marielle Labèque and members of the Los Angeles Philharmonic
Photo: mine 2010

It’s July: that time of year when we Angelenos must come to grips with another fact of life here at the end of the world—the Hollywood Bowl. It’s an annual tradition, but one that is always marked by thoughts of “why do we do this” year after year. Tuesday was my first Bowl visit this season for an all-Mozart program with the Los Angeles Philharmonic under the guidance of Nicholas McGegan with the remarkable Katia et Marielle Labèque. And soon the sensory experiences come flooding back: burrowing under a heavy blanket under the heavily clouded sky, and the dulcet tones of idiots unwrapping their sandwiches and kicking over the bottles all under the loud crackle of the PA system the Bowl uses for amplification. The Bowl is always about performing admirably in the context of adversity. And on Tuesday, for a moment, the Labèque sisters achieved this as we gazed at them in a poignant moderne video split-screen on the Bowl’s six giant jumbotron screens stationed around the amphitheater.

The Labèques played Mozart’s Concerto in E-flat for two pianos. McGegan informed us this was a “jolly” little concerto the composer originally penned for his sister and him. But the work sounded like much more here, with the soloists filling it with both energy and drama while not letting the tone get too high-handed. It was masterful playing from an act that’s a real standout in today’s classical music world. The rest of the show consisted of incidental music from Thomas, King of Egypt and Symphony No 36. Both were pleasantly played with McGegan’s affable-to-a-fault guidance. But in a venue that is perhaps the most unimaginably inappropriate for Mozart’s music, it was a completely valid approach. You’ve got to get big in the Hollywood Bowl – there’s no place else to go. The show repeats on Thursday night, so put on a heavy sweater if you’re so inclined and head on out.

Oh, and one other thing. Here's a big welcome aboard to two of the newest official members of our beloved hometown orchestra. Tuesday's program included shout-outs to violinist Minyoung Chang and Principal Bassoon Whitney Crockett. Both musicians have been seen playing with the L.A. Phil on several occasions over the last year and by the printed note in the program appear to have signed on for a more extended tour of duty as of this past April (although there is noticeably less press fanfare overall this time around, following the debacle over Mathieu Dufour who was, then wasn't, the L.A. Phil's new Principal flute earlier in the year). Both Chang and Crockett have most recently been playing with the esteemed New York Philharmonic and Metropolitan Opera Orchestra respectively prior to coming to L.A. Here's wishing them the best in L.A. even during those surprisingly cold and overcast summer months.



There are four large screens at the Bowl - two next to the stage and two on the Second Promenade level. That's it. Two plus two equals four. Not six - just four (4). One would have to drink and/or smoke something really nice and strong in order to see six of them. But then, that's what Bowl concerts are for, aren't they?
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