Out West Arts: Performance at the end of the world

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

In the Wings - Jan '12

January 04, 2012


The holidays are over and the local performing arts scene will be back in full swing this January with too much to choose from. The event I’m most excited about is the return of Marino Formenti to Southern California on Jan 7th as a guest of the Philharmonic Society of Orange County where he’ll play workers by Benjamin and Gardner as well as Beethoven’s Diabelli Variations. His appearances are always surprising and this is the one show not to miss next month. A good second choice would be a local appearance by Steve Reich with red fish blue fish and the Bang on a Can All-Stars who will present an evening of his work including Music for 18 Musicians as guests of the L.A. Philharmonic’s “Green Umbrella” program on the 17th. And if you love Kaija Saariaho as much as I do, you’ll also want to consider this month’s performance from Jacaranda Music in Santa Monica on the 21st which will include Je sens un deuxieme coeur taken from her opera Adriana Mater.

Denis Matsuev
There are other musical performances to consider of course. Monday Evening Concerts continues its season on Jan 9th with the music of Klaus Lang. And the superb Vivica Genaux who dazzled with the Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra in Berkeley last month will tour Los Angeles with Europa Galante singing Vivaldi arias on the 25th. Susan Graham will give a recital at the newly opened Valley Performing Arts Center with Malcom Martineau on the 18th. And the ever-popular Jean-Yves Thibaudet will return to perform with the L.A. Phil under Miguel Harth-Bedoya starting on Jan 6th. The Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra will be joined by Nigel Armstrong in a Mozart program on the 21st and 22nd while Camerata Pacifica will play Beethoven and Chausson in a number of locales starting on the 12th. You may also want to check out 1998 International Tchaikovsky Competition winner Denis Matsuev who’ll perform a concert at Royce Hall on Jan 24th including works of Schubert and Beethoven.

There are two opera offering to keep in mind this month. San Diego Opera will kick off its 2011 season with Strauss’ Salome starring Lise Lindstrom on the 28th. And closer to home, Long Beach Opera will likely surprise us with a production of Piazzolla’s Maria de Buenos Aires which will have the first of two performances on the 29th. And while not an opera, this would be a good time to check out Musica Angelica who will present two performances of Pergolesi’s Stabat Mater with Dame Emma Kirkby and Daniel Taylor on the 28th and 29th as well.

Helen Hunt in Our Town Photo: Carol Rosegg
More you say? New theater productions abound everywhere. Center Theater Group will present Bruce Norris’ Pulitzer prize-winning Clybourne Park at the Taper starting on the 11th while bringing back Phylicia Rashad’s production of the related A Raisin in the Sun by Lorriane Hansberry at the Kirk Douglas Theater on the 19th. The Geffen Playhouse will have stars in its eyes starting on the 3rd with Kathleen Turner playing Molly Ivins in Red-Hot Patriot while the valley’s Porters of Hellgate troupe will bring Shakespeare’s Troilus and Cressida to that stage starting on the 13th. On the 6th, A Noise Within will be giving a two week run of Michael Frayn’s Noises Off in their own successful production, while South Coast Repertory will revive Suzan-Lori Parks landmark Topdog/Underdog starting the 8th. Not to be outdone, City Garage will present he West Coast Premiere of Neil LaBute’s Filthy Talk for Troubled Times starting on Jan 6th. Odyssey Theater in West L.A. will also offer up Joe Orton's What the Butler Saw on Jan 14th. But the hottest ticket in town this month may turn out to be David Cromer's highly regarded production of Thornton Wilder’s Our Town which will arrive at the Broad Stage on Jan 14th.

And among all of these going’s on, please do not forget about the good folks at CalArts’ REDCAT who will kick off an exciting spring season this month with Rinde Eckert's And God Created Great Whales on the 25th. This story about a composer struggling to complete an operatic adaptation of Moby-Dick may serve as an excellent precursor to San Diego Opera's presentation of Jake Heggie's completion of the very same thing next month.

Probably the most publicized event this month is the L.A. Philharmonic’s “Mahler Project” under the guidance of music director Gustavo Dudamel which starts Jan 13. What the "project" part is, I’m not sure other than no one wants to use a plain jane word like "cycle" anymore. Call it what you will, all of Mahler’s symphonies, and a few other works, will be presented over four weeks by either the L.A. Phil or the Simon Bolivar Orchestra of Venezuela who’ll visit here before returning with Dudamel and the L.A. Phil to Venezuela to repeat the concerts. Both orchestras will perform alongside for Mahler’s 8th Symphony which will take place at the Shrine Auditorium on Feb 4th which the will later reprise from Venezuela as the next installment in the company’s live broadcast to movie theater series. And in case this "extraordinary" series doesn't have enough spoon-feeding built into it already, it will also bring the likes of stormin’ Norman Lebrecht to town (the real one not the fake one) who will participate by telling us why Mahler is important. So if this is a matter that has been puzzling to you, you may want to check out some of these shows along the way. Who knows? Maybe Dudamel and the L.A. Philharmonic will finally succeed in giving the largely unknown and misunderstood composer a foothold in the world of contemporary orchestra performance.



I thought we were having a big month up here in SF until I read all of that- geez.

Mahler is "largely unknown"?
Apparently Mahler is considering that at east the LA Phil PR department feels that a Mahler cycle is "extraordinary" and needs to have the composer's importance explained to its audience by "world-class scholars".

In reality the series just reprises some of the most familiar orchestra music around - something you could hear more or less anywhere- with little added value other than it's being played over a rather condensed schedule using two different orchestras.
It would be very entertaining to have the "fake" Lebrecht instead of the real one.
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