• May 14, 2003
  • Inaugural Season to Kick-off with Opening Festivities, Including "Phil the House" Previews and a Series of Gala Concerts

    Los Angeles, CA, May 14, 2003 -- Walt Disney Concert Hall, home of the renowned Los Angeles Philharmonic and the newest venue of the Music Center of Los Angeles County, is in the final stage of construction and opens to the public as scheduled on October 23. Inaugural festivities include a series of invitational performance previews, Phil the House, for the community from October 16 to 19, a civic dedication, and three unique opening gala concerts that demonstrate the scope and innovation of the 2003/2004 season.

    Led by Music Director Esa-Pekka Salonen, the Los Angeles Philharmonic presents its most extensive and ambitious season of programming to mark the highly anticipated opening of the Frank Gehry-designed concert hall. The season features performances of classical masterworks and contemporary repertoire by the Philharmonic, joined by some of the world's most celebrated conductors and soloists. The season includes nine world premieres, special festivals exploring interconnecting themes and new presentation series of Jazz, Baroque, and World Music.

    Following the Philharmonic's final concert at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion this month, and during the summer, the orchestra begins the process of acclimating to its new home at Walt Disney Concert Hall before the opening. Subscriptions for the 2003/2004 inaugural season, which officially begins on October 26, are currently on sale. Single tickets become available in September.

    "For our first season at Walt Disney Concert Hall, we have chosen a bold repertoire of music that responds to the dynamic qualities of the design and that, like the architecture, celebrates tradition and legacy, while also creating new ways of experiencing music and forging links between various art forms and disciplines," says Esa-Pekka Salonen. "We want to open up the Los Angeles Philharmonic; we want to make it approachable, accessible, dynamic, fun, yet challenging and profound at the same time."

    Deborah Borda, Executive Director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, comments, "We hope that our new home opens the door for the next generation of concertgoers to participate in and be energized by an unprecedented cultural experience. We expect every day at the Hall to provide new opportunities for the Philharmonic to bring the joys of music to young and old, loyal patrons and first-time audiences alike, and to demonstrate what 'living music' really means."

    The glistening, curved exterior of the 293,000-square-foot Walt Disney Concert Hall embodies the energy, innovation, and creative spirit of the city of Los Angeles and its orchestra. Concertgoers will experience the power and passion of music in what Gehry calls a "living room for the city," an intimate environment where the world's greatest musicians, composers, and conductors come together with the residents of Los Angeles and beyond.

    "The outside of the building was designed to reflect the aesthetic of the inside, which in itself evolved according to the highest acoustical standards," Gehry says. "The outside was designed to reflect and respond to its surroundings, and to serve as a gathering place. It is my dream that when Esa-Pekka raises his baton to conduct the first notes on opening night, the building will be his instrument, that he will be at the same time conducting the inside and outside of the building itself in a wonderful symphony."

    With the completion of the dramatic structural steel and stainless steel cladding, finishing touches are now being made to the 2,265-seat main auditorium, designed in collaboration with acousticians Yasuhisa Toyota and Minoru Nagata of Nagata Acoustics, including the installation of the organ's more than 10,000 pipes. The concert hall's box office and gift shop open in September, the public restaurant and café will be completed in early October, and pedestrian enhancements to Grand Avenue and the Music Center Plaza also will be completed this fall.

    "The opening of the landmark Walt Disney Concert Hall, together with extensive improvements made to enhance the accessibility of Grand Avenue and the Music Center Plaza, mark the completion of a major phase of downtown revitalization that has also included the construction of Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels, the Colburn School of Performing Arts, and the Staples Center, as well as the renovation of the Ahmanson Theatre at the Music Center, the Museum of Contemporary Art, and the Los Angeles Public Library," says Steven D. Rountree, President and Chief Operating Officer of the Music Center. "Downtown Los Angeles has never been a more exciting and inviting destination for the community and the world."

    Architecture and Acoustics

    The highly sculptural composition of Walt Disney Concert Hall is a striking addition to the city's cultural and architectural landscape. The building occupies a 3.6-acre site?- a full city block at the intersection of First Street and Grand Avenue in the historic Bunker Hill area of downtown Los Angeles. Open and inviting, the first-floor, street-level glass façade of the building allows passers-by to see people inside the lobby, at the box office, in the gift shop, or dining at the restaurant.

    The main entrance features sweeping expanses of glass, a grand stairway, and an oval courtyard, as well as several atria spaces. The hall encompasses two outdoor amphitheaters, including a children's amphitheater seating up to 300 children, and a second performing space that accommodates an audience of 120. A large portion of the site is dedicated to an urban public park with an expansive public garden and ornamental landscaping by Melinda Taylor and Lawrence Reed Moline.

    Walt Disney Concert Hall is the product of intense creative collaboration between artists, architect, acoustician, and musicians. The centerpiece of the hall is the main auditorium, specifically designed for symphonic music. Nagata Acoustics and Frank Gehry Partners collaborated, in consultation with Esa-Pekka Salonen, to simultaneously develop the auditorium's visual and acoustical designs. The groundbreaking "vineyard" shape of the hall with its curved wood ceiling and staggered seating retains the acoustical characteristics and intimacy of a traditional "shoebox" style concert hall, while allowing more flexibility in architectural design.

    "The term 'vineyard' comes from Berlin's Philharmonie, which opened in 1963. The acousticians in Berlin wanted to make some smaller walls in the audience area, so they divided it into blocks, like the steps or terraces in a vineyard," says Yasuhisa Toyota. "Before Walt Disney Concert Hall, we were very successful with Suntory Hall in Tokyo. In that hall, the basic room shape - the perimeter - was almost square, like a box. It was very easy for us to understand the acoustical behavior inside the box, so we combined the box style for the perimeter of the Hall with the vineyard layout. That was the starting point for the design."

    Audience members will surround the orchestra platform for a uniquely personal experience, and a pipe organ will occupy a central position between the seating sections at the rear of the stage. The pipe organ, designed by Los Angeles organ designer Manuel Rosales (sound design) and Gehry (organ form design), and fabricated by Glatter-Götz Orgelbau, GmbH in Owingen, Germany,? is scheduled to debut one year after the opening. Other design highlights of the main auditorium include hardwood walls and ceiling made of Douglas fir and a large 36-foot-high rear window and skylights that will allow natural light to enhance daytime concerts.

    Walt Disney Concert Hall also includes an expansive area for pre-concert events and an extensive backstage technical area, which provides state-of-the-art space for a choral hall and other rehearsal areas, as well as a music library and reading room and storage specifically designed for the Los Angeles Philharmonic's instruments. The 2,200-space parking garage beneath the hall will accommodate visitors to Walt Disney Concert Hall, as well as nearby buildings, allowing the public to pass through the hall's lobby each day.

    The overall complex features multiple new performance and education facilities, including the Roy and Edna Disney/CalArts Theater (REDCAT), a 250-seat multi-use theater and art gallery operated and programmed by California Institute of the Arts. Located at the southwest corner of the Walt Disney Concert Hall complex at Second and Hope streets, it will be accessible through a separate main entrance, retaining its own distinct identity.

    Inaugural Year Programming

    Setting the tone for the Philharmonic's commitment to a new generation of concertgoers, Walt Disney Concert Hall opens its doors first to the community with Phil the House. These invitational performance previews, from October 16 to 19, offer members of the community an opportunity to hear the orchestra perform during the week before the concert hall officially opens to the public. The concert-goers of tomorrow, Los Angeles' children, make up the first Phil the House audience for a commissioned work by Tan Dun and a performance of Prokofiev's Peter and the Wolf. Subsequent previews will be held for educators, community members, and county employees, as well as construction workers and others involved with the Walt Disney Concert Hall project.

    The opening festivities include three distinct opening gala concerts. Sonic LA: An Inaugural Gala for Walt Disney Concert Hall on October 23, designed in collaboration with Gehry, underscores the hall's acoustics through a series of progressively larger performance ensembles, from The Star-Spangled Banner, sung a cappella by Dianne Reeves, to a Gabrieli fanfare performed antiphonally by members of the Philharmonic's brass section, to the dramatic climax of Stravinsky's The Rite of Spring. Living LA: An Inaugural Gala for Walt Disney Concert Hall on October 24 features compositions from the 20th and 21st centuries, including the world premiere of John Adams' The Dharma at Big Sur and a performance of Lutoslawski's Cello Concerto with soloist Yo-Yo Ma. Soundstage LA: An Inaugural Gala for Walt Disney Concert Hall on October 25 pays tribute to the distinguished tradition of symphonic music in Hollywood cinema with a world premiere by composer/conductor John Williams, who also shares the podium with Salonen for the evening.

    The inaugural-year season includes 30 weeks of subscription concerts and a new Saturday matinee series; a record number of nine world premieres - the most ever presented during a single season in the Philharmonic's history - eight as part of a three-year series of commissions for the new Hall; new presentation series in Jazz, Baroque, and World Music; and a new series highlighting community music groups; as well as appearances by distinguished visiting orchestras and holiday programs. The Los Angeles Philharmonic Association also expands its educational offerings for children and adults, including a new introductory series for patrons focusing on the creation of musical masterpieces through a blend of music, theater, and multi-media presentation. In addition, new and continuing partnerships with a range of leading cultural and educational organizations in the area have been forged to foster greater community involvement.

    The subscription season includes concerts led by a distinguished group of visiting conductors: Zubin Mehta, former Music Director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic; Christoph von Dohnányi, who recently completed his tenure as Music Director of The Cleveland Orchestra and joins the Philharmonic for the first time; Valery Gergiev, Music Director of the Kirov Opera and Principal Guest Conductor of the Metropolitan Opera, making a guest appearance to conduct an all-Russian program, and Michael Tilson Thomas, Music Director of the San Francisco Symphony.

    In addition, a series of non-subscription presentations by guest artists and ensembles add new perspectives to the inaugural season, including exclusive Southern California performances by the Berlin Philharmonic, led by its new Music Director, Sir Simon Rattle; and a selection of holiday programs.

    Walt Disney Concert Hall is also the home to the popular Green Umbrella and Colburn Celebrity series. In addition, Sounds About Town, which provides an opportunity the hear the area's premier youth ensembles - from traditional symphonies to a hip hop orchestra - is added to the offerings.

    The Los Angeles Philharmonic Association presents a vibrant new program of Jazz designed by renowned singer Dianne Reeves, Creative Chair for Jazz, and world music programmed by KCRW host and Association Program Director for World Music, Tom Schnabel. Jazz highlights include Wynton Marsalis with the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra, Keith Jarrett, and Herbie Hancock playing Gershwin with the Los Angeles Philharmonic. The new World Music series includes Portuguese fado with Mariza and the Los Angeles Philharmonic, as well as Cesaria Evora accompanied by strings, and a performance by Alison Krauss.

    The inaugural season enables the Los Angeles Philharmonic to form links with the community on a much deeper level. Among the creative collaborations planned for the inaugural season is the Inside/Outside program, a free evening series that examines 20th-century Los Angeles through the prism of music in partnership with other area organizations. The Philharmonic teams with the HeART Project and the Southern California Institute of Architecture (SCI-Arc) to enable 300 high school students to explore the relationship between art, music, and architecture by making models of concert halls; MoCA and other leading downtown institutions are sponsoring a series of Saturday workshops for educators focusing on architecture and music.

    Project History

    In 1987, Lillian Disney made an initial gift of $50 million to build a world-class performance venue as a gift to the people of Los Angeles and a tribute to Walt Disney's devotion to the arts. Since then, other gifts and accumulated interest bring the Disney family's total contribution to the project to more than $100 million. The County of Los Angeles agreed to provide the land and significant additional funding to finance Walt Disney Concert Hall's six-level subterranean parking garage.

    Frank Gehry was selected as the architect in 1988, and the final design was announced in 1991. Construction on the concert hall garage began in 1992 and was completed in 1996. Construction of the hall began in November 1999. The erection of the dramatic structural steel was completed in the summer of 2001, the stainless steel cladding at the beginning of 2003 and the planting of the trees in March.

    Beginning in 1996, a campaign led by Eli Broad and co-chaired by Los Angeles Mayor Richard J. Riordan and Music Center Chair Andrea Van de Kamp, raised the remaining funds necessary to construct the hall. Many corporate, foundation, and individual partners, along with the State of California, contributed generously to the campaign. The Los Angeles Philharmonic provided additional funding for the core project and full funding for the Los Angeles Philharmonic Association Center. The total cost of the project is $274 million.

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  • contact:

    Elizabeth Hinckley, 213.972.3034; Rachelle Roe, 213.972.7310