Guest pianists Lang Lang and Andre Watts will highlight the Pacific Symphony’s 2012-13 season at the Renee and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall in Costa Mesa, and the music of another renowned pianist, Duke Ellington, will be in the spotlight as the focus of the orchestra’s annual American Composers Festival.
The season announced Thursday is light on living composers. Saxophonist Daniel Schnyder, who straddles jazz and classical music, will be part of the May 16-18, 2013, American Composers Festival program that also features the Duke Ellington Orchestra and soloists Kenny Drew (piano) and Dave Taylor (trombone). Pieces by contemporary composers from China –- Chinese Canadian An-Lun Huang, and the team of Chen Gang and He Zhanhao -- will be performed along with Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony (April 4-6, 2013), led by guest conductor Mei-Ann Chen, music director of the Memphis Symphony.
The Pacific Symphony’s music director, Carl St.Clair, will continue to keep the torch burning for opera in Orange County, with a semi-staged performance of “Tosca” (Feb. 21-26, 2013), with singers to be announced. The current season includes another Puccini work, “La Boheme” (April 19-24), which was programmed partly in reaction to the near-absence of opera in Orange County since the Segerstrom Center’s resident company, Opera Pacific, folded in fall 2008.
The current and former music directors of the Los Angeles Philharmonic will be among the prominent classical personalities to appear in the next season of the Philharmonic Society of Orange County. Gustavo Dudamel will lead the L.A. Philharmonic for one concert, while Esa-Pekka Salonen will separately conduct London's Philharmonia Orchestra.
Other notable names of the 2012-13 season include Yo-Yo Ma and Itzhak Perlman. The season will continue the Philharmonic Society's ongoing focus on the works of Beethoven. Concerts will take place at the Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall. Recitals will take place at different venues around Orange County, including for the first time the new Soka Performing Arts Center in Aliso Viejo.
Salonen will open the season with a Nov. 14 concert with the Philharmonia Orchestra performing Beethoven's Symphony No. 7 and Berlioz's "Symphonie Fantastique." It will be Salonen's first appearance in Orange County since stepping down as music director of the L.A. Philharmonic in 2009.
The Orchestre Révolutionnaire et Romantique, along with the Monteverdi Choir, will perform two concerts (Nov. 19 and 20) conducted by Sir John Eliot Gardiner. The concerts will feature performances of Beethoven's Missa Solemnis and Symphony No. 9.
Fans can finally hear what Stephen Sondheim has to say. Segerstrom Center for Arts announced Tuesday that “Stephen Sondheim: In Conversation” has been rescheduled for July 13 in the Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall.
The show -- a mix of chatting and singing -- will include anecdotes from the theater icon, with Christine Ebersole and Brian Stokes Mitchell singing selections from Sondheim’s songbook, accompanied by the show’s music director, Tedd Firth.
Sondheim’s initial “Conversation” was set for Oct. 29 but was interrupted by a surprise East Coast snowstorm that left the Tony-winning composer stranded and unable to fly to Orange County. Singers Ebersole and Mitchell proved successful pinch-hitters, helping to transform the talk into a 95-minute performance of Sondheim’s catalog.
Ticket-holders to the October performance are being contacted about the new date and will have priority to attend the (weather permitting, of course) July engagement.
Tickets for the 8 p.m. performance start at $35 and are available online or by calling (714) 556-2787.
-- Jamie Wetherbe
Photo: Stephen Sondheim. Credit: Fred R. Conrad
“Ten Tiny Dances” is the descriptive title for an unusual, smorgasbord-style program started 10 years ago, and it is also the challenge for its participating choreographers: to make a work of extreme brevity (five to eight minutes) on a 4-by-4-foot stage.
The show made its local debut with two performances this weekend at the Segerstrom Center for the Arts’ Off Center Festival, casting two local participants with veteran Northwest performance artists, including “Ten Tiny’s” Portland, Ore., founder Mike Barber.
The Samueli Theater was transformed into a cabaret, with the stage in the middle, making for a casual and intimate performance.
Each dance was a kinetic ink blot test of the artists’ creative personalities. Give a dancer a small space and surprisingly diverse reactions manifest -– acrobatics, striptease, body manipulation, madness, and, perhaps to be expected, bending the rules. Gimmickry was thankfully limited. Like National Public Radio’s three-minute fiction contest, a constraining device can unlock clever ideas. Even when it didn’t, the dance ended soon enough.
Among the highlights was Michelle Fujii, an expert in Japanese drumming and traditional folk dance, who stuffed four bodies onstage in “Slipping Through My Fingers.” Every step and whack of the fan drum was precisely measured, timed and executed with graceful amplitude. Jennifer Backhaus worked with cheerful exuberance and gymnastic athleticism in “The Margin,” using four dancers to trace and test the boundaries of vertical and horizontal space.
Wade Madsen’s “Got It,” performed by Jack Moebius, had a similar buoyancy, with skipping and robotic bursts complementing a recorded score by Dim Dim. Barber and partner Cydney Wilkes tipped the stage on its side in “Wicked,” a comedic duet and battle of body manipulation, costume hijinx and feathers.
In “Tangle,” Margretta Hansen crisscrossed the theater, tying up patrons in the unraveling yarn of her knitted sweater (costume by Kim Mathiesen), and finally concluded onstage with a silent scream of despair.
Carla Mann’s “Snag” offered a lyrical duo coarsely executed; while Meg Wolfe’s “Shannon’s With The Band (again)” explored a morose character, part drum major, part go-go dancer. Both Linda Austin in “Nigh” and Angelle Hebert in “Splinter” (with Mann performing) went over to the dark side, reveling in over-the-top psychosis. Austin struggled through a forest of paper, while “Splinter’s” Jesse Berdine chopped the stage with an ax.
A family emergency caused the last-minute withdrawal of choreographer Melanie Rios Glaser, so Madsen stepped in with a witty, imaginary striptease, “I Can’t Give You Anything But Love, Baby,” to a Judy Garland recording.
Big dances have their attraction, but "Ten Tiny Dances" demonstrated that size isn't everything.
The program repeats Saturday night.
-- Laura Bleiberg
Photo: “Nigh,” choreography, visual design and performance by Linda Austin. Credit: Doug Gifford
After 19 years, finally a boo.
Philharmonic Society president and artistic director Dean Corey reacted with delight during intermission of Marino Formenti’s recital Saturday night at the Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall. The booing was in response to the U.S. premiere of Evan Gardner’s “Variations on a Theme by John Cage.” The feisty Italian pianist chose this piece for piano and live electronics as prelude to his astonishingly visceral performance of Beethoven’s “Diabelli” Variations.
Known as a rivetingly physical, virtuosic and now and then wayward specialist in new music, Formenti was Corey’s offbeat choice to participate in the society’s ongoing survey of Beethoven’s most audacious late chamber music. The “Diabelli” -- 33 formidable variations lasting nearly 45 minutes -- was not in Formenti’s repertory. Corey’s terms were that if he learned the variations, the pianist could program anything else he wanted, with the expectation of reminding us that Beethoven was once avant-garde too.
Formenti began the concert with the Modernist British composer George Benjamin’s “Shadowlines,” crystalline miniatures played with beautiful delicacy and flickering immediacy. For Gardner’s new piece, Formenti put on special electronic sensor gloves, which he waved in the air to create feedback on a loudspeaker. Beethoven was reserved for the second half.
Two significant events reverberated in 2011 for Los Angeles dance, book ends to the touring companies that annually blow in and out of town.
In January, 12 dance groups were invited to compete on “The A.W.A.R.D. Show!”, a reality-TV style co-production of the Joyce Theater Foundation and REDCAT, Cal Art’s downtown performance and arts center. Choreographer Barak Marshall won the $10,000 prize, but all the participants surely benefited from the recognition and audience exposure that being at REDCAT confers.
Then last month, the formation of L.A. Dance Project was announced, a new “arts collective” founded by choreographer and dancer Benjamin Millepied, with backing from the Music Center.
In both these instances, powerful institutions reached out to sustain or create local infrastructure. Both have potential to be exciting developments, particularly if they have long-lasting impact. This kind of support is vital, and has been notably absent for decades. Will it continue? Stay tuned in 2012.
Oh, and about those touring companies…it was a year of superlative performances, from established powerhouses and groups making debut engagements. These were personal favorites, with photos of each:
Paulo Szot seems to traverse both the physical and musical worlds with equal ease. Born in Brazil to Polish immigrants, the world-class baritone spent his formative years in both places, immersed in the arts. He has sung opera successfully in major houses in the U.S. and Europe and seamlessly crossed over to Broadway, notably in his 2008 Tony Award-winning role in the Lincoln Center hit revival of “South Pacific.”
Having just finished singing Escamillo the bullfighter in a San Francisco Opera production of “Carmen," Szot has briefly set down -- with a stop in between to absorb the Yosemite sights -- in Costa Mesa, where Thursday through Sunday he’ll sing a cabaret set of show tunes and American Songbook standards with an instrumental trio at the Segerstrom Center for the Arts’ Samueli Theater.
Among his life’s influences:
By definition, public art is a form that requires no throwing back of curtains.
But a behind-the-scenes look at the public art of one extremely busy Southern California neighborhood -– Costa Mesa’s South Coast Metro commercial and arts district -– is what's being offered in an exhibition opening Wednesday at South Coast Plaza, the shopping center that led the district’s transformation from lima bean fields to the sort of place it makes sense to festoon with major pieces of sculpture.
“On Display in Orange County: Modern and Contemporary Sculpture” runs through Jan. 2 in a pop-up gallery at the South Coast Plaza Penthouse, a third-floor niche for luxe retailers.
The show includes photographs, preliminary artist renderings and models, videos and other archival items documenting the creation of 13 works. All but one was bought or commissioned by Henry T. Segerstrom, managing partner of the family firm that owns and operates South Coast Plaza and developed the surrounding properties. (The exception is a 1981 Henry Moore sculpture purchased in 1984 by Angels of the Arts, a support group of the Segerstrom Center for the Arts.) One piece, Alexander Calder’s 1966 mobile, “Pekin,” will be part of the exhibition, having been temporarily relocated from its usual perch in the lobby of one of the district’s commercial buildings.
Doing good while doing well, the Segerstroms donated the acreage for the Segerstrom Center for the Arts -– a title that applies both specifically to the two-building performing arts center at its core (formerly known as the Orange County Performing Arts Center) and more generally to the overall arts district. That district also encompasses South Coast Repertory and a vacant parcel set aside for the Orange County Museum of Art, which faces the challenge of raising money so it can build there and eventually vacate its cramped quarters in Newport Beach.
Gustav Mahler’s emotionally conflicted, musically prophetic Ninth Symphony was once a rarity in the concert hall. Yet in the span of a little more than a year, Southern California orchestras will have performed it on at least four occasions -– Gustavo Dudamel led the Ninth last January and will reprise it next February, the San Diego Symphony performed it just last week -– and the Pacific Symphony made the Ninth the capstone of its “Departures” trilogy Thursday night at Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall.
Those who came early were treated to actors Nick Ullett and Jenny O’Hara's dramatically charged readings from Mahler’s letters and his wife Alma’s diaries and memoirs (assembled by artistic advisor Joseph Horowitz); Gustav’s bluntly alpha-male ultimatum on what he expected from Alma drew gasps of amazement from this 21st century audience. Another prologue followed in which three songs from “Rückert-Lieder” were performed with a big, rolling timbre by baritone Christòpheren Nomura and pianist Hye-Young Kim, with linking commentary from music director Carl St.Clair.
Auction turnaround: Christie's sold 82 works of art for $247.59 million on Tuesday, including a world auction record of $43.2 million for Pop Art by Roy Lichtenstein. (New York Times)
Turn on the lawyers: Director Julie Taymor, who was fired as the creative leader of "Spider-Man: Turn off the Dark," has sued the show's producers. (Los Angeles Times)
Mother's pain: The mother of Chinese artist and activist Ai Weiwei has accused officials of hounding her son, describing their approach as "creepy, crooked, evil." (Guardian)
Saving the day: Grants for the Arts -- a program funded by a small surcharge on every hotel bill -- is keeping San Francisco culture afloat. (San Francisco Chronicle)
Taking a stand: The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art did something unusual: It effectively came out in favor of marriage equality. (Modern Art Notes)
New festival: The Segerstrom Center for the Arts is announcing its first "Off Center Festival" with minimalism and eclecticism among the creative approaches. (Los Angeles Times)
Musically minded: Conductor Mark Wigglesworth on what makes some works more popular than others. (Gramophone)
Cheers: Who are the most influential people in London theater, dance, and art and design? (London Evening Standard)
Up and comers: Annaleigh Ashford and MJ Rodriguez of "Rent," Jennifer Damiano of "Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark" and Josh Grisetti of "Enter Laughing" are finalists for the Clive Barnes Award. (Playbill)
New world: Four ways that YouTube has changed Broadway. (Mashable)
-- Sherry Stern
Image: "I Can See the Whole Room … and There's Nobody in It!" (1961) by Roy Lichtenstein sold for a record $43.2 million. Credit: Christie's