L.A. Phil 2012-13: John Adams, ‘Wild Things,’ ‘Angels in America’


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After sating itself with super-sized helpings of Gustav Mahler this winter, the Los Angeles Philharmonic won’t be curbing its appetite for large-scale undertakings next year.


The Phil’s 2012-13 season, which will be officially announced later Monday, is a combination of large- and medium-size projects (some new, some evolving from its current season), along with the return of several familiar faces (Esa-Pekka Salonen, Zubin Mehta).

And although there’ll be nothing like this season’s nine-course banquet of Mahler symphonies, the composer’s Symphony No. 5 will be performed in October under guest conductor Daniel Harding.

The season also will have a distinctly operatic flavor, featuring several staged or semi-staged works. They include the second of a planned trilogy of Mozart/Da Ponte operas, ‘The Marriage of Figaro,’ conducted by the Phil’s music director, Gustavo Dudamel, with sets designed by Pritzker Prize-winning architect Jean Nouvel and costumes by couturier Azzedine Alaïa.

Deborah Borda, the Phil’s president, said in an interview that the Mozart project, which the Phil conceived with architect Frank Gehry, grew out of Dudamel’s belief that ‘an orchestra needs to play Mozart, for purity of sound, and they also need to play opera once in a while, to be nimble.’

The project is allowing the Phil to continue to explore the spatial and staging possibilities of Gehry’s iconic Walt Disney Concert Hall. Rather than opera sets, Borda described the planned Mozart designs as ‘installations.’

‘We’re very supportive of [L.A.] Opera, and in no way trying to compete with them,’ she said. ‘Usually we only do 20th- or 21st century operas. But I think this is a special kind of thing. It’s not for your classic opera-goer. It’s different.’ Another prominent date will be the March 7, 2013, debut of the staged version of John Adams’ oratorio, ‘The Gospel According to the Other Mary,’ a spiritual companion piece to the composer’s ‘El Niño’ (2000). The libretto incorporates writings by Rosario Castellanos, Dorothy Day, Louise Erdich and June Jordan.


Los Angeles will see its world premiere in concertante version this year, May 31-June 3. The staged version, directed by Peter Sellars, will tour to Lincoln Center, the Barbican in London and other venues after its 2013 L.A. performances.

Next season the Phil will present Oliver Knussen’s one-act opera based on Maurice Sendak’s children’s classic ‘Where the Wild Things Are’ and the L.A. premiere of Hungarian composer Peter Eötvös’ ‘Angels in America,’ based on Tony Kushner’s drama about the ravages and human resiliencies of the AIDS era.

‘Where the Wild Things Are’ will use Hollywood-style motion-capture technology to meld the human performers with the faces of Sendak’s animated characters, creating images that will be projected onto a movie screen.

Mehta will mark the 50th anniversary of his first program as music director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic by performing that same program of Mozart, Hindemith and Dvorák in four concerts in December. He wil also appear earlier at Disney Hall with the the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra; Yuja Wang will join them Oct. 13.

Other concerts the Phil is highlighting are a Bach Keyboard Cycle, with pianist András Schiff, and Beethoven piano concertos with Leif Ove Andsnes, conducted by Dudamel.

On the non-classical programming side, a Phil-commissioned world premiere of a new jazz work by Wayne Shorter will be performed by the Wayne Shorter Quartet, accompanied by the Phil and Grammy Award-winning jazz bassist Esperanza Spalding.


Yet another operatic event will be a November performance of Alban Berg’s ‘Wozzeck,’ by the Philharmonia Orchestra of London, helmed by Salonen, the Phil’s conductor laureate. Salonen also will conduct programs honoring the hundredth anniversary of composer Witold Lutosławski’s birth.

Noting that the Phil was commemorating Lutosławski, but previously has passed up the anniversaries of other more celebrated composers, Borda commented, with a laugh: ‘We’re just perverse sometimes. It’s just us. It comes with trying not to do what everybody expects us to do.’

New season subscriptions will go on sale April 4; single tickets will be available Aug. 19. The full season will be announced on the L.A. Phil’s website.


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-- Reed Johnson

[For the record: An earlier version of this story misstated Zubin Mehta’s concert schedule at Disney.]

Photos, from left: John Adams by Lawrence K. Ho/Los Angeles Times; Zubin Mehta by Stephen Osman; Esa-Pekka Salonen by Barbara Davidson/Los Angeles Times