Japanese violinist Midori, post-modern choreographer Charles Moulton and writer/director and set and costume designer Julie Taymor have been named as the first recipients of the Music Center's Dorothy B. Chandler Performing Arts Awards. The awards--attempting to match in stature the Lincoln Center and Kennedy Center galas--will be presented Sept. 24 during a 90-minute special that will air nationally on PBS Jan. 14.
"We wanted to give the awards to somebody young, but these are not young high school artists," said Nancy Olson Livingston, co-chairwoman of the Music Center's 25th anniversary events, of which the awards are part. "Each of the recipients is a young, serious, emerging artist who's already being acknowledged."
The recipients, who will receive $25,000 each, were selected by designated "20th Century Masters of the Arts"--Zubin Mehta, Harold Prince and Suzanne Farrell--and the Music Center's resident directors Ernest Fleischmann (Los Angeles Philharmonic), Gordon Davidson (Mark Taper Forum/Ahmanson), and Gerald Arpino (Joffrey Ballet). Both the award recipients and the corresponding masters--who were chosen for their lifetime achievements--were announced Tuesday at a press conference at the Music Center.
Mehta, director of the New York Philharmonic and former director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, was designated the master for music; Harold Prince, director-producer ("Phantom of the Opera)" for theater; and Suzanne Farrell, a principal dancer of the New York City ballet, for dance. Fleischmann, Davidson and Arpino individually selected the master for their category, then teamed with that person to name the award winner in that category.
Statues by sculptor Robert Graham will given to each of the award winners by their corresponding master during "The Los Angeles Music Center's 25th Anniversary Celebration Performance," a televised show that will be taped at the Music Center. In addition to scheduled appearances by celebrities including Bob Hope, Placido Domingo, Neil Simon and Carol Burnett, the 25th anniversary special will also include performances by Midori, the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra under the direction of Zubin Mehta, the Los Angeles Master Chorale, the Los Angeles Music Center Opera, the Joffrey Ballet and the Center Theater Group/Mark Taper Forum/Ahmanson Theater.
The awards program is scheduled to become an annual event highlighting music, dance and theater in Los Angeles. It will aim to bring the Music Center up to the level of New York's Lincoln Center and Washington's Kennedy Center, according to Livingston.
"We wanted a unique awards program, and we have it in the concept of a master as well as a winner," said Livingston. "I really believe that two years from now people are going to say, 'Who's the master of music? Who's the master of dance? Who's going to win?' There's going to be an importance and a prestige that will grow around this award."
Livingston said that Dorothy B. Chandler Performing Arts Award winners would be presented annually in the categories of music, dance and theater to individuals "considered to have the potential to be a master artist in that particular field in the 21st Century." Different masters of the arts will also be selected each year, she said.
"It's high time Los Angeles gave out awards like these, serious awards for young artists at a time when arts funding is so threatened," said Arpino, director of the Joffrey Ballet, as he discussed the 35-year-old Moulton, widely considered the most avant-garde of the recipients.
"He's filled with changing and challenging ideas in theater and dance. . . . I don't know whether Mrs. Chandler (who sponsored the awards) would approve of him," said Arpino, with a smile, of the 1983 Guggenheim award-winner. Later in the conference, Arpino said that Moulton can be considered "dangerous" to established dance forms because of his new ideas.
Of 17-year-old Midori, who has played with many of the world's orchestras and has appeared at the Music Center several times, Fleischmann said: "She's not only the most gifted young performer technically . . . but her development as an artist has been so serious, so defined, so profound."
Davidson began his accolade of theater recipient Taymor by admitting that she is "virtually unknown here on the West Coast."
"But she is right on the edge of making significant contributions, and her work (on the East Coast) has been described as 'sumptuous,' 'stunning' and 'visionary,' " he said.
Taymor has received several previous awards for her work, including a 1988 OBIE Award, for "Juan Darien," produced by New York's the Music-Theatre Group.