How Disney Hall will reopen this month with a LACO concert (Hint: Vaccination required)

 The Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra performs
The Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra will resume live performances June 26 with a concert inside Walt Disney Concert Hall.
(Lawrence K. Ho / Los Angeles Times)

The Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra will be the first ensemble to take the stage at Walt Disney Concert Hall since the venue closed its doors more than a year ago, playing a free June 26 concert for invited guests as well as 200 winners of a public tickets giveaway — eligible to those who are fully vaccinated.

“It’s been an exercise in organizational agility and fluidity,” LACO Executive Director Ben Cadwallader said in an interview. “It’s a tall order for a concert of this magnitude to be so nimble.”

The orchestra, which is renting Disney Hall while the Los Angeles Philharmonic pushes ahead with a summer slate of concerts at the Hollywood Bowl, will employ a two-stage verification process to determine who’s been vaccinated. The first step relies on the honor system: Guests will check a box to indicate they have been vaccinated when reserving their tickets online. Upon arrival, all guests will have to show a CDC vaccination card along with personal ID. The company G8 Check will verify vaccinations at the concert hall.


Capacity limits at performance venues are expected to be lifted by June 15, but attendance at the LACO concert will be capped at about 50%. At least one open seat must be maintained between parties. Masks will be required indoors. No food or drink will be available on-site, and there will be no intermission so as not to encourage gathering in common areas.

The full orchestra — 40 musicians — will perform, but they will be seated six feet apart. All but the wind players will be masked. Wind players will no longer have to sit behind the Plexiglas barriers that were used during pandemic recording sessions.

“One of the concerns we have is we don’t know how audiences will react to in-person performances,” Cadwallader said. “Outdoors is one thing, but sitting in an enclosed space, even an expansive one like Disney Hall, are people going to feel comfortable? One of the great things about this concert for us is it enables us to test the waters.”

Twelve LACO musicians will perform a second free concert July 1 for invited, vaccinated guests including donors and subscribers as well as community partners such as the Gay Men’s Chorus of Los Angeles and the Inner City Youth Orchestra of Los Angeles. The concert will reopen the stage at the Huntington Library, Art Museum, and Botanical Gardens’ Rothenberg Hall, which has also been closed for more than a year.

Both concerts will be led by LACO Music Director Jaime Martín, whose contract has been extended for five years, through the 2026-27 season. Martín, a prominent flutist, stepped into his role at LACO in September 2019. He was recently named principal guest conductor of the Spanish National Orchestra starting in the 2022-23 season.

“His joyous music making, remarkable artistry, inclusive and bold programming and collegial leadership inspire both LACO audiences and musicians,” Board Chair Leslie Lassiter said in that announcement. “We are delighted the orchestra’s musical trajectory will continue under his baton.”

At Disney Hall, the orchestra will perform Alberto Ginastera’s “Variaciones concertantes” as well as Juan Pablo Contreras’ “Mariachitlán” and Felix Mendelssohn’s Symphony No. 4 in A major, “Italian.”

The Huntington concert will include the original 1915 version of Manuel de Falla’s sung ballet “El amor brujo,” featuring L.A. mezzo soprano Suzanna Guzmán. The orchestra will also perform Claude Debussy’s “Prélude à ‘L’après-midi d’un faune’” and the world premiere of KiMani Bridges’ “The Flower.”

The orchestra will stream both concerts on its YouTube channel as part of its SummerFest digital chamber music series, now in its second season.

“This is a historic moment for LACO and for everyone who loves live music,” Cadwallader said of the upcoming concerts. “We’ve been fantasizing about this moment and now it’s here. But it’s also a moment of profound responsibility and reflection and hope.”