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A Disney Hall ‘homecoming’: L.A. Phil lays out its 2021-22 lineup

An exuberant Gustavo Dudamel conducts inside a concert hall.
Gustavo Dudamel conducts the L.A. Phil in Walt Disney Concert Hall less than a month before the pandemic shutdown.
(Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)

The Los Angeles Philharmonic will not have performed for an audience inside Walt Disney Concert Hall for a staggering 19 months by the time the orchestra has its post-pandemic homecoming, an Oct. 9 concert to launch the 2021-22 season.

That kickoff is part of a lineup announced Tuesday including Music and Artistic Director Gustavo Dudamel’s Pan-American Music Initiative, the resurrection of the social-justice-themed Power to the People! festival and a multi-genre Gen X festival paying tribute to the decidedly un-slacker-like achievements of post-boomer artists.

L.A. Phil Chief Executive Chad Smith told The Times in an interview that the orchestra’s highly anticipated return will be an emotional one for the organization, which suffered a $105-million budget shortfall during the pandemic after canceling its 2020-21 Disney Hall season and closing the Hollywood Bowl.

A landmark in hibernation, a surprise from the governor, tears and hugs: Behind the scenes of the whirlwind push to bring music back to the Bowl.

With California fully reopened, more than 70% of the state’s adults fully vaccinated and masking requirements dropped for this growing majority, Smith anticipates that Disney Hall will welcome audiences at 100% capacity. He acknowledged that a resurgence of the virus could alter the situation.

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“We’re going to follow every protocol that the county and state issues. Unvaccinated guests must wear a mask unless things change,” Smith said. “We delayed our seasons at the Bowl and at Disney Hall to ensure the safest space for our audiences.”

Because Disney Hall was forced to close in the middle of the Power to the People! festival in March 2020, organizers Dudamel and Herbie Hancock wanted to return to that programming during the new season and continue examining many of the social justice and artist activism issues that emerged so forcefully during summer 2020, Smith said.

Otherwise, rather than revisit last season’s canceled lineup, Smith said, the L.A. Phil decided to move forward with mostly new programming that reflects the world after a once-in-a-century pandemic and ground-shaking social justice and police reform protests.

“We as a community have gone through a seismic event,” said Smith. “Our goal at the L.A. Phil is to always stay relevant. We wanted to launch into a season with programming and festivals that respond to the world as it is today.”

The experimental opera company behind ‘Sweet Land,’ ‘Hopscotch’ and ‘Invisible Cities’ turns the artistic director position into a cooperative.

The Gen X festival, curated by Thomas Adès, examines the work of artists and creators born between 1965 and 1980, many of whom are in a position to drive the cultural conversation and are leading activism, social consciousness and artistic practice.

Another festival, Reel Change: The New Era of Film Music, celebrates the sonic voices and explorations of a new generation of film composers. It is curated by Kris Bowers, who has collaborated with Ava DuVernay among others, and will include L.A. Phil-commissioned premiere of Bowers’ Concerto for Horn, featuring soloist Andrew Bain. A staged production of Beethoven’s “Fidelio” will be produced in collaboration with Deaf West Theatre.

Dudamel’s multiyear Pan-American Music Initiative will be curated this season by composer Gabriela Ortiz and will include a performance by violinist María Dueñas.

Other highlights include “Symphonic Duke Ellington” with Hollywood Bowl Orchestra conductor Thomas Wilkins and the L.A. Phil; appearances by conductor emeritus Zubin Mehta and conductor laureate Esa-Pekka Salonen; pianists Igor Levit and Yuja Wang; violinist Hilary Hahn; singers J’Nai Bridges and Emmylou Harris; and actor Jeff Goldblum.

“The season as a whole, I hope, feels like not just a response to our changed world, but as a place to convene the conversation as we come out of this time,” Smith said.

He added, “We also realize how incredibly lucky we are as an orchestra and institution to have this venue, which is one of the most perfect spaces in the world to hear this repertoire.”

Find the full season lineup on the L.A. Phil website.


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