L.A. Phil’s 2022-23 Disney Hall season lineup celebrates Black women artists and Pan-American music
The history of collaboration between Black women artists; the legacy and thriving state of classical music in the Americas; the untold stories of women who lived during the California Gold Rush; and an immersive, multimedia exploration of the work of three historic female composers, dating back to the Middle Ages. These themes, stories and artists will be explored as part of the 2022-23 season lineup for Walt Disney Concert Hall, announced Tuesday by the Los Angeles Philharmonic.
Additional highlights include appearances by Michael Tilson Thomas, Zubin Mehta, Chaka Khan, Herbie Hancock, Rhiannon Giddens, Rufus Wainwright and Renée Fleming.
LA. Phil Chief Executive Chad Smith says the season is as notable for what isn’t being announced as for what is. Organizing a season, Smith says, begins as early as four years before that season unfolds. For that reason, the L.A. Phil is planning to roll out future offerings every few months, with a focus on events curated by its Humanities program, which was founded in 2019 and is the first of its kind to operate alongside a major American orchestra. The purpose of the department is to partner with arts and educational organizations to create work that helps contextualize what the orchestra is doing in order to better connect with diverse communities in real time.
“We’ve known for a long time that our planning process in classical music is a barrier to relevance — that planning things too far out means you don’t have the flexibility in the moment to respond,” says Smith. “We are trying to be a little more fleet-footed as a result of the pandemic, so we hold back.”
Gustavo Dudamel, the L.A. Phil’s music and artistic director, will spearhead the efforts and is slated to conduct 10 programs, including opening the season with a night of film music by John Williams; world premieres of work by Ellen Reid and Gabriella Smith; 10 days of Rachmaninoff featuring Yuja Wang performing all four piano concertos; the conductor’s first crack at Wagner’s “Tristan and Isolde”; and concerts connected to his Pan-American Music Initiative.
That initiative, now in its second year, is the L.A. Phil’s “attempt to help shift the center of gravity a little bit more to the Americas and Latin America when we talk about classical music,” says Smith. It will include work by Gabriela Ortiz, José Antonio Abreu, Heitor Villa-Lobos and Arturo Márquez.
“Rock My Soul,” the festival celebrating the history of collaboration between Black women artists, is created by soprano Julia Bullock, who also will perform in it. The series was inspired by the friendship between Florence Price and Margaret Bonds, two African American composers working during the early 20th century. Their collaboration allowed their work to be heard on stages across the country despite the enormous prejudice they faced, says Smith.
“Julia said that’s just an example of the supportive network that Black women artists have had over many decades, and asked, ‘How can we highlight more of that work?’” says Smith.
“Rock My Soul” became the answer to that question, and also an example of how the L.A. Phil is seeking to establish itself as an “artist-centered space,” says Smith.
“As we come out of the pandemic, if artists have an idea, I want the L.A. Phil to be the place where it can come to life,” he says. “Whether it’s a commissioned new work, or a digital work, Gustavo and I want to create an institution that is malleable and able to support the most creative visionaries.”
Smith says he considers Bullock such a visionary, and is excited that she also will star in John Adams’ opera “Girls of the Golden West,” which is told from the perspective of women and immigrant workers in California gold mines, and uses letters and journals in the libretto.
Another unique, one-night-only event titled “Electric Fields” will pair pianists Katia and Marielle Labèque with contemporary music soprano Barbara Hannigan in an immersive, multimedia exploration of the work of Medieval composer and saint Hildegard of Bingen, as well as the work of two female Italian composers, the Baroque era’s Francesca Caccini and Barbara Strozzi.
“I hope that across the season that incredible creativity — that relentless and restless search for the new — is also felt and understood when we dig into those meaty and meaningful works from prior centuries,” says Smith.
COVID protocols are swiftly shifting in the city and the state; as of press time, there is still an indoor mask mandate for county venues, including Walt Disney Concert Hall. The L.A. Phil expects to continue asking for proof of full vaccination (including a booster dose, if eligible).
The full 2022-23 season lineup can be found here.
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