The musical lineup will be characteristically ambitious and wide-ranging throughout the Los Angeles Philharmonic’s 2014-15 season, which is being announced Tuesday. And Walt Disney Concert Hall audiences will find increasing amounts of stimuli for the eyes as well as the ears.
The season will mix standard repertoire, works by contemporary masters and freshly minted pieces by emerging composers such as Bryce Dessner, best known as a guitarist for the band the National, and Christopher Cerrone, whose opera “Invisible Cities” was produced last fall at Union Station by the Industry. Altogether it will yield 10 commissions, eight world premieres and five U.S. premieres. The complete schedule is at laphil.com.
In addition, the Phil, widely regarded as a pioneer among U.S. orchestras in multimedia programming, is adding more multimedia elements to a growing number of its concerts, through new collaborations with video makers, dance choreographers and other performing artists.
Deborah Borda, the Phil’s president, said in an interview last week that the orchestra’s expanding interest in such programming reflects both the organization’s own need to challenge itself artistically, as well as its audience’s expressed desire to engage with classical music in new ways.
“The L.A. Phil is always in motion,” Borda said. “We’re ever-evolving. And so I think that for me this season is emblematic of that philosophy.
“One of the things we found very strongly in our research is that people are very interested in a visual component, because people are really interested in video now,” she continued. “But they’re also interested in dance and acting.”
Multimedia elements are sprinkled throughout the upcoming season, but their most concentrated form will be in a new Friday evening series named “in/SIGHT.”
The series will launch with a Nov. 7 performance of Berlioz’s “Romeo and Juliet,” conducted by Esa-Pekka Salonen, with video by Refik Anadol, an Istanbul native who moved to Los Angeles to study digital media at UCLA. The series will continue in 2015, with Michael Tilson Thomas conducting Beethoven’s “Missa Solemnis,” with video by Finn Ross, on Jan. 9
On Feb. 27, 2015, Disney Hall will host the U.S. premiere of Unsuk Chin’s opera “Alice in Wonderland,” with video by Netia Jones, the young British designer-director who provided the dazzling live animation for the Phil’s 2012 production of Oliver Knussen’s opera “Where the Wild Things Are,” based on Maurice Sendak’s children’s book. And on May 29, Gustavo Dudamel, the Phil’s music director, will lead a program that will include Steve Reich’s “Three Tales,” with video by Beryl Korot, who is married to Reich.
In a Skype interview from London, Jones said that visual elements have been part of classical music performance for hundreds of years, “so the only really new thing are our tools.” “The bottom line is communication,” Jones said. “The music is always in the lead. It’s never second fiddle to anything, ever.”
Another new Phil initiative, “Next on Grand: Contemporary Americans,” also will involve cross-disciplinary activity matching classical music with dance, video, set design and other arts. The series is built around projects linking the orchestra with several of its Grand Avenue arts corridor neighbors, including Music Center Dance, LA Opera and Center Theatre Group.
Among the offerings will be composer David T. Little and librettist Royce Vavrek’s opera “Dog Days,” about a rural family trying to endure in the aftermath of an apocalyptic calamity, with scenic and video design by Jim Findlay and costumes by Victoria “Vita” Tzykun. It will be presented in June 2015 by LA Opera and REDCAT.
The series also will include a new LA Phil/Music Center co-commission of “Available Light,” with music by John Adams, set design by Frank Gehry and choreography by Lucinda Childs.
The Phil’s interest in exploring the intersection of classical music with other performing arts dates back many years. In the late 1990s, the orchestra’s “Filmharmonic” project paired composers with movie makers to create “concertos for film and orchestra.” More recent efforts have included “The Tristan Project,” a 2005 re-imagining of Richard Wagner’s opera by video artist Bill Viola, director Peter Sellars and conductor Salonen.
“What we need to consider now is what is our role in developing that audience of the future,” Borda said. “I would venture to say we’ve got the youngest audience in America, but it’s got to get younger.”
The Phil hopes that objective will be addressed by yet another initiative, “Inside the Music With Brian Lauritzen.” Pegged to several of the Phil’s Friday evening concerts, and hosted by Lauritzen, a producer and host at classical music radio KUSC (91.5 FM), the new series will attempt to engage audiences through pre- and post-concert discussions; 10- to12-minute on-demand, online video features about the upcoming program; and a Phil-hosted online forum that will allow for continuing the conversation after the music stops.
“Basically, I would describe it as a concert series with a tour guide,” Lauritzen said. “It’s not so much about, ‘We’re going to teach you about the music,’ as providing a way into the music.”