Arts Preview: From Schubert to Nina Simone? The spring classical calendar is full of surprises

Soprano Julia Bullock, photographed in 2016 at the Hollywood Bowl. She will give her first Southern California recital next month.
(Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times)
Music Critic

Julia, Pat, Matt, Ellen and Yuval. Remember those names. These are the young artists, from late 20s to early 40s, who bloom this spring.

The soprano Julia Bullock, who came to national attention at the Ojai Music Festival, has her first SoCal recital in Santa Barbara. The quirkily probing violinist Patricia Kopatchinskaja makes her belated SoCal debut big time at this year’s festival. Opera director and newly installed MacArthur “genius” Yuval Sharon directs Mahler (no one directs Mahler, a symphonist, but Sharon goes where others dare not) before opening the summer Bayreuth Festival in Germany. Ellen Reid and Matthew Aucoin happen to be two of the most talked-about composers of their generation.

Alongside them thrive old-timers Peter, MTT and Philip in their hard-to-believe 60s (former enfant-terrible director Peter Sellars), 70s (eternally youthful Michael Tilson Thomas) and 80s (unstoppable Philip Glass). Welcome to spring. Pray for wildflowers.


Patricia Kopatchinskaja
Spectacular violinist Patricia Kopatchinskaja will make her Southern California debut as music director of the Ojai festival. Daniel Vass / ECM Records

March 27 and 29

San Francisco Symphony

Michael Tilson Thomas brings his orchestra to Southern California to conduct one of his trademark Mahler symphonies, No. 5, preceded by Berg’s gripping last concert work, his Violin Concerto, with Gil Shaham as soloist. March 27 at Walt Disney Concert Hall, 111 S. Grand Ave., L.A. $54-$162. (323) 850-2000. Also on March 29 at Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall, Segerstrom Center for the Arts, 600 Town Center Drive, Costa Mesa. $48 and up. (949) 553-2422.

April 3

Julia Bullock

The intoxicating young soprano has starred in a number of Peter Sellars productions and is already being compared with Lorraine Hunt Lieberson. Bullock gives her first Southern California recital in a program that ranges from Schubert to Nina Simone. Hahn Hall, UC Santa Barbara, 1070 Fairway Road. $37. (805) 893-3535.

April 5-8

Mahler’s “Song of the Earth”

Mahler set his late symphonic song cycle, “Das Lied von der Erde,” to texts of Chinese poetry. But the L.A. Phil’s unpredictable artist-collaborator, opera director Yuval Sharon, has a radical vision of staging the work with help of the avant-garde collective Teatrocinema. Gustavo Dudamel conducts. Walt Disney Concert Hall, 111 S. Grand Ave., L.A. $65-$204. (323) 850-2000.

Anoushka Shankar
Anoushka Shankar, daughter of Ravi Shankar, will be the soloist in a Pacific Symphony program celebrating Philip Glass’ 80th birthday. Timothy A. Clary / AFP / Getty Images

April 12-14

Glass and Shankar

In celebration of Philip Glass’ 80th birthday, the Pacific Symphony premieres the Third Sitar Concerto of Glass’ early mentor and later friend Ravi Shankar (with Anoushka Shankar as soloist), as well as brings back Glass’ oratorio, “The Passion of Ramakrishna,” which it premiered in 2007. Segerstrom Center for the Arts, Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall, 600 Town Center Drive, Costa Mesa. $25-$206. (714) 755-5799.

April 14, May 1

Redlands Symphony and John Luther Adams

Under music director and flutist Ransom Wilson, the newly ambitious orchestra gives the California premiere of a new orchestra work, “there is no one, not even the wind,” by the Pulitzer Prize-winning, environmentally acute composer John Luther Adams. Also look for Adams’ music at the evening devoted to the Southern California record label Cold Blue Music, at the Tuesdays @ Monk Space series on May 1. April 14 at Memorial Chapel, 1200 E. Colton Ave., Redlands. $15-$70. (909) 587-5565. Also May 1 at Monk Space, 4414 W. 2nd St., L.A. $15, $20. (800) 838-3006.

May 13 and 19

“The Love Potion (Le Vin herbé)

Unlike Wagner, Swiss composer Frank Martin treats the Tristan and Isolde legend in a terse fashion in his 1941 chamber opera: as a tightly focused and psychological drama. Long Beach Opera, Warner Grand Theatre, 478 W. 6th St., San Pedro. $49-$150. (562) 470-7464.

May 13

Reid and Riley

The Los Angeles Master Chorale joins the Ellen Reid bandwagon. The young L.A. composer, who has new pieces next season for L.A. Phil and L.A. Opera, here has the premiere of “dreams of the new world” in a program that also includes Terry Riley’s “In C.” Walt Disney Concert Hall, 111 S. Grand Ave., L.A. $29 and up. (213) 972-7282.

May 19 and 20

Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra

The young British cellist Sheku Kanneh-Mason makes his West Coast debut playing Shostakovich’s First Cello Concerto, which he has just recorded with the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra conducted by Mirga Grazinyte-Tyla. The program also includes the premiere of a new piece by Derrick Spiva Jr. and an appearance by conductor Sameer Patel. May 19 at the Alex Theatre, 216 N. Brand Blvd., Glendale. Also May 20 at UCLA’s Royce Hall, 340 Royce Drive, Westwood. $27 and up; discounts available. (213) 622-7001.

May 25-26

Matthew Aucoin’s “The Crossing”

The most celebrated work by Los Angeles Opera’s artist in residence will be given its West Coast premiere. The piece is written for baritone Rod Gilfry and is based on Walt Whitman’s consoling of wounded soldiers. Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts, Bram Goldsmith Theater, 9390 N. Santa Monica Blvd., Beverly Hills. $45-$125 (310) 746-4000.

Matthew Aucoin
Matthew Aucoin, Los Angeles Opera’s artist in residence, silhouetted at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion. Los Angeles Opera

June 1-3

“Das Paradies und die Peri”

Dudamel and the L.A. Phil follow a survey of Schumann’s symphonies and concertos with a staging by Peter Sellars of the composer’s seldom-heard Wagnerian-immersive oratorio, “Das Paradies und die Peri (Paradise and the Peri),” based on a Persian legend about a fairy sprite. The outstanding cast is led by Lucy Crowe as the fairy spirit. Walt Disney Concert Hall, 111 S. Grand Ave., L.A. $60-$209. (323) 850-2000.

June 7-10

Ojai Music Festival

Patricia Kopatchinskaja, the spectacularly radical, and just plain spectacular, violinist makes her Southern California debut big time as this year’s Ojai festival music director with four days packed with music, early morning to late night. She’s joined by the Mahler Chamber Orchestra and JACK Quartet for repertory from John Dowland to John Cage, including staged concept concerts and Kopatchinskaja as soloist in violin concertos by Ligeti and Michael Hersch. Libbey Bowl, 210 S. Signal St., Ojai; and other venues. $20-$150; passes $75-$925. (805) 646-2053.


Art: Times critic Christopher Knight’s picks

Theater: Times critic Charles McNulty’s picks

Broadway, the L.A. way: ‘Waitress,’ ‘Hamilton’ and more

Dance: A Bowie-themed ‘StarDust,’ an angry ‘Giselle’ and plus ...

Chamber music: 15 groups to know on a more intimate scale

An art exhibition that aims to go ‘Beyond the Streets’

Amy Freed helps Shakespeare with a rewrite in ‘Shrew!’