Mozart, Mahler and more: The L.A. Philharmonic’s 2011-12 season

A complete cycle of Mahler’s finished symphonies conducted by Gustavo Dudamel and performed by two orchestras in Los Angeles and Caracas, Venezuela, plus a semi-staged production of Mozart’s “Don Giovanni” conducted by Dudamel and designed by architect Frank Gehry will be among the anticipated high points of the Los Angeles Philharmonic’s 2011-12 season, which will be announced Monday.

Also prominent on next season’s calendar: the world premiere of “The Gospel According to the Other Mary,” a new oratorio by composer John Adams, the Phil’s creative chair, in May and June 2012; the world premiere of the prologue to a long-lost Shostakovich opera led by conductor laureate Esa-Pekka Salonen, orchestrated by Gerard McBurney and staged by Peter Sellars (Dec. 2-4); and the return of Sir Simon Rattle, artistic director of the Berlin Philharmoniker, conducting a program of works by Ligeti, Wagner, Mahler and Bruckner (May 3-6, 2012).

What the orchestra is calling “The Mahler Project” was conceived by Dudamel, the Phil’s 30-year-old music director, and will merge several of his and the Phil’s artistic and educational objectives. Dudamel will lead the Los Angeles Philharmonic and the Simón Bolívar Symphony Orchestra of Venezuela, with which he made his reputation as a young conductor, in performances of Mahler’s nine completed symphonies at Walt Disney Concert Hall, beginning in January. After completing the cycle here, both orchestras will travel to the capital of Dudamel’s native Venezuela to perform “The Mahler Project” there.

The L.A. Phil will perform symphonies 1, 4, 6 and 9; its Venezuelan counterpart will perform symphonies 2, 3, 5 and 7. Both orchestras, along with the Los Angeles Master Chorale, the Los Angeles Children’s Chorus and various community choruses, will unite in Los Angeles for a performance of Mahler’s massive Symphony No. 8, known as the “Symphony of a Thousand” for its huge personnel count.


During their L.A. stay, the Bolívar musicians will lead rehearsals and master classes with the Youth Orchestra L.A., which is modeled after El Sistema, the Venezuelan national youth music training program in which Dudamel studied. In turn, the L.A. Phil’s musicians will interact with El Sistema students during their Venezuelan tour, which Deborah Borda, the Phil’s president, predicted would be “a really life-changing experience for people who haven’t been to see El Sistema.”

“To have the juxtaposition of one composer, one conductor, two orchestras and then people coming together for the Mahler, I think it will be unforgettable,” Borda said, speaking before the orchestra left Los Angeles for its just-completed tour of European cities.

“But also to have the lens of the educational activities, the lenses of El Sistema, YOLA, and putting the emphasis on that, rather than yet another series of lectures about Gustav Mahler. I mean, we’ll have a lecture, but that won’t be the focus.”

In an interview before the European tour, Dudamel emphasized his extensive professional connection to Mahler, which began at age 16 when he conducted the composer’s First Symphony, the same work he chose to perform for his inaugural concert as music director at Walt Disney Concert Hall in the fall of 2009. Last week Dudamel’s contract with the L.A. Phil was extended through the 2018-19 season.

“Don Giovanni” will be the first of a trilogy of semi-staged operas over the next three years dedicated to the three masterpieces that Mozart created with the Venetian librettist Lorenzo da Ponte. Gehry, the Santa Monica-based architect of Disney Hall, will collaborate on “Don Giovanni” with a to-be-named fashion designer. It’s the first such venture for Gehry. Future seasons will bring productions of “The Marriage of Figaro” and “Cosi fan tutte,” pairing other architects and designers, as yet unannounced. Paul Curran will direct all three productions.

The premiere of “Orango” at Disney Hall will cap a years-long tale of musical detective work that’s as intriguing as the work’s story of a half-man, half-ape creature. The roughly 40-minute prologue, unearthed by a Russian musical scholar from the Shostakovich archives, is apparently all that remains of the satirical 1932 work by the composer and librettists Alexei Tolstoy and Alexander Starchakov.

Adams, lately receiving much attention for the Metropolitan Opera’s production of his “Nixon in China” and whose Phil contract has been extended through the 2013-14 season, will be featured on several dates this season. His Violin Concerto will be performed as part of an April 5-7, 2012, program, with Adams conducting and violinist Leila Josefowicz as soloist. Capping the season next spring will be the world premiere of his “The Gospel According to the Other Mary,” a 90-minute work for orchestra, chorus and soloists, based on the New Testament stories of Lazarus and Jesus’ Passion, as well as Latin American poetry.

The season also will see the world premieres of works by Chapela (“Concerto for Electric Cello”), Dubugnon (“Double Piano Concerto”) and Hillborg (a new work for orchestra, chorus and soloists), among other composers, and concerts on Oct. 23 and 24 celebrating the 100th anniversary of the San Francisco Symphony.


And Sir Simon Rattle, the L.A. Phil’s former principal guest conductor, will lead the orchestra for the first time since 2000.

For a complete list of the season go to