By Robert D. Thomas
Pasadena Star-News/San Gabriel Valley Tribune/Whittier Daily News
Last week I looked back at some of the memorable events of 2011 (LINK). Today I look forward, and “bulging” is the most appropriate word I can think of when describing the classical music calendar in the first quarter of 2012 (I won’t even attempt to list everything that I think is important for all of next year). Among the major programs scheduled in the next few months are:
The Mahler Project
The Los Angeles Philharmonic kicks off its nearly month-long survey of Gustav Mahler’s music in mid-January. Gustavo Dudamel will lead two of the orchestra he heads — the L.A. Phil and Simón Bolivár Symphony Orchestra of Venezuela — in 17 performances from January 13 through February 4 at Walt Disney Concert Hall and the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles. The sweeping enterprise will commemorate the 100th anniversary of the death of the great Austrian composer-conductor Gustav Mahler (which actually took place on May 18, 1911).
Dudamel (who turns age 31 on Jan. 26) will lead every performance. The Bolivárs will play four of the symphonies, the Los Angeles Philharmonic will play four, and the two ensembles will combine and join with more 800 choristers and eight soloists for the Symphony No. 8 on Feb. 4 at the Shrine Auditorium, one of the few times in history when that work’s subtitle, “Symphony of a Thousand,” will be fact as opposed to appellation.
Following the Los Angeles concerts, the entire cycle will be performed again in Caracas, Venezuela; the Feb. 18 performance of “Symphony of a Thousand” will be telecast live from the Venezuelan capital at 2 p.m. (PST) in movie theaters throughout the U.S. and Canada (LINK). “Mahler Project” information: www.laphil.com
Andrew Shulman doubles down with PSO and LACO
Shulman is principal cellist of the Pasadena Symphony Orchestra and the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra. On Jan. 13 he will appear as soloist with the PSO at Ambassador Auditorium playing Elgar’s Cello Concerto. The following weekend (Jan. 20 and 21), he will conduct LACO in a program that will include former Colburn School student Nigel Armstrong as soloist in Mozart’s Violin Concerto No. 3 (Armstrong won fourth place in last June’s Tchaikovsky Violin Competition.
PSO information: www.pasadenasymphony-pops.org
LACO information: www.laco.org
The Colburn Orchestra
This top-notch student ensemble wraps up its season at Ambassador Auditorium with concerts on Feb. 4 and March 3. The latter will be led by Bramwell Tovey, music director of the Vancouver and principal guest conductor of the Los Angeles Philharmonic at Hollywood Bowl for the past three summers. The Colburn Orchestra’s free concerts go through their ticket allotments quickly so now is the time to log on and secure your seats (you print the tickets when you make the reservation).
San Diego Opera
San Diego Opera grabs the spotlight beginning Feb. 18 when it presents the West Coast debut of Moby Dick by Jake Heggie (best known, until now, for his opera Dead Man Walking). This production got mostly rave reviews when it debuted at Dallas Opera in May 2010 (LINK with reviews) and the San Diego production includes Canadian tenor Ben Heppner reprising his title role performance in San Diego. SD Opera Resident Conductor Karen Keltner will conduct. It’s sung in English with supertitles. The company will also present a production of Richard Strauss’ Salome beginning Jan. 28, with Lise Lindstrom in the title role. Information: www.sdopera.com
Los Angeles Opera
February will be a busy opera month. Los Angeles Opera resumes its 2011-2012 season with productions of Verdi’s Simon Boccanegra beginning Feb. 11 in the first of seven performances and Britten’s Albert Herring, which opens Feb. 25 and continues with five performances in March. LA Opera Music Director James Conlon will conduct both operas.
Simon Boccanegra is significant because Plácido Domingo is performing the title role, a part that was written for a baritone (Domingo, of course, has spent nearly all of his career as a tenor, although he now appears to be more comfortable in lower ranges). This production originated at London’s Royal Opera House, Covent Garden. Information: www.laopera.com
Albert Herring is the latest in a string of Benjamin Britten operas that the company is presenting in a lead-up to the composer’s birth centennial in 2013. Although LAO mounted Albert Herring early in the company’s history, this production originated at Santa Fe Opera. Alek Shrader makes his LAO debut in the title role. Information: www.laopera.com
Long Beach Opera
This intrepid company explores the world of the tango with a production of Maria de Buenos Aires, composed by Astor Piazzolla to a libretto by poet Hoarcio Ferrer. Sung in Spanish with English supertitles, it plays Jan. 29 and Feb. 4 at the Warner Theater in San Pedro. Information: www.longbeachoperea.com
IN MOVIE THEATERS
On the big screen, the Metropolitan Opera continues its High Definition telecasts into movie theaters with three screenings in January and February, including its new production of Wagner’s Götterdämerung on Feb. 11. Information: www.metopereafamily.org
Although choral music concerts occur frequently, the three-week span from March 17-April 6 has an unusually large number of notable events.
Chorale Bel Canto will sing Bach’s Mass in B Minor on March 17 at Whittier College as the major event in the 75th annual Whittier Bach Festival. Stephen Gothold conducts the CBC (which is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year), soloists and orchestra in this monument of choral literature. Information: www.choralebelcanto.org
Angeles Chorale will celebrate what conductor John Sutton calls “America’s most significant musical story — gospel and jazz; the stories of our lives; and musical depictions of the human experience" on March 24 at First United Methodist Church, Pasadena. The featured work will be Robert Ray’s Gospel Mass. Information: www.angeleschorale.org
Los Angeles Master Chorale, which will present a concert of Bruckner and Stravinsky on Feb. 12, returns to Walt Disney Concert Hall on March 31 and April 1 for a performance of Bach’s St. John Passion. Grant Gershon conducts both programs; the Bach features the area’s foremost period-instrument ensemble, Musica Angelica. Information: www.lamc.org
As an added note: my weekly “Five Spot” posts will return on Jan. 5. Each week, I list five notable concerts for the upcoming weekend including, ideally, one that is either free admission or very low cost. Have a safe and happy new year!
(c) Copyright 2011, Robert D. Thomas. All rights reserved. Portions may be quoted with attribution.