It will have been 579 days since the LA Phil has shared its music with the public at Walt Disney Concert Hall. For a building described by Frank Gehry as “a living room for the city,” it has been both strange and uncomfortable to see it sit quietly for so long, but the building is finally beginning to stir. As we prepare for the reopening of the venue on October 9 at the Homecoming Gala, We’d like to take a look back to the original opening in October 2003.
Walt Disney Concert Hall is no stranger to drama. When reflecting on the monumental effort it took to make his vision a reality, Frank Gehry had this to say.
If you trace the history of the building, you will realize what a miracle it is that it got built. All those different interests, feelings, people… misguided, well-intentioned. It’s a real opera. We should get John Adams or somebody to write an opera about [Walt Disney Concert Hall.]
The cast that was brought together to make Walt Disney Concert Hall a reality heralded some of the biggest names and personalities of the time. It was a production full of love for the arts and the city, with some conflict and stipulations that could have crippled the project. In typical operatic fashion, the drama lasted far longer than most would have expected—it took 17 years from start to finish for Walt Disney Concert Hall to become a reality.
When it finally came time to open the Hall in October 2003, it would only be fitting to have a celebration that surpassed all expectations—there was not one, but three inaugural galas to launch Walt Disney Concert Hall.
The trio of nights began on October 23, 2003, with the theme Sonic LA, which redefined the concert experience as only the LA Phil could, with works from throughout the ages highlighting the acoustics of the hall, from solo voice to full orchestra.
On October 24, Living LA focused on pieces by 20th- and 21st-century composers. Esa-Pekka Salonen, Music Director at the time, had this to say of the evening, “The music featured in this performance reflects on our being here in the city of Los Angeles at this point in time…”
The final night, October 25, was titled Soundstage LA, for which the LA Phil turned to our home city and celebrated Hollywood, not as a geographic location but as a creative state of mind. The evening was hosted by the stars and had appearances from legends like John Williams and Steven Spielberg—people whose creativity and talent have transported audiences to places far, far away.
As we approach the reopening of Walt Disney Concert Hall this October, the past 18 months have felt like an opera of their own. The music played virtually and in person throughout that time has represented so much of this moment for Los Angeles and the world. We’ve gone from featured at-home recordings to live performances in front of an audience of none, with our musicians each behind their own plexiglass shield, to full in-person concerts at the Hollywood Bowl, and now we are about to take our next step and reopen Walt Disney Concert Hall.
Do you remember the feeling the first time you heard music at Walt Disney Concert Hall? It’s a unique experience that cannot be replicated anywhere else. As in the opening inaugural gala, Sonic LA, the Homecoming Gala will be a chance to showcase the acoustics of the Hall once again, in a way that few have experienced for a long time.
It’s not too late. Join us for the Homecoming Gala on October 9, 2021, as we welcome you back!