50 moments in Music Center history

Artistic triumphs and high drama define the history of the Music Center as it turns 50 years old. L.A.’s grande dame of arts and culture has hosted so many memorable performances — and seen its fair share of controversy. Here’s a sampling of all that color and drama, on stage and behind the scenes.

Full coverage: Music Center at 50

The Music Center is dedicated with Bob Hope acting as emcee.

Bob Hope stands at the podium during the Music Center dedication. (Otto Rothschild Collection / The Music Center)

Memorial Pavilion opens with Zubin Mehta conducting L.A. Philharmonic playing “Fanfare” by Richard Strauss. Opening-week performances include the Count Basie Orchestra, Van Cliburn and Frank Sinatra, who appears in place of sick Nat King Cole.

Music director Zubin Mehta sips on champagne after the L.A. Phil's opening-night performance. (Otto Rothschild Collection / The Music Center)

San Francisco Opera comes to the Music Center for three weeks, giving Los Angeles its biggest taste of large-scale opera in a modern theater. There are 21 performances of 14 works, including “Don Giovanni,” “Ariadne auf Naxos” and “Pelléas et Mélisande.”

A San Francisco Opera cast member gets ready backstage at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, circa 1965. (Otto Rothschild)

L.A. County Board of Supervisors name Music Center buildings: Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, Mark Taper Forum and Ahmanson Theatre, after three crucial players in the project.

A 1967 photo of the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion (left), the Mark Taper Forum (round building) and the Howard Ahmanson theater (right). (Associated Press)

Mark Taper Forum and Ahmanson Theatre kick off weeklong dedication celebration that includes remarks by Gregory Peck and Gov. Ronald Reagan.

A 1967 file photo of Gregory Peck and Dorothy Chandler at the Ahmanson Theatre. (Harry Chase / Los Angeles Times)

Spanish tenor Plácido Domingo makes Dorothy Chandler debut in “Don Rodrigo.”

Domingo in the title role for "Don Rodrigo." (Beth Bergman)

The Academy Awards are held for first time — and broadcast worldwide for the first time — at Dorothy Chandler Pavilion. Lead actress is a tie: Katharine Hepburn in “The Lion in Winter” and Barbra Streisand in “Funny Girl.” Best picture is “Oliver!”

Barbra Streisand holds her Oscar trophy, awarded for her performance in "Funny Girl." (George Birch / Associated Press)

The $250,000 sculpture “Peace on Earth” by Lithuanian sculptor Jacques Lipchitz is unveiled in Music Center Plaza with the 78-year-old artist on hand.

"If peace does not come, it's a bad sculpture," the sculptor told the press days before the unveiling. Pictured: A 2014 photo of "Peace on Earth." (Lawrence K. Ho / Los Angeles Times)

Blue Ribbon Committee, established by Dorothy Chandler and made up of 400 prominent L.A. women, launches annual festival to bring fifth-graders from all over L.A. County to the Music Center.

Famed choreographer Bella Lewitzky dances with some of the 3,000 students at the Blue Ribbon Children's Festival in 1996. (Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)

Robert Fryer named Center Theatre Group’s artistic director, a position he holds until 1989.

A 1988 file photo of Robert Fryer. (Ellen Jaskol / Los Angeles Times)

Charlie Chaplin receives honorary Oscar and 12-minute standing ovation at 44th Academy Awards at the Dorothy Chandler. His statue is inscribed, “To Charles Chaplin for the incalculable effect he has had in making motion pictures the art form of this century.”

Charlie Chaplin, holding his famed bowler and cane, stands with Jack Lemmon on the Academy Awards stage. (Associated Press)

Music Center begins selling its formerly free programs for 25 cents, a move that creates a minor controversy among theater-goers. Center Theatre Group worries that the move might upset more than 17,000 annual subscribers upon whom the company’s survival depends.

L.A. Phil Music Director Zubin Mehta announces he is leaving to become music director of New York Philharmonic. Carlo Maria Giulini succeeds him in 1977.

A 1974 file photo Giulini conducting the Vienna Symphony Orchestra. (Los Angeles Times)

Center Theatre Group earns three Tony Awards— one for Michael Cristofer’s “The Shadow Box,” one to director Gordon Davidson and a third to the Taper for its contribution to American theater.

The L.A. Times reports on the Center Theatre Group's wins. (Los Angeles Times)

Hundreds of protesters assemble behind police lines at the 50th Academy Awards to express disapproval for Vanessa Redgrave and her financial support for the documentary “The Palestinian,” which she also narrated. Critics say the film is anti-Israeli. Redgrave wins the supporting actress Oscar for “Julia” and gives a politically charged acceptance speech thanking the academy: “You have refused to be intimidated by the threats of a small bunch of Zionist hoodlums whose behavior is an insult to the stature of Jews all over the world and to their great and heroic record of struggle against fascism and oppression.”

Vanessa Redgrave celebrates her best supporting actress accolade at the 50th Academy Awards ceremony. (Los Angeles Times)

“Zoot Suit,” written by Luis Valdez and starring Edward James Olmos in a star-making turn, has world premiere at Taper.

A scene from the world Premiere of "Zoot Suite" at the Mark Taper Forum. (JayThompson)

Discord emerges regarding L.A. Phil’s minority student training program, instituted in 1973 when 101-member orchestra had only one minority member, African American horn player Robert Watt. None of the trainees have been placed with the orchestra, and Watt calls the program “a joke.”

The Los Angeles Times article on the controversy in 1979. (Los Angeles Times)

New York’s Joffrey Ballet takes Los Angeles as its second home, remains a resident company until 1991.

Joffrey Ballet founders Robert Joffrey, standing, and Gerald Arpino, circa 1983 (Herbert Migdoll)

NAACP Image Awards move from Hollywood Palladium to Music Center, but proceedings are overshadowed by controversy when nominations of Tina Turner and gospel singer Danniebelle Hall are withdrawn because the women had performed in racially segregated South Africa.

The 1984 Los Angeles Times headline. (Los Angeles Times)

German American pianist, conductor and composer André Previn debuts as music director of the L.A. Phil.

Andre Previn rehearsing with the Los Angeles Philharmonic on December 2, 1986. (Los Angeles Times)

Roger Wagner, founder and music director of Los Angeles Master Chorale, departs with much bitterness over the appointment of his successor, John Currie. “The stupidity of the administration is something I will not miss,” Wagner tells The Times.

Portraits of Roger Wagner, left, and John Currie. (Los Angeles Times)

Music Center Opera (later L.A. Opera) opens its inaugural season with Verdi’s “Otello” starring Plácido Domingo.

Placido Domingo as Otello in the Music Center Opera's 1986 production. (Los Angeles Times)

Lillian Disney makes a $50-million gift to build a new home for the L.A. Phil.

Read more: Walt Disney Concert Hall through the years

A portrait of American animator Walt Disney, right, and his wife, Lillian, circa 1955. (Gene Lester / Getty Images)

Architect Frank Gehry is selected to build Walt Disney Concert Hall.

Architect Frank Gehry looks over a model of the Walt Disney Concert Hall in this Thursday, Dec. 10, 1992 file photo during ground breaking ceremonies. (Michael Tweed / Associated Press)

Despite the vociferous objections of André Previn, L.A. Phil Executive Director Ernest Fleischmann announces that 31-year-old Finnish conductor and composer Esa-Pekka Salonen will succeed Previn as music director. Previn calls Fleischmann “an untrustworthy, scheming bastard.”

André Previn and Ernest Fleischmann in 1987. (Courtesy of the L.A. Phil)

Los Angeles Master Chorale suffers sagging ticket sales, mixed reviews and low singer morale. Speculation swirls that its status as one of the Music Center’s five resident companies might change.

A 1990 L.A. Times article details troubles in the organization. (Los Angeles Times)

The Times runs a nearly 3,000-word front-page article revealing financial disarray at Music Center under President Esther Wachtell, known for throwing lavish parties. It is revealed that the center has fallen $1.3-million short of fundraising goal and is $800,000 over budget.

A portrait of Esther Wachtell. (The Music Center)

Wachtell announces that she will resign from her $200,000-a-year post but will serve as a paid consultant and retain a position on the center’s governing board.

Tony Kushner’s “Angels in America: Millennium Approaches,” originally commissioned by the Center Theatre Group, wins a Pulitzer Prize and two Tony Awards, including best play.

Ellen McLaughlin as The Angel and Stephen Spinella as Prior Walter in "Angels in America" at the Mark Taper Forum, 1992. (Craig Schwartz / Mark Taper Forum)

Wachtell suffers another embarrassing setback as she is accused of seeking $4,000 in repayment for her personal political contributions. Shelton G. Stanfill is named the center’s new president.

A portrait of Shelton G. Stanfill. (The Music Center)

After a $17.1-million renovation, Ahmanson is rededicated.

Guests sit on the stage and look out at the entertainment during the Ahmanson Theatre rededication ceremony. (Lori Shepler / Los Angeles Times)

Plácido Domingo announced as future artistic director of L.A. Opera.

A portrait of Plácido Domingo in 2001. (Lawrence K. Ho / Los Angeles Times)

After a year trying out the name Performing Arts Center of Los Angeles County, the Music Center’s board of directors votes to bring back the original name.

The Academy Awards show moves to the Kodak Theatre at Hollywood & Highland, putting an end to the glitzy ceremony at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion.

An overall view of the 74th Annual Academy Awards show at the Kodak Theatre. (Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)

L.A. Phil plays its final concert at Dorothy Chandler.

The L.A. Phil shoots streamers out to the audience after their last performance at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion. (Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)

The Music Center begins producing its first dance season, including San Francisco Ballet and Dance Theatre of Harlem appear.

The Paul Taylor Dance Company performs "Promethean Fire," as part of the Music Center's '03-'04 season. (Carlos Chavez / Los Angeles Times)

Walt Disney Concert Hall opens. Read more: Walt Disney Concert Hall at 10

People line up to buy tickets for the new Disney Hall at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion box office on Grand Ave on Sept. 7, 2003. (Lori Shepler / Los Angeles Times)

Center Theatre Group opens “Dead End,” the first show with Michael Ritchie as artistic director.

Jeremy Sisto as Baby-Face Martin during a dress rehearsal of the Center Theatre Group's production of "Dead End." (Lawrence K. Ho / Los Angeles Times)

James Conlon debuts as music director of L.A. Opera.

Conductor James Conlon at the piano in his office at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion in October 2013. (Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)

Taper unveils $30-million renovation.

The auditorium of the Mark Taper Forum after its yearlong renovation. (Gary Friedman / Los Angeles Times)

Philanthropist Glorya Kaufman gives $20 million to Dance at the Music Center, a gift that Music Center President Stephen D. Rountree calls “as far as we know, the largest gift to support dance ever in America.”

Philanthropist Glorya Kaufman photographed at her Beverly Hills home in October2012. (Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)

Gustavo Dudamel, 28-year-old Venezuelan wunderkind, assumes the position of music director of L.A. Phil with a rehearsal of Beethoven’s 9th Symphony.

Workers fold up the old banner of Esa Pekka Salonen andreplaced it with a banner of Gustavo Dudamel on the Grand Avenue side of Walt Disney Concert Hall. (Al Seib / Associated Press)

Dudamel is feted with an outdoor simulcast of his gala concert at Walt Disney Concert Hall to 3,000 people in Music Center Plaza.

Left: Gustavo Dudamel after his 2009 concert. Right: An audience watches Dudamel on a large television sceen in the Music Center Plaza. (Lawrence K. Ho, Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)

Choreographer Benjamin Millepied premieres his newly created L.A. Dance Project at Walt Disney Concert Hall.

Choreographer Benjamin Millepied directing L.A. Dance Project during rehearsal, August 17, 2012. (Ricardo DeAratanha / Los Angeles Times)

The Music Center opens long-awaited Grand Park in partnership with L.A. County. Music Center is in charge of running the 12-acre park, which stretches to City Hall.

Diavolo Dance Theater dancers perform at Grand Park during the opening ceremony. (Damian Dovarganes / Associated Press)

More than 25,000 people attend Grand Park’s New Year’s Eve celebration.

Revelers at Grand Park for N.Y.E. L.A. (Lawrence K. Ho / Los Angeles Times)

Rountree announces his intention to step down as president in January, just after center celebrates its 50th anniversary.

Rountree is photographed outside of the Music Center in 2012. (Katie Falkenberg / Los Angeles Times)

Credits: Produced by Andrea Wang