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.
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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
Credits: Produced by Andrea Wang