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ARTICLE: La Jolla Music Society’s celebratory new season will mix legends and rising stars

San Diego Union-Tribune

Beth Wood
June 19, 2022

 

The La Jolla Music Society isn’t marking a landmark anniversary with its 2022-23 season, but there’s still much to get excited about in its 54th year.

“We’re celebrating the future and resilience of the arts and our amazing community who supported us through the pandemic,” said Leah Rosenthal, the society’s artistic director, speaking from her office at the nonprofit’s Conrad Prebys Performing Arts Center. “And we’re celebrating getting back to some kind of normalcy.”

Another reason for celebration is the diverse lineup, which includes such legends as cellist Yo-Yo Ma, opera star Joyce DiDonato and violinist Midori, who will be celebrating the 40th anniversary of her debut performance.

Mixed in with these stellar classical musicians are artists from a diverse range of genres. A sampling: Latin-jazz great Poncho Sanchez; rootsy blues-rock duo The War and Treaty; Indian percussion marvel Zakir Hussain; and the legendary Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre.

And that’s not counting the return of the popular Nat Geo Live! speaker series, free outdoor performances in the center’s courtyard and intimate concerts at The JAI, the adjoining cabaret-style theater.

Of this season’s 62 events, 27 boast artists making their debuts for the society. At least two concerts will be key collaborations with other performing arts organizations.

“For us, it’s less about the numbers and more about the continued effort to diversify the types of programs,” Rosenthal stressed. “We are reaching out to new audiences and new communities. That’s more of the key goal.”

La Jolla Music Society President and CEO Todd Schultz said another long-range goal is to fully utilize the center for the community at large. In addition to hosting its own annual fall-to-summer season and annual SummerFest, which begins July 29, the society rents The Baker-Baum Concert Hall at a discount to local nonprofit arts organizations.

Among the groups set to present their own programs at The Conrad are two local chamber-music ensembles, Camarada and Art of Elan. The San Diego Symphony will present its 2023 chamber-music series in the hall.

“We want to bring international artists that people might not know about, while making sure we sustain openings for other groups and finding the balance,” Schultz said.

“It’s about reintroducing a new venue to our community. We were only open 11 months before the quarantine restrictions began in early 2020. Few people knew about us or had been in the building. We are restarting our introduction to San Diego.”

 

Vital connections

The San Diego Symphony will co-produce a concert featuring internationally acclaimed cellist Alisa Weilerstein. The San Diego Opera will co-present “Noche Latina,” which pairs mezzo-soprano Isabel Leonard and Spanish classical guitarist Pablo Sáinz-Villegas.

Rosenthal is delighted to work with San Diego Opera and to offer listeners an evening of Spanish music. Likewise, the society’s San Diego Symphony collaboration demonstrates the collegial atmosphere in the area’s classical-music scene.

“There are so many connections here,” Rosenthal said. “Alisa frequently collaborates with our SummerFest director, Inon Barnatan, and she’s married to (symphony music director) Rafael Payare.

“We’re celebrating that dynamic. Those relationships have been special for San Diego. It’s a wonderful representation of our arts community and its growth.”

Rosenthal, who studied voice and opera in college, is excited that the upcoming season has two stunning vocal standouts. Leonard and lyric-coloratura mezzo-soprano DiDonato are both multiple Grammy Award winners and Metropolitan Opera veterans.

While Rosenthal appreciates Schultz giving her “quite a bit of autonomy” in programming, she also credits him for nudging her to add more singers to this season.

“I love vocal music!” Schultz said. “The idea that Isabel Leonard, a singer at the Met, will perform here with a renowned guitarist in The Baker-Baum, a 500-seat hall, is amazing. The Met’s capacity is 4,000. I’m excited that international stars can be heard in this exquisite and intimate space.

“And to hear also hear Midori and (pianist) Daniil Trifonov perform here is unbelievable. People will be able to hear every little nuance.”

After the on-and-off nature of the pandemic restrictions, Rosenthal, Schultz and the center’s staff will be constantly monitoring the COVID-19 situation and will communicate any changes that may arise. At this time, they are requiring all audience members at The Conrad to be masked.

Musical cornucopia

Violinist Midori is not only performing two nights in April. She will also be an artist-in residence for a week, giving master classes and working with children.

Another artist-in-residence this season will be Complexions, a truly contemporary dance company. The New York-based troupe will perform its “Star Dust: From Bach to Bowie.”

“Their program is so much fun,” Rosenthal said. “They have incredible engagement activities for families. They will perform their beautiful dance composition and work with the community. “

Rosenthal is understandably pleased that more and more artists presented by the society respond positively when asked to do workshops, master classes, or visit area schools and community centers.

Such outreach is a big part of the society’s goal to reach out beyond The Conrad. Another, less obvious, goal is the programming itself. By bringing in as many different artistic voices as possible, the society hopes, the more local audiences may come to see the venue as their own.

Schultz and Rosenthal are betting the upcoming musical cornucopia will do just that.

The new season will include The Monterey Jazz Festival on Tour, Japanese taiko drum troupe Kodo, Latin-jazz mainstay Chucho Valdes, and such classical-music giants as the Emerson String Quartet, whose concert here is part of its farewell tour.

“We want people to see themselves when they come to this hall,” Rosenthal said. “We are a resource providing a wonderful representation of different artists and their life experiences.”

Serious about its series

La Jolla Music Society’s 10 different series in its 2022-23 season demonstrate its scope.

Some series names don’t need explanation: Piano; Dance; Speaker; Global Roots; Jazz; and The conRAD Kids series. The afternoon performances in the Discovery Series showcase up-and-coming musicians.

“Daniil Trifonov — one of, if not greatest, pianists today —performed years ago in our Discovery Series,” Rosenthal said. “This year, Jess Gillam — a British-born, insanely talented saxophone player — will perform. Classical sax is a departure, but so important to include.”

The Protostar Innovative Series — with an emphasis on “innovative” — will spotlight groundbreaking concerts by talented and intrepid artists.

Opera star DiDonato’s “Eden” concert will combines music, movement and theater to explore climate change. Cellist Weilerstein’s “Fragments” launches a multi-part project pairing works by Bach and contemporary composers who she commissioned. “Dreamers” teams the adventurous Brooklyn Rider string quartet with Mexican jazz singer Magos Herrera.

The Concerts @ The JAI Series take place in the intimate, cabaret-style venue located across the courtyard from The Baker-Baum. The JAI’s upcoming lineup includes the Emmet Cohen Trio and the Irish band Goitse.

“These are wonderfully diverse and beautiful series that will hopefully attract our already existing audiences but allow us to engage new communities,” Rosenthal said.

 

La Jolla Music Society 2022-23 season

When: Oct. 8 to June 4

Where: The Conrad Prebys Performing Arts Center, 7600Fay Ave., La Jolla. Events are in The Baker-Baum Concert Hall, unless otherwise noted.

Tickets: New subscription packages and renewals go on sale June 21; single tickets go on sale in mid-August. All event times and prices are subject to change. Series subscriptions are discounted 12 percent, while Choose-Your-Own packages for any four performances are discounted 10 percent.

Phone: (858) 459-3728

Online: ljms.org

 

Saturday, Oct. 8: Apollon Musagète Quartet with Garrick Ohlsson, piano. 7:30 p.m. $31–$75

Sunday, Oct. 23: Jess Gillam, saxophone, and Thomas Weaver, piano. 3 p.m. $21–$43

Friday, Oct. 28: The War and Treaty. 7:30 p.m. $31–$75

Saturday, Oct. 29: JazzReach, featuring students from Mission Bay High School. 3 p.m. $15–$25

Thursday, Nov. 3: Nat Geo Live! “Exploring Mars,” with Kobie Boykins. 7 p.m. $20–$58

Saturday, Nov. 5: Time for Three, string trio. The JAI. 6:30 and 8:30 p.m. $55–$75

Thursday, Nov. 10: Daniil Trifonov. 7:30 p.m. $48–$100

Sunday, Nov. 20: Emmet Cohen Trio. The JAI. 5 and 7 p.m. $55–$75

Thursday, Dec. 1: “Noche Latina,” featuring Isabel Leonard, voice, and Pablo Sáinz-Villegas, guitar. Co-produced with San Diego Opera. 7:30 p.m. $44–$115

Sunday, Dec. 4: Randall Goosby, violin, and Zhu Wang, piano. 3 p.m. $21–$43

Saturday, Dec. 10: Storm Large Holiday Ordeal. 7:30 p.m. $31–$75

Thursday, Dec. 15: Poncho Sanchez and his Latin Jazz Band. 7:30 p.m. $42–$82

Saturday, Dec. 17: Alfredo Rodriguez. The JAI. 6:30 and 8:30 p.m. $55–$75

Saturday, Jan. 14: Davina and The Vagabonds. The JAI. 6:30 and 8:30 p.m. $60–$80

Wednesday, Jan. 18: Joyce DiDonato. 7:30 p.m. $49–$152

Thursday, Jan. 19: Leif Ove Andsnes. 7:30 p.m. $44–$94

Thursday, Jan. 26: Monterey Jazz Festival on Tour, featuring Dee Dee Bridgewater, Kurt Elling, Christian Sands, Lakecia Benjamin, Clarence Penn and Yasushi Nakamura. Balboa Theatre. 7:30 p.m. $42–$82

Saturday, Jan. 28: 123 Andrés. The JAI. 10 and 11:30 a.m. $15–$25

Sunday, Jan. 29: Johan Dalene, violin. 3 p.m. $21–$43

Saturday, Feb. 11: Kodo One Earth Tour: Tsuzumi. Balboa Theatre. 7:30 p.m. $28–$70

Thursday, Feb. 16: Nat Geo Live! “Life on the Vertical,” with Mark Synott. 7 p.m. $20–$58

Sunday, Feb. 19: Aris Quartett. 3 p.m. $21–$43

Friday, Feb. 24: Quartetto do Cremona. 7:30 p.m. $28–$67

Sunday, Feb. 26: Pierre-Laurent Aimard, piano. 7:30 p.m. $44–$94

Friday, March 3: Goitse, The JAI. 6:30 and 8:30 p.m. $60–$80

Sunday, March 5: Maria Schneider Orchestra. 6 p.m. $41–$84

Thursday, March 9: Igor Levit, piano. 7:30 p.m. $41–$83

Tuesday, March 14: Alisa Weilerstein: “Fragments”; co-produced with the San Diego Symphony. 7:30 p.m. $44–$94

Wednesday, March 15: Zakir Hussain’s Masters of Percussion. Balboa Theatre. 7:30 p.m. $36–$87

Saturday, March 25 and Sunday, March 26: Mentalist Scott Silven Wonders. The JAI. 3 p.m. and 6 p.m. $60–$80

Saturday, April 1: Chucho Valdes. 7:30 p.m. $48–$80

Tuesday, April 4 and Wednesday, April 5: Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre. Civic Theatre. 7:30 p.m. $46–$82

Thursday, April 6: Yo-Yo Ma (cello) and Kathryn Stott (piano). Civic Theatre. 7:30 p.m. $47–$104

Sunday, April 16: Emerson String Quartet Farewell Season concert. 7:30 p.m. $46–$85

Thursday, April 20 and Friday, April 21: Midori 40th Anniversary Celebration. 7:30 p.m. $44–$94

Sunday, April 23: Van Cliburn Competition Gold Medal Winner. 3 p.m. $21–$43

Friday, April 28: Alice Sara Ott, pianist. 7:30 p.m. $34–$84

Sunday, April 30: Mariachi Reyna de Los Angeles and the Villa-Lobos Brothers. 3 p.m. $28–$71

Saturday May 6: Pianimal interactive concert. The JAI. 10 and 11:30 a.m. $15–$25

Saturday, May 6: Brooklyn Rider and Magos Herrera. 7:30 p.m. $32–$65

Friday, May 12: New Century Chamber Orchestra, with Daniel Hope, violin and music director. 7:30 p.m. $31–$75

Saturday, May 13: Cinema Verismo, with Mak Grgic. The JAI. 6:30 and 8:30 p.m. $55–$75

Saturday, May 20: Complexions: “Star Dust, from Bach to Bowie.” Civic Theatre. 8 p.m. $39–$64

Thursday, May 25: Nat Geo Live! “Coral Kingdoms and Empires of Ice,” with David Doubilet and Jennifer Hayes. 7 p.m. $20–$58

Thursday, June 1 and Friday, June 2: Bodytraffic dance company. 7:30 p.m. $25–$85.

Sunday, June 4: Jimmie Herrod, vocals. The JAI. 5 p.m. and 7 p.m. $60–$80