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  • Music Director Esa-Pekka Salonen Conducts the Los Angeles Philharmonic, Acclaimed Soprano Dawn Upshaw and the Los Angeles Master Chorale in the West Coast Premiere of Saariaho's La Passion De Simone
  • Jan. 15, 2009
  • Peter Sellars Directs the 75-Minute Fully-Staged Oratorio

    THURSDAY, JANUARY 15, 2009, AT 8 PM
    SATURDAY, JANUARY 17, 2009, AT 8 PM

    The Concerts are Supported by a Grant from the French American Fund for Contemporary Music

    The January 17 Performance is Generously Sponsored by Princess Cruises, The Official Cruise Line of the LA Phil

    Music Director Esa-Pekka Salonen leads the Los Angeles Philharmonic, soprano Dawn Upshaw and the Los Angeles Master Chorale in the West Coast premiere of Finnish composer Kaija Saariaho's La Passion de Simone, at Walt Disney Concert Hall, Thursday, January 15, and Saturday, January 17, at 8 p.m. Peter Sellars directs the 75-minute oratorio, which was written for Upshaw, and co-commissioned by four organizations - the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the New Crowned Hope Festival in Vienna, London's Barbican Theatre and New York's Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts. The work, written for soprano, orchestra and chorus, with staging by director Peter Sellars, is based on the life of French philosopher and mystic Simone Weil, with texts by Saariaho's frequent collaborator, Lebanese author Amin Maalouf.

    The oratorio's title references the Christian Passion and the Passion play tradition is the basis for Saariaho's division of the piece into 15 individual movements, labeled as "stations," which illuminate different movements in Simone Weil's life. The story is told from the viewpoint of the narrator, performed by Upshaw, who addresses Simone as both older and younger sister, and who periodically takes on Simone's identity as the trajectory of her life unfolds and ends in her death by starvation. In contrast to the complex music, Sellars keeps the staging simple - a desk, a chair, a door and a few books make up the set. Upshaw, clad in a simple gray dress, inhabits the small, square playing space, lit by James F. Ingalls. Present throughout is dance Michael Schumacher whose movement both reflects and engages the profound and painful interior life of the narrator. Fragments of Weil's writing, pre-recorded and read by French actress Dominique Blanc, are integrated into the musical performance.

    La Passion de Simone received its world premiere in Vienna as part of Sellars' New Crowned Hope Festival in November of 2006, its UK premiere at the Barbican Theatre in July of 2007, and its U.S. premiere at Lincoln Center in August of 2008, as part of the Mostly Mozart festival. Upshaw performed at both the London and New York premieres.

    For the LA Phil On Location artists, close collaborators with Los Angeles Philharmonic Music Director Esa-Pekka Salonen, and celebrators of the maestro's final season, these performances are among several for Sellars and Upshaw at Walt Disney Concert Hall. Upshaw participated in the LA Phil Opening Night benefit concert and both participated in the Green Umbrella series performance of Kafka Fragments in November of 2008. In April, Sellars returns to direct Stravinsky's Oedipus Rex and Symphony of Psalms, led by Salonen and featuring the Los Angeles Master Chorale, and concludes his residency for the 2008/09 season in May by directing A Flowering Tree, composed and conducted by John Adams and also featuring the Los Angeles Master Chorale.

    2008/09 marks Esa-Pekka Salonen's 17th and final season as Music Director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic. The season, themed "Celebrate Salonen," is dedicated to his legacy and accomplishments.

    Upbeat Live pre-concert events take place in BP Hall one hour prior to each concert, and are free to all ticket holders. Steven Stucky, Pulitzer prize-winning composer and Consulting Composer for New Music for the Los Angeles Philharmonic, hosts.

    ESA-PEKKA SALONEN, who was born in Helsinki in 1958, studied at the Sibelius Academy in Finland. In 1979, he made his conducting debut with the Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra, and his American debut conducting the Los Angeles Philharmonic in 1984. He was recently appointed Principal Conductor of London's Philharmonia for this season, his last with the Los Angeles Philharmonic. In addition, Salonen has won acclaim for his work as a composer. Among the many highlights of Salonen's career with the Los Angeles Philharmonic have been world premieres of works by composers John Adams, Franco Donatoni, Anders Hillborg, William Kraft, Magnus Lindberg, Witold Lutoslawski, Bernard Rands, Kaija Saariaho, Rodion Shchedrin, Steven Stucky, Tan Dun, and Augusta Read Thomas, as well as his own works. He has led critically acclaimed festivals of music by Ligeti, Schoenberg, Shostakovich, Stravinsky, Berlioz, and Beethoven, and the Tristan Project. He and the Philharmonic have toured extensively since 1992. In October of 2003, Salonen and the Los Angeles Philharmonic opened Walt Disney Concert Hall, designed by Frank Gehry. In March 2003, Salonen signed an exclusive recording contract with Deutsche Grammophon. The following year, DG released a disc devoted to his recent orchestral works, featuring Foreign Bodies, Insomnia, and Wing on Wing. In January 2006, Salonen and the Philharmonic recorded their first CD together for DG, the first live recording at Walt Disney Concert Hall. (Salonen and the Philharmonic also have four live concert recordings available for download on iTunes from DG Concerts.) Before signing with DG, Salonen recorded regularly with the Los Angeles Philharmonic for Sony Classical. Salonen is the recipient of several major awards including the Siena Prize from the Accademia Chigiana in 1993, the first conductor ever to receive the prize; the Royal Philharmonic Society's Opera Award in 1995; and their Conductor Award in 1997. In 1998, he was awarded the rank of Officier de l'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres by the French government. Musical America named him 2006 Musician of the Year.

    Renowned theater, opera, and festival director PETER SELLARS is one of the most innovative and powerful forces in the performing arts in America and abroad. A visionary artist, Sellars is known for ground-breaking interpretations of classic works. Whether it is Mozart, Handel, Shakespeare, Sophocles, or the 16th-century Chinese playwright Tang Xianzu. Sellars strikes a universal chord with audiences, engaging contemporary social and political issues. Sellars has staged operas at the Chicago Lyric Opera, the Glyndebourne Festival, the Netherlands Opera, the Op'era National de Paris, the Salzburg Festival and the San Francisco Opera, among others. Following his iconic stagings of Le nozze di Figaro, Don Giovanni, and Cos`i fan tutte in the 1980s, Sellars established a reputation for bringing 20th-century and contemporary operas to the stage, including works by Olivier Messiaen, Paul Hindemith and Gy"orgy Ligeti. Inspired by the compositions of Kaija Saariaho, Osvaldo Golijov and Tan Dun, he has guided the creation of productions of their work that have expanded the repertoire of modern opera. He has been a driving force in the creation of many new works with longtime collaborator John Adams, including Nixon in China, The Death of Klinghoffer, El Ni~no, Doctor Atomic and, most recently, A Flowering Tree, which premiered in Vienna in 2006. Other Sellars' projects have included a Chicano version of Stravinsky's The Story of a Soldier; an Antonin Artaud radio play coupled with the poetry of the late June Jordan, For an End to the Judgment of God/Kissing God Goodbye, staged as a press conference on the war in Afghanistan; and a production of the Euripides play The Children of Herakles, focusing on contemporary immigration and refugee issues and experience. Sellars has led several major arts festivals, including the 1990 and 1993 Los Angeles Festivals, the 2002 Adelaide Festival in Australia; and the 2003 Venice Biennale International Festival of Theater in Italy. He was artistic director of New Crowned Hope, a month-long festival for which he invited international artists from diverse cultural backgrounds to create new work in the fields of music, theater, dance, film, the visual arts and architecture for the city of Vienna's 2006 Mozart Year, celebrating the 250th anniversary of Mozart's birth. Sellars is a professor in the department of World Arts and Cultures at UCLA and a resident curator of the Telluride Film Festival. He is the recipient of a MacArthur Fellowship, the Erasmus Prize, the Sundance Institute Risk-Takers Award and the Gish Prize, and he was recently elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

    Joining a rare natural warmth with a fierce commitment to the transforming communicative power of music, DAWN UPSHAW has achieved worldwide celebrity as a singer of opera and concert repertoire ranging from the sacred works of Bach to the freshest sounds of today. Her ability to reach to the heart of music and text has earned her both the devotion of an exceptionally diverse audience, and the awards and distinctions accorded to only the most distinguished of artists. In 2007, she was named a Fellow of the MacArthur Foundation, the first vocal artist to be awarded the five-year "Genius" prize, and in 2008 she was named a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences. Her acclaimed performances on the opera stage comprise the great Mozart roles (Pamina, Ilia, Susanna, Despina) as well as modern works by Stravinsky, Poulenc and Messiaen. From Salzburg, Paris and Glyndebourne to the Metropolitan Opera, where she began her career in1984 and has since made nearly 300 appearances, Upshaw has also championed numerous new works created for her including The Great Gatsby by John Harbison; the Grawemeyer Award-winning opera L'Amour de Loin and oratorio La Passion de Simone by Kaija Saariaho; John Adams's Nativity oratorio El Ni~no; and Osvaldo Golijov's chamber opera Ainadamar and song cycle Ayre. Upshaw's 2008/09 season includes the U.S. premiere of Peter Sellars's production of La Passion de Simone at Lincoln Center, a role she reprises with Esa-Pekka Salonen and the Los Angeles Philharmonic in January, and at the Paris Opera in June. She opened Carnegie Hall's season in an all-Bernstein program with Michael Tilson Thomas and the San Francisco Symphony (broadcast on PBS). She also sang world premiere performances of two new works written for her, by Michael Ward-Bergeman (with Ensemble ACJW at Zankel Hall, commissioned by the Terezin Foundation) and Maria Schneider (commissioned by the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, where she is an Artistic Partner). Upshaw returned to Lincoln Center with violinist Geoff Nutall in Gyorgy Kurtag's Kafka Fragments in a staging by Peter Sellars that was also seen in Los Angeles and Berkeley. She tours Australia with the Australian Chamber Orchestra, and Germany with the Knights. It says much about Upshaw's sensibilities as an artist and colleague that she is a favored partner of many leading musicians, including Richard Goode, the Kronos Quartet, James Levine and Salonen. In her work as a recitalist, and particularly in her work with composers, Upshaw has become a generative force in concert music, having premiered more than 25 works in the past decade. From Carnegie Hall to large and small venues throughout the world she regularly presents specially designed programs composed of lieder, unusual contemporary works in many languages, and folk and popular music. She furthers this work in master classes and workshops with young singers at major music festivals, conservatories and liberal arts colleges. She is Artistic Director of the Vocal Arts Program at the Bard College Conservatory of Music, and a faculty member of the Tanglewood Music Center. A four-time Grammy award winner, Upshaw is featured on more than 50 recordings, including the million-selling Symphony No. 3 by Henryk Gorecki. Her discography also includes full-length opera recordings of Mozart's Le Nozze di Figaro; Messiaen's St. Francoise d'Assise; Stravinsky's The Rake's Progress; John Adams's El Ni~no; two volumes of Canteloube's "Songs of the Auvergne," and a dozen recital recordings. Her most recent release on Deutsche Grammophon is "Three Songs for Soprano and Orchestra," the third in a series of acclaimed recordings of Osvaldo Golijov's music.

    MICHAEL SCHUMACHER is a performing artist with roots in classical and modern dance. He has been a member of several groundbreaking companies, including Ballet Frankfurt, Twyla Tharp Dance, Feld Ballet, Pretty Ugly Dance Company, and Magpie Music Dance Company. As a soloist, he has been featured in productions of Cora Bos-Kroese, Dana Caspersen, Anouk van Dijk, Mark Haim, Chico Katsube and Paul Selwyn Norton. A collaborative figure in the productions of Peter Sellars, Schumacher has appeared in Bible Pieces, Peony Pavilion, El Ni~no, Bach Cantatas, and La Passion de Simone. Working as dancer, choreographer and teacher, Schumacher has developed a unique approach to the discipline of improvisation. Music is a fundamental element of his process, and he has collaborated with many pioneering musicians, including singers Dawn Upshaw and the late Lorraine Hunt Lieberson, percussionist Han Bennink and cellist/composer Alex Waterman, with whom he has collaborated on several occasions - most recently in Dance Out!, produced by the Joyce Theater and the City Parks Foundation of New York City in July 2008. As a choreographer, Schumacher has twice collaborated with the dancers of Ballet Frankfurt, creating Splendor Shed (1990) and Blender Head (1994). For the dancers of Netherlands Dance Theater III, he conceived and directed The Moment (2001). Together with Jiri Kylian and Sabine Kupferberg, Schumacher created Last Touch First for the Holland Dance Festival (2007). Recently, he collaborated with the dancers of the Dutch National Ballet, creating From Where You're Sitting Now, which premiered at the Holland Festival in June 2008. Schumacher began dancing in musical theatre productions in his hometown of Lewiston, Idaho. After moving to New York, he received a B.F.A. in Dance from the Juilliard School. He currently resides in Amsterdam and conducts workshops in movement analysis and improvisation worldwide.

    The Grammy-nominated LOS ANGELES MASTER CHORALE is led by Music Director Grant Gershon, who also serves as associate conductor/chorus master of the LA Opera. The Chorale, currently celebrating its 45th season, is in its sixth season as the resident chorus at Walt Disney Concert Hall. Among other accolades, the chorus received the 2006 WQXR Gramophone Award for its 2005 Nonesuch Recording of Steve Reich's You Are (Variations), and "Voices Within," one of the Chorale's highly successful outreach programs, earned the coveted Chorus America Education Outreach Award in 2008. Founded in 1964, the Chorale was the first organization in the nation to offer a complete season of great choral masterworks. In addition to presenting its own concert series at Walt Disney Concert Hall, the Chorale performs regularly with the Los Angeles Philharmonic. The Chorale has recorded two other CDs under Gershon's baton, including Daniel Variations by Steve Reich on Nonesuch Records, and an RCM recording featuring Esa-Pekka Salonen's first choral work, Two Songs to Poems of Ann J"aderlund, and Itaipu, by Philip Glass. It previously released three CDs under the baton of Music Director Emeritus Paul Salamunovich on RCM, including the Grammy-nominated Lauridsen-Lux Aeterna. The Chorale is also featured on the soundtracks of numerous major motion pictures, including Lady in the Water, License to Wed, Bram Stoker's Dracula, and Waterworld.

    The Los Angeles Philharmonic Association, under Music Director Esa-Pekka Salonen, presents the finest in orchestral and chamber music, recitals, new music, jazz, world music and holiday concerts at two of the most remarkable places anywhere to experience music - Walt Disney Concert Hall and the Hollywood Bowl. In addition to a 30-week winter subscription season at Walt Disney Concert Hall, the LA Phil presents a 12-week summer festival at the legendary Hollywood Bowl, summer home of the Los Angeles Philharmonic and home of the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra. In fulfilling its commitment to the community, the Association's involvement with Los Angeles extends to educational programs, community concerts and children's programming, ever seeking to provide inspiration and delight to the broadest possible audience.


    THURSDAY, JANUARY 15, 2009, at 8 PM

    SATURDAY, JANUARY 17, 2009, at 8 PM


    111 S. Grand Avenue, Los Angeles


    ESA-PEKKA SALONEN, conductor

    PETER SELLARS, director

    DAWN UPSHAW, soprano


    DOMINIQUE BLANC, spoken text

    MARTIN PAKLEDINAZ, costume design

    JAMES F. INGALLS, lighting design

    TIMO KURKIKANGAS, sound design

    CATH BRITTAN, stage manager

    PAMELA SALLING, assistant stage manager

    DIANE J. MALECKI, producer

    LOS ANGELES MASTER CHORALE, Grant Gershon, music director

    SAARIAHO La Passion de Simone

    The concerts are supported by a grant from the French American Fund for Contemporary Music.

    The January 17 performance is generously sponsored by Princess Cruises, the official cruise line of the LA Phil.

    Upbeat Live pre-concert events take place in BP Hall one hour prior to each concert, and are free to all ticket holders. Steven Stucky, Pulitzer prize-winning composer and Consulting Composer for New Music for the Los Angeles Philharmonic, hosts.

    Tickets ($17 - $147) are on sale now at the Walt Disney Concert Hall Box Office, online at, or via credit card by phone at 323.850.2000. When available, choral bench seats ($17), will be released for sale to selected Philharmonic, Colburn Celebrity Recital, and Baroque Variations performances beginning at noon on the Tuesday of the second week prior to the concert. A limited number of $10 rush tickets for seniors and full time students may be available at the Walt Disney Concert Hall box office two hours prior to the performance. Valid identification is required; one ticket per person; cash only. Groups of 12 or more may be eligible for special discounts for selected concerts and seating areas. For information, please call 323.850.2000.

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  • Contact:

    Lisa White, 213.972.3408,; Photos: 213.972.3034