A wave of cancellations of classical and new-music concerts in Southern California has been announced today in the wake of increasing concerns about the spread of coronavirus.
On Thursday, March 12, a variety of major local music and cultural organizations issued statements about the postponements or cancellations of dozens of concerts, effective immediately. Some groups are suspending all performances for at least the next two weeks, while others are describing the cancellations as indefinite, given the unprecedented scope of COVID-19’s impact and reach and ongoing uncertainty about how things will develop.
The Music Center, which encompasses such venues as Disney Hall, Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, Ahmanson Theatre, Mark Taper Forum and REDCAT and is the home base for L.A. Philharmonic, L.A. Opera, L.A. Master Chorale and Center Theatre Group, announced a series of significant cancellations through the end of March. In addition to the cancellation of L.A. Phil’s remaining concerts for the rest of March, the Music Center has also canceled dance performances by TMC Arts/Glorya Kaufman Presents Dance at the Music Center and the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater.
After Governor Gavin Newsom and the state of California recommended on Wednesday night that gatherings of 250 or more people should be canceled, postponements or cancellations of upcoming performances have also been disclosed by L.A. Chamber Orchestra, CSUN’s the Soraya (with some of its cancellations extending through May 9), Long Beach Opera, Pacific Symphony, Santa Barbara Symphony, Colburn School, Camerata Pacifica, UC Santa Barbara’s Arts & Lectures series, and the Musco Center for the Arts, among others.
UCLA’s Center for the Art of Performance has postponed its performances through Friday, April 10, including Whistleblower, an intriguing collaboration by composer Philip Glass and performance poet Jerry Quickley inspired by Edward Snowden’s leaking of NSA documents about surveillance programs, which was scheduled at the Theatre at Ace Hotel on Saturday, March 21. Similarly, USC announced the cancellation of its university-sponsored performances, both on campus and off campus, through Friday, April 10.
The Broad Stage announced the postponement of its scheduled performances through Wednesday, April 8. Pasadena Symphony rescheduled a Saturday, March 21, performance of W.A. Mozart’s music to be conducted by Nicholas McGegan for Saturday, May 23. (Pasadena Symphony’s performance of Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 3 is apparently still planned for Saturday, April 18.) Long Beach Symphony postponed its planned concerts through Thursday, April 30.
Thursday afternoon, the website for Segerstrom Center for the Arts in Costa Mesa indicated that its events were still taking place, although that could change at any moment: “The Center is closely monitoring the recent outbreak of COVID-19 … At this time, the Center is continuing with all performances as originally planned, and we will continue to follow the guidance of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and local health authorities.” Late Thursday afternoon, the Segerstrom Center announced that the rest of its performances and classes in March have been canceled.
Many smaller companies have announced cancellations, including a Soundwaves performance at Santa Monica Library, events presented by Boston Court in Pasadena, Culver City’s Grand Performances series, and concerts hosted by Salastina Music Society. The adventurous Kaleidoscope Chamber Orchestra canceled all of its concerts for March and April. The Verdi Chorus canceled a program, “Opera Gets Real,” that was planned for Santa Monica on Saturday-Sunday, April 18-19. Glendale Noon Concerts curator Jacqueline Suzuki was hoping to go forward with pianist Valeria Morgovskaya and violinist Ken Aiso’s free program of selections by Beethoven at Glendale City Church on Wednesday, March 18, but it was revealed Thursday night that a higher power had canceled March events at the church. At press time, it was increasingly likely that Pacific Opera Project’s American Revolution–themed makeover of Mozart’s Così fan tutte, scheduled at El Portal Theatre at the end of the month, would be canceled or delayed.
One exception to the ubiquitous cancellations is Jacaranda Music, which on Friday morning declared that it was going ahead with its scheduled concert on Saturday, March 14, at 8 p.m., at the First Presbyterian Church of Santa Monica. The decision was reportedly made after the group consulted with L.A. County Health officials on Thursday afternoon, when it was decided that the church was roomy enough to provide the mandated “social distancing” of six feet of space between listeners. Jacaranda’s program on Saturday night includes works by Timo Andres, Billy Childs, Maurice Ravel and Olivier Messiaen. However, on Saturday morning, it was announced that the concert had been canceled.
It also isn’t clear yet if The Industry is going to be able to conduct the final two weekends of its spectacular, site-specific re-imagining of the history of America, Sweet Land, at L.A. State Historic Park in Chinatown. The unique hybrid of art and operatic music has already made a deep impression as one of the major cultural events of the year, and it’s not likely to occur again if remaining performances end up being canceled. On Friday morning, The Industry artistic director Yuval Sharon reluctantly announced the cancellation of Sweet Land’s remaining performances. He also revealed that a video recording of the work will made available for on-demand streaming on Friday, March 20, so that people can at least see the unique piece in some form (look for upcoming details at https://theindustryla.org).
The impact of the cancellations and postponements varies widely. For L.A. Opera, the current cancellations affect only a single remaining performance of its stellar production of Gaetano Donizetti’s opera Roberto Devereaux, which was scheduled for Saturday, March 14 (the company doesn’t have any other public performances until May 1).
But today’s announcements include the cancellation of the remainder of L.A. Philharmonic’s ambitious Power to the People! festival, which started so promisingly with a riotous and uplifting sold-out performance by a clearly inspired and motivated Patti Smith & Her Band at Disney Hall on Saturday, March 6, followed by a bold and stunning solo recital by pianist Conrad Tao in the half-empty hall just days later, on Tuesday, March 10. Canceled Power to the People! events include highly anticipated performances by Terence Blanchard and Cécile McLorin Salvant, a lecture by Angela Davis, and the West Coast premiere of composer Ted Hearne and librettist Saul Williams’ gentrification piece, Place.
Related Power to the People! cancellations include staged readings from Luis Valdez’s Actos at A Noise Within and a potentially fascinating music/performance-art deconstruction at Disney Hall called Iced Bodies, in which cellist Seth Parker Woods was scheduled to demolish a cello made out of ice that was embedded with electronics and co-created with Spencer Topel. L.A. Phil’s round of cancellations through the end of March extends beyond the Power to the People! festival and also includes scheduled performances with the orchestra by celebrated composer-conductor Thomas Adès as well as the entire upcoming Piatigorsky International Cello Festival.
With everything in flux, it’s likely that other cancellations and postponements will be announced in the coming days.