The Los Angeles Music Center is one of the largest performing arts centers in the US, and the west coast equivalent of New York’s Lincoln Center. It is home to the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion (opera house), the Ahmanson Theatre (Broadway-style proscenium arch theatre), the Mark Taper Forum (180-degree thrust stage), and the Walt Disney Concert Hall.
The original Music Center complex was designed by Welton Becket in the New Formalism style. Becket also designed Los Angeles’ Capitol Records Building, McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas, LA’s Cinerama Dome, and the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium. The Music Center complex was completed in 1967, although the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion was open from 1964.
Becket was guided by his “total design” philosophy. He and his team engineered every aspect of the project, including master/site planning, all interior work, fixtures, finishes and furnishings, all with the goal of creating a unified and integrated look. At Dorothy Chandler’s personal request, internationally acclaimed artist and designer Tony Duquette joined the Becket team as Art Director.
The Frank Gehry-designed Walt Disney Concert Hall was added to the complex in 2003, and the site now covers 12 acres.
- Dorothy Chandler Pavilion
Dorothy Chandler Pavilion
- The Dorothy Chandler Pavilion – an opera house – opened to much acclaim in December 1964 and was originally called the Memorial Pavilion. In December 1965 the City of Los Angeles Board of Supervisors announced that it would be renamed in honor of Dorothy Chandler, the major driving force behind the creation of the Music Center and one of its largest individual donors.
- The Dorothy Chandler Pavilion is the largest venue of the Music Center complex with a seating capacity of 3,156. It largely replaced the 1906 Philharmonic Auditorium located at 5th and Olive.
- Originally home to the Los Angeles Philharmonic , who are now based at the Walt Disney Concert Hall, the venue is home to LA Opera . It is familiar to many throughout the world having hosted over 20 Academy Award (Oscars) ceremonies from 1969 through 1999.
- The three chandeliers that hang in the Founders Lobby (now called Stern Grand Hall) measure 17ft high by 10ft in diameter and each weigh 1.5 tons. Each chandelier is comprised of approximately 27,500 individual glass pieces.
- The Founders Room at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, reserved for donors who have contributed generously to the Music Center, boasts two chandeliers that were originally designed for the movie “The Great Waltz” (1938) . Designer Tony Duquette determined that the room required three chandeliers and commissioned a third to match the existing two chandeliers.
- The theatre’s house curtain was designed by Tony Duquette and features a huge sunburst pattern, subtly executed in shades of gold lamé and appliques of iridescent metal cloth. Duquette was originally told his design was too difficult to manufacture and so he rented the Shrine Auditorium and hired his own seamstresses to create the 3,000 pound curtain.
- Opening night was 6th December 1964 with a gala concert given by the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Zubin Mehta.
- Ahmanson Theatre
- The Ahmanson, a large-scale traditional Broadway-style proscenium theatre, opened in April 1967. It was originally intended to be called the Center Theater, however in December 1965 the Los Angeles Board of Supervisors announced that it would be named for philanthropist Howard Ahmanson (chairman of the board of Home Savings and Loan Association) in recognition of the gift from the Ahmanson Foundation.
- In the mid-1990s the Ahmanson underwent a major redesign by architectural firm Ellerbe Becket (the successor firm to Welton Becket and Associates), with the balcony and mezzanine levels moved closer to the stage, the width of the auditorium reduced, and the acoustics improved.
- The $13 million project took 17 months, with the final performance of Phantom of the Opera taking place on 29th August 1993, and the redesigned theatre opening with Miss Saigon on 25th January 1995.
- The 1994-95 redesign project also added the ability to reconfigure the seating capacity from 2,103 to 1,700, and even down to 1,300, using acoustic dividers mid-Mezzanine and mid-Balcony.
- The original décor featured rich reds and pewter gray tones. Purples and golds were introduced as part of the redesign project.
- The Ahmanson is currently home to Center Theatre Group who present a wide range of productions throughout their season, including direct-from-Broadway one-time transfers.
- Opening night was 12th April 1967 with a production of “Man of La Mancha”, presented by the Los Angeles Civic Light Opera Association.
- Mark Taper Forum
Mark Taper Forum
- The Mark Taper Forum opened in April 1967 and is the smallest of the Music Center’s venues. It was named for S. Mark Taper, a prominent real estate developer, banker, and philanthropist, and the largest single donor to the Music Center project.
- With a seating capacity of 738 in a 180-degree semicircular amphitheatre arrangement around its thrust stage, the Taper is the smallest of the four major performance spaces at the Music Center. The thrust stage and amphitheatre-style seating is particularly successful at creating an intimate relationship between actor and audience.
- The building’s exterior is the most stunning of the three buildings comprising the original Music Center complex, being a cylindrical drum wrapped in relief-sculpture concrete murals and surrounded by reflecting pools.
- The mural wrapping around the Taper is an abstract pattern suggesting the movements of the performing arts and was designed by sculptor Jacques Overhoff. The mural is seven panels wide, repeated seven times around the circumference of the building. The artist chose seven panels for the width as the eye would never be able to see a wider mural from a single vantage point, given the circular shape of the building.
- The Taper underwent a major $30 million renovation in 2007-08, led by Rios Clementi Hale Studios, to upgrade its technical capabilities and audience amenities.
- One of the most successful productions to be staged at the Taper was Zoot Suit in 1978, telling the story of the Sleepy Lagoon murder trial and the Zoot Suit Riots. The production went on to be the first Chicano production on Broadway and was made into a film. Center Theatre Group revived the play for their 50th anniversary in 2018, where it again played to sellout audiences at the Taper with its run being extended three times.
- Opening night was 9th April 1967 with a special presentation by the Center Theater Group of John Whiting’s “The Devils”, a play based on the book by Aldous Huxley.
- Walt Disney Concert Hall
Walt Disney Concert Hall
- The Frank Gehry-designed Walt Disney Concert Hall was added to the Music Center complex in 2003, a direct result of Lillian B. Disney donating $50 million for a new performance space in honor of her late husband Walt Disney and his dedication to the Arts and the City of Los Angeles.
- The Walt Disney Concert Hall is home to the Los Angeles Master Chorale, and the LA Philharmonic who transferred their home here from the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion upon the concert hall’s opening.
- Seating capacity is 2,252 with seats on all four sides of the vast Douglas Fir-lined concert hall. The interior is a concrete box which is structurally independent from the rest of the building. Acoustics have been greatly praised and there is no bad seat in the house.
- The concert hall’s organ was designed by Gehry and Manuel Rosales and was nicknamed “Hurricane Mama”. The arrangement and style of the organ pipes visible in the concert hall was a design by Gehry. The organ has 6,125 individual pipes ranging from a few inches to 32ft in length.
- The concert hall building also incorporates the 266-seat Roy and Edna Disney/CalArts Theater (REDCAT), named in honor of Walt Disney’s brother and partner, Roy, and Roy’s wife, Edna; the 350-seat BP Hall; the 300-seat William M. Keck Foundation Children’s Amphitheatre, and the 120-seat Nadine and Ed Carson Amphitheatre.
The venues are managed and programmed by L.A. Opera, the L.A. Philharmonic, and Center Theatre Group.
Reservations are not required unless groups sizes are 15 or over. Information correct as of March 2017.
Behind Row F (rear row of Balcony is row L)
Above row E of Mezzanine
98 counterweight linesets operated Stage Left
Behind Row G (rear row of Mezzanine is row P)
Above row Q of Orchestra
40ft wide by 42ft high, normal teaser out-trim 30ft high
2,103 on 3 levels configurable down to 1,700 or 1,300 using dividers in the Balcony and Mezzanine (Orchestra 988; Mezzanine 606 including boxes; Balcony 515 including boxes)
Dorothy Chandler Pavilion
108 counterweight linesets operated Stage Right at Stage level
Rear Stage Area
172ft wide by 40ft deep
3,156 on 4 levels (Orchestra 1,442 seats; Founders Circle 471; Loge 443; Balcony 750)
Side Stage Area (SL)
40ft wide by 60ft deep
Mark Taper Forum
738 arranged in a semicircle around the thrust stage
30ft at deepest point
Walt Disney Concert Hall