DOUBLE REVIEW: LA Phil w/ Yuja Wang and Lyric Opera’s “La bohème” (and a peek into my subconscious)

I reviewed the LA Philharmonic and Lyric Opera’s “La bohème” for The Kansas City Star.

For a brief time, read the reviews here and here.

Looks like LA Phil, along with performing an inspiring concert, enjoyed their time in Kansas City, too. We’re a very lucky town to have gotten a spot on the tour.


I admit to some trepidation in preparing for LA Phil’s concert. I knew they’d be good, but as good as the hype? Are they going to give Kansas City a respectful performance, sandwiched between Davies Hall and Lincoln Center? Is Gustavo Dudamel going to do all that annoying, flashy choreography that often looks impressive without having any worthwhile effect on the music? Will Yuja Wang’s outfit be the more note-worthy than her playing?

During the concert these fears abated quickly, thank goodness, but even my subconscious got a little carried away, weaving a weird other-reality a few nights before the show:


Eastern horizon seen from the Arts Terrace before the show.
Eastern horizon seen from the Arts Terrace before the show

Instead of Helzberg Hall, the venue shifted to a large sports arena-type enclosure, with folding chairs set up on the concrete floor, close around the tiered orchestra, as though in a massive high-school gymnasium. Many notable and expected individuals, those I typically see at concerts, were in attendance, as well as a number of friends from high-school, none of which live in Kansas City. Such is our subconscious’ logic.

Sadly to say, the concert felt like a very loose and problematic rehearsal. They had to stop about half way through the first movement of the Brahms because it completely fell apart, so much so that Dudamel called a premature intermission.

During the intermission, major shifts to the orchestra set-up occurred [very similar, in fact, to the actual show], but these had a very fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants, let’s-see-if-this-will-work vibe. Confidence was not inspired. Dudamel, who’d just moments before been in full evening dress and coiffed hair, now appeared in front of the orchestra in work-out clothes, sweating from moving equipment around.

Much of the audience left during intermission. The ensemble sounded awful.

This was partly due, I’m sure, to the many theatrical effects that were being worked out during the performance rehearsal, including, but not limited to, a series of fireworks set to go off at the end and a drag queen samba dancer who couldn’t get her turquoise-feathered headdress on right. Missed her cue, too.

I wish I’d been able to keep better notes, but Henry Winkler has looking over my shoulder, asking me what I was scribbling, and I got self-conscious.


Ah, what our subconscious cobbles together out the day’s unheeded stimuli and presents for our nightly viewing – the Sandman had some fun with that one!

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