A Selective Guide to the Arts in Los Angeles

Grant Gershon

The Los Angeles Master Chorale (LAMC), led by Artistic Director Grant Gershon, transforms Walt Disney Concert Hall into a festive banquet hall in the ancient Persian city of Persepolis for two immersive performances of eminent director Trevore Ross’ semi-staged production of Handel’s Alexander’s Feast, created for the LA Master Chorale to launch its multi-year “Hidden Handel” project, on Saturday, April 16, at 2 p.m., and Sunday, April 17, at 7 p.m.

The “Hidden Handel” project comprises semi-staged/multimedia productions of five of the composer’s great but underrepresented oratorios performed in collaboration with some of the performing art world’s leading directors and artists. In subsequent seasons, Gershon is slated to lead “Hidden Handel” productions of Handel’s Saul, Israel in Egypt, Theodora and Samson.

Alexander’s Feast celebrates music’s power and ability to elicit and manipulate emotions. The story follows Alexander the Great, having just conquered the ancient city of Persepolis, as he hosts a great banquet alongside his mistress Thais to celebrate their victory. Timotheus, a traveling musician, possesses an uncanny knack for arousing a full spectrum of emotions within Alexander and his guests through his music, ultimately persuading Alexander to burn down the city in revenge for the loss of his soldiers killed in battle. This prompts St. Cecilia, the patron saint of music herself, to descend to earth and calm the fury.

Ross, whose recent work includes directing LA Opera’s The Magic Flute and The Barber of Seville, uses the entire Walt Disney Concert Hall auditorium for the production, staging the LA Master Chorale and orchestra with dramatic lighting and movement to portray the joyous party with ever-changing moods, from amorous to raucous and haunting to frenetic — a gamut of emotions that allowed Handel to pen his most creative desires into a single work of music. The libretto by Newburgh Hamilton is adapted from John Dryden’s ode “Alexander’s Feast, or the Power of Music,” and features 48 singers, including 14 soloists, and chamber orchestra.

Culture Spot LA readers can win free tickets to the Saturday matinee. To be entered in a drawing, email editor@culturespotla.com with “LAMC” in the subject line.

Walt Disney Concert Hall is located at 111 S. Grand Ave. at First Street in downtown Los Angeles. ListenUp! Pre-concert Talk, one-hour prior to performances. Tickets range from $29 to $129. For tickets and information, please call (213) 972-7282, or visit www.lamc.org.