Spring Arts Preview 2015: Highlights

The coming of spring means welcoming a new season of cultural activities to Southern California.

Some events to watch for include the L.A. Philharmonic's showcase of new works by contemporary American composers at the Next on Grand Festival, visiting masterpieces from the Musée d’Orsay on display at the Norton Simon Museum and intense rock act Sleater-Kinney's return to the road.

Be­low, Los Angeles Times crit­ics and writers guide you through the sea­son in art, books, dance, theat­er, and clas­sic­al and pop mu­sic. For more in-depth cov­er­age, ex­plore our com­plete spring arts pre­view.

Classical music

André Previn. (A.P. Mutter)

Igor Levit, April 21
The award-winning Russian pianist performs pieces by Bach, Beethoven, Prokofiev and Ronald Stevenson. Bram Goldsmith Theater, Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts, 9390 N. Santa Monica Blvd., Beverly Hills; $39-$89. (310) 746-4000; www.thewallis.org.

Monteverdi’s “1610 Vespers” and “L’Orfeo,” April 24-25
Sir John Eliot Gardiner and his Monteverdi Choir and English Baroque Soloists celebrate the choir’s 50th anniversary with back-to-back performances of these two 17th century masterworks. Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall, Segerstrom Center for the Arts, 600 Town Center Drive, Costa Mesa; $30-$250. (949) 553-2422; www.PhilharmonicSociety.org.

John Zorn Marathon, May 2
CAP UCLA’s daylong salute to the avant-garde composer includes performances by Zorn and others in selected galleries at LACMA; a rock-fueled program at Royce Hall featuring Abraxas, Secret Chiefs 3 and Zorn’s group, Bladerunner; and a midnight solo-organ recital. LACMA, 5905 Wilshire Blvd, L.A.; free with $15 museum admission. Also, Royce Hall, UCLA, 340 Royce Drive, Westwood.; $29-$69; $19. (310) 825-2101; www.cap.ucla.edu.

Next on Grand Festival, May 19-June 6
The L.A. Phil showcases new works by contemporary American composers including Philip Glass, Caroline Shaw and the National’s Bryce Dessner, and revisits John Adams and choreographer Lucinda Childs’ 1983 collaboration, “Available Light.” Walt Disney Concert Hall, 111 S. Grand Ave., L.A.$20-$197. (323) 850-2000; www.laphil.com.

Tribute to André Previn, May 28-30
The composer and pianist joins Pacific Symphony for an all-Previn program that includes the West Coast premiere of his Double Concerto for violin and cello. Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall, Segerstrom Center for the Arts, 600 Town Center Drive, Costa Mesa. $25-$185. (949) 480-4278; www.pacificsymphony.org.
For the Record
A spring arts preview listing about a Pacific Symphony tribute to André Previn gave an incorrect phone number for the ticket office. The number is (714) 755-5799.


Mark Taper Forum. (Lawrence K. Ho / Los Angeles Times)

“Pygmalion,” March 22-April 12
George Bernard Shaw’s class-conscious satire — the basis for the musical “My Fair Lady” — about a speech professor’s efforts to turn a Cockney flower girl into a proper young woman. Pasadena Playhouse, 39 S. El Molino Ave., Pasadena; $30-$125. (626) 356-7529; www.pasadenaplayhouse.org.

“The White Snake,” March 26-April 26
A serpent is transformed into a beautiful woman who falls in love with a handsome young man in the Southern California premiere of Tony winner Mary Zimmerman’s play-with-music inspired by an ancient Chinese fable. The Old Globe Theatre, Donald and Darlene Shiley Stage, 1363 Old Globe Way, San Diego; $29-$101. (619) 234-5623; www.theoldglobe.org.

“Mr. Wolf,” April 18-May 13
A teenage girl unlocks the secrets of the universe, under the tutelage of the mysterious title character, in this world-premiere psychological drama from “Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo” playwright Rajiv Joseph. South Coast Repertory, Julianne Argyros Stage, 655 Town Center Drive, Costa Mesa; $20-$74. (714) 708-5555; www.scr.org.

“My Barking Dog,” April 25-May 24
Eric Coble’s comedy about two reclusive urbanites whose lives are changed by a series of encounters with a wild coyote. The Theatre @ Boston Court, 70 N. Mentor Ave., Pasadena; $29, $34. (626) 683-6883; www.bostoncourt.com.

“Immediate Family,” May 3-June 7
Closely held secrets spill forth when adult siblings reunite at a wedding in Paul Oakley Stovall’s new comedy; Phylicia Rashad directs. Mark Taper Forum, 135 N. Grand Ave., L.A.; $25-$85. (213) 628-2772; www.centertheatregroup.org.


“Whistler’s Mother.” (Patrice Schmidt / Musée d’Orsay)

“Sturtevant: Double Trouble,” March 20
The first survey in America of the artist’s work, spanning 50 years. MOCA Grand Avenue, 250 S. Grand Ave.; $7-$12. (213) 626-6222; www.moca.org.

“William Pope.L: Trinket,” March 20
New and recent work by the Chicago-based artist, who is a key figure in the development of performance and body art. Geffen Contemporary at MOCA, 152 N. Central Ave.; $7-$12. (213) 626-6222; www.moca.org.

“Tête-à-tête: Three Masterpieces From the Musée d’Orsay,” March 27
Visiting from the famed French museum are “Arrangement in Gray and Black No.1” — colloquially known as “Whistler’s Mother” — and works by Édouard Manet and Paul Cézanne. Norton Simon Museum, 411 W. Colorado Blvd., Pasadena; $9-$12. (626) 449-6840; www.nortonsimon.org.

“Light, Paper, Process: Reinventing Photography,” April 14
An exhibition of works by artists who embrace the chemical and tactile aspects of photography over the ever-increasing sophistication of digital technology involved in every aspect of contemporary photographic processes. Getty Center, 1200 Getty Center Drive; free. (310) 440-7300; www.getty.edu.

“Noah Purifoy: Junk Dada,” June 7
An exhibition of the Los Angeles- and Joshua Tree-based artist’s work, presenting a pivotal yet under-recognized figure in postwar American art. LACMA, 5905 Wilshire Blvd.; $10-$15. (323) 857-6000; www.lacma.org.


“Eifman Ballet of St. Petersburg: Up and Down.” (Souheil Michael Khoury / Segerstrom Center for the Arts)

“Zoe|Juniper: BeginAgain,” March 26
An evocative duet pairing Zoe Scofield’s choreography with artist Juniper Shuey’s visuals. REDCAT, 631 W. 2nd St.; $10-$25. (213) 237-2800; www.redcat.org.

“Delfos Danza Contemporanea: Cuando los Disfraces se Cuelgan,” April 14
One of the leading companies in Latin America combines multimedia and dance in its latest production. Royce Hall at UCLA, 340 Royce Drive; $19-$59. (310) 825-2101; cap.ucla.edu.

“Mark Morris Dance Group: Dido and Aeneas,” May 15
The Philharmonic Society of Orange County presents Henry Purcell’s 17th century opera with interpretation by choreographer Mark Morris. Irvine Barclay Theatre, 4242 Campus Drive, Irvine; $35-$65. (949) 854-4646; www.thebarclay.org.

“Lucinda Childs: Available Light,” June 5
This co-presentation between the Music Center and the Los Angeles Philharmonic — part of the Next on Grand: Contemporary Americans festival — features choreography by Childs, set design by Frank Gehry and score by John Adams. Walt Disney Concert Hall, 111 S. Grand Ave.; $94.50-$137.50. (323) 850-2000; www.laphil.com.

“Eifman Ballet of St. Petersburg: Up and Down,” June 5
The West Coast premiere of Eifman’s full-length narrative ballet, set in the decadent 1920s. Segerstrom Center for the Arts, 600 Town Center Drive, Costa Mesa; sold out. (714) 556-2787; www.scfta.org.

“Eifman Ballet of St. Petersburg: Rodin,” June 12
Eifman presents a ballet tribute to the life of sculptor Auguste Rodin and his muse Camille Claudel. Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, 135 N. Grand Ave.; $34-$125. (213) 972-0711; www.musiccenter.org.

Pop music

Sleater-Kinney. (Robert Altman / Invision / AP)

Herbie Hancock and Chick Corea, March 21
A reconvening of a 1978 acoustic tour that netted a pair of beloved double albums in “An Evening With Herbie Hancock & Chick Corea: In Concert” and the simply titled “CoreaHancock,” this face-off between two giants of jazz piano should yield just as many moments of inspiration, improvisation and mastery. Walt Disney Concert Hall, 111 S. Grand Ave., Los Angeles. $63-$100.

Tomasz Stanko New York Quartet, March 28
The innovative Polish trumpeter teams with a top-flight group of East Coast improvisers that includes drummer Gerald Cleaver and Cuban-born pianist David Virelles to perform from his 2013 double album “Wislawa,” which was inspired in part by Polish poet and essayist Wislawa Symborska. The Jazz Bakery’s Moveable Feast at the Kirk Douglas Theatre, 9820 Washington Blvd., Culver City. $30.

Burgerama Four music festival, March 28-29
The thriving indie powerhouse Burger Records has made its name by virtually single-handedly reviving the cassette as a viable — and dirt cheap — format. Over its nearly six years as a shop in Fullerton (with a new location coming to Atwater Village), the label has built a mini-empire. Its biggest event is Burgerama, which will occur over two days and feature a surprising roster, including Madlib, Ty Segall, Weezer, Ariel Pink, J. Mascis, Bone Thugs-N-Harmony, FIDLAR and Gang of Four, among dozens of others. The Observatory (Santa Ana). $47.50 (single day), $90 (two-day pass).

Ryley Walker, “Primrose Green” (Dead Oceans), March 30
The young northern Illinois folk guitarist is tough to pin down, seeming to draw equal inspiration from the legacies of British and American varieties. His new album displays a kinship for Fairport Convention, Tim Buckley, Nick Drake, Joni Mitchell and Burt Jansch, but Walker is a restless presence and powerful player, one whose compositions offer structural diversions and an overall expansiveness. The 10 songs move with a measured looseness, with Walker and his miraculous backing band of Chicago jazz players allowing plenty of space for tightly improvised explorations.

Brianfest, March 30
Few Los Angeles artists have left as indelible a mark on the region as Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys. The master composer will be celebrated at the Fonda with Brianfest, a tribute that will feature artists from myriad genres and locales. Among those slated to appear are Norah Jones, Local Natives, Bethany Costentino (Best Coast), Heart’s Ann Wilson, Boz Scaggs and Devendra Banhart. The Fonda, 6126 Hollywood Blvd., Los Angeles. $55-$350.

Waxahatchee, “Ivy Tripp” (Merge), April 7
Few artists can drop an album that has the feel of a multi-act compilation, but the new record by the Alabama-born singer, guitarist and songwriter (born Katie Crutchfield) is a stylistic mess in all the right ways. She returned to her home state to record “Ivy Tripp,” and the sound of rural Alabama permeates the record. Crickets screech and a dog barks as the impatient artist searches for moods. She offers a humble meditation on “Blue,” harnesses a Casiotone-suggestive synth-rhythm for “La Loose” and drifts through “Summer of Love,” an acoustic waltz, while a breeze blows across the microphone. Waxahatchee will perform at the Roxy on April 28.

Ariana Grande, April 8
Last year’s “My Everything” proved Grande is more than the Mariah Carey wannabe many took her for on the basis of her lightweight 2013 debut. Now the former Nickelodeon star is bringing her bold collection of style-skipping pop hits, including the ’60s-flavored “Problem” and the stadium-ravey “Break Free,” to arenas across America. The Forum, 3900 W. Manchester Blvd., Inglewood. $29.50-$69.50. Also April 10 at Honda Center.

Blur, “Magic Whip” (Parlophone), April 27
A dozen years after the best Britpop band released its last album, “Think Tank,” Blur surprised many by announcing a new studio effort. The group, best known stateside for its anthem “Song #2,” is one of England’s biggest bands, and the news has been greeted with joy akin to an undiscovered Beatles album. Blur’s last few records were textural, often mundane affairs, far removed from their melodic-anthemic early hits. The good news is that the first single, reportedly recorded like the rest of “Magic Whip” in Hong Kong, is relatively up-tempo — at least in a stoned, langourous way.

Sleater-Kinney, April 30
Blur isn’t the only reformed rock act on the road. In January this Portland, Ore., punk trio put out “No Cities to Love,” its first long-player in a decade. Much changed during the interim in music and the members’ lives. (For starters, singer-guitarist Carrie Brownstein became a TV star on “Portlandia.”) But the group’s underdog intensity still burns hot. Also May 1. Hollywood Palladium, 6215 Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles $35.

Kamasi Washington, “The Epic” (Brainfeeder), May 5
A spiritually charged 172-minute, three-CD set that features a 20-person choir and 32-piece orchestra behind a 10-piece band, this long-anticipated album from the L.A. saxophonist earns its title. But the end result showcases a far-reaching artistic vision that is, as his former bandleader the late Gerald Wilson put it, “in a world of his own.”

The Word, “Soul Food” (Vanguard), May 5
The Word, a gospel-blues supergroup that features the North Mississippi Allstars, Medeski Martin & Wood’s keyboardist John Medeski and “sacred steel” guitar phenom Robert Randolph, made quite an impact on the so-called jam band circuit with a self-titled debut in 2001. After almost 15 years, the follow-up finally arrives, and its spirited mix sounds none the worse for wear.


Los Angeles Times Festival of Books. (Gary Friedman / Los Angeles Times)

The Big Read Los Angeles: “Into the Beautiful North” by Luis Alberto Urrea, March 25–May 15
From the kickoff at City Hall on March 25 through mid-May, libraries, schools and cultural institutions invite book lovers to read Urrea’s novel of immigration and join in dozens of activities citywide. City Hall, 200 N. Spring St.; free; www.neabigread.org.

The Los Angeles Times Festival of Books and book prizes, April 18-19
The two-day book festival will feature hundreds of authors — including T.C. Boyle, LeVar Burton, Jacqueline Woodson, Luis Rodriguez, Patton Oswalt, Roz Chast and Candice Bergen — in readings, discussions and signings. The prizes, which present awards to authors in 10 categories, are open to the public. USC campus, free; $10 for the prize ceremony; latimes.com/festivalofbooks.

An Evening With Eric Bogosian, April 29
Best known as a playwright and performer, Eric Bogosian brings his storytelling talents to the book “Operation Nemesis: The Assassination Plot That Avenged the Armenian Genocide,” a researched history of the Armenian genocide and those bent on revenge. LiveTalksLA, the Alex Theatre, Glendale; $23-$95. www.livetalksla.org.

“The Familiar: Volume 1: One Rainy Day in May” by Mark Z. Danielewski, May 12
The author of “House of Leaves” returns with a new book, using a simple story — of a girl and a lost pet — to conceal an elaborately structured, complex, multi-voiced novel that is slated to launch an ambitious series. Pantheon: 880 pp, $25

LéaLA, May 15-17
After taking a year off, LéaLA, Los Angeles’ Spanish-language book festival, is back. Presented by the Guadalajara International Book Fair and with support from the government of Mexico, the fair celebrates Spanish-language literature. 85,000 people attended the fair in 2013. Los Angeles Convention Center, 1201 S. Figueroa St.; free. www.lea-la.com.