LA Phil Opening Night Gala

LA Phil Opening Night Gala – with Gustavo Dudamel Conducting – Attracts Julie Andrews, Don Johnson, Jacqueline Emerson, Chris O’Donnell, Matthew Lillard, More 


As though musical selections by Tchaikovsky, Saint-Saens, Stravinsky, John Adams and Leonard Bernstein weren’t enough for the Los Angeles Philharmonic‘s new season launch, the concert for the LA Phil 2012 Opening Night Gala also featured an over-the-top dance program. 

Plus – for gala-goers paying $2,500 and up per ticket – the Sept. 27 shindig, entitled “The Philharmonic Dances,” also included a champagne reception at Walt Disney Hall, plus a post-concert dinner and lots more dancing in a tent over Grand Avenue. 


So Who Represented Hollywood at the LA Phil 2012 Opening Night Gala?

Familiar faces abounded. Mingling in the crowd were Jacqueline Emerson of “The Hunger Games,” Matthew Lillard of “Trouble with the Curve,” Matthew Rhys of “Brothers & Sisters,” Chris O’Donnell of “NCIS: Los Angeles,” Raymundo Baltazar of “Project Runway,” and Broadway singer Norm Lewis of “The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess.” (Lewis also sang Javert in “Les Miserables: The 25th Anniversary Concert,” one of the most astonishing concert musicals ever.)   

Also on hand were iconic film and TV personalities Julie Andrews, Don Johnson, Mary Hart, Constance Towers and Anne Jeffreys, among others.

Spearheaded by gala co-chairs Joan Hotchkis and Carolyn Powers, the gala had no shortage of social, business and political figures either. Some were multiple Academy Award-winning composer John Williams, Sherry Lansing and William Friedkin, LA County CEO William T. Fujioka, and LA County Supervisors Zev Yaroslavsky, Don Knabe and Mark Ridley-Thomas. 


Opening Night Conversations 

Jacqueline Emerson came to the gala together with her mother, Kimberly Marteau Emerson, a longtime supporter of the Los Angeles Music Center. The younger Emerson, aka “Foxface” in “The Hunger Games,” talked of her interest in the arts.

Over the years, she has sung with the Los Angeles Children’s Chorus, the LA Opera and Reprise Theatre Company.

She named as one memorable performance, singing with the Children’s Chorus four years ago when Gustavo Dudamel made his debut at the Hollywood Bowl as music director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic.

“It was the biggest performance high I’ve ever felt in my life,” she said. “The stadium was packed – filled to the brim. We sang Beethoven’s Ninth, and as fireworks were going off, they lit the audience up in different colors.”

So for Emerson, spending a moment with Dudamel was a special treat. “This made my night,” she said.
And although the odds weren’t in her favor in her onscreen battle-to-the-death in the Suzanne Collins triology, Emerson expressed no sadness that her role ended. “I was honored to be part of such a groundbreaking series as “The Hunger Games,” she said. “I’m now just looking forward to seeing “Catching Fire.”
The Concert at the heart of the Gala 

As music director Gustavo Dudamel conducted the LA Phil orchestra, the program started with an original Chinese-inspired number by the LA dance company BodyTraffic. Performed to “The Chairman Dances,” by composer John Adams, the dance premiered new choreography by Barak Marshall.  

American Ballet Theatre stars Roberto Bolle and Veronika Part followed with brilliant individual performances and a pas de deux from “Swan Lake,” prompting LA Phil president Deborah Borda to later say, “At least two people left us breathless tonight.” (I couldn’t have agreed more.)

A Broadway routine rounded out the program, danced as sailors lost in New York to Leonard Bernstein’s classic “On the Town.” In one special moment, the sailors tugged on Dudamel’s tailcoat and the conductor directed them to the stage. New choreography came from Josh Rhodes.

“What a wonderful way to start the season,” Dudamel said, turning to the audience during a break. Expressing surprise that it’s already his fourth year, he said, “I feel old and young at the same time.


High Praise for Dudamel and the Los Angeles Philharmonic

“Gustavo Dudamel coming to the LA Phil is the greatest cultural advance to happen in Los Angeles,” said Matthew Lillard. “He makes bold choices — he’s fearless.”

LA Phil board member Julie Andrews, seated for dinner beside board chair David Bohnett, said she most appreciated the organization’s education programs and was planning “something” for children around Christmas.

On meeting ballet dancer Roberto Bolle, Andrews said one word: “Beautiful.”  

Andrews too captured attention, as many came to greet her, including Dudamel, who kissed her hand. (See the picture in the photo gallery below.)

Barely a soul remained seated for long, especially after Dudamel and Borda stepped onto the dance floor. Given the night’s focus on dance, I half-expected the band to play gangnam-style music. After all, the South Korean rapper Psy’s gangnam-style video has been viewed more than 300 million times since July and Psy himself has already appeared on “The Ellen DeGeneres Show,” “Saturday Night Live” and the MTV Music Video Awards.”  

That wasn’t the case, however. But perhaps long gowns and tuxedos don’t lend to the signature dance moves. The band stuck to rock music, which kept people on their feet long after dessert.

The gala committee, many of them dazzling in rich red gowns, also included Wallis Annenberg, David Bohnett, Lynn Booth, Edye Broad, Jane Eisner, Carol Colburn Grigor, Joyce Kresa, Ginny Mancini, Soraya Sarah Nazarian, Diane Paul, Ann Ronus, Nancy Sanders, Carla Sands, Rivka Seiden, Cio Soler, Sutton Stracke, Alyce Williamson and Marilyn Ziering. Rolex sponsored the evening.

The gala’s proceeds will go towards the LA Phil and its education programs, including YOLA, the Youth Orchestra Los Angeles.

Click here to read my story about the Gala in the Los Angeles Times Culture Monster section, and click here for the review of the night’s program


Event Photos: 

Top photo: LA Phil Music Director Gustavo Dudamel and Jacqueline Emerson of “The Hunger Games” at the LA Phil Opening Night Gala  (photo: 

Second photo:  From left, Joan Hotchkis, LA Phil Music Director Gustavo Dudamel, Carolyn Powers and David Bohnett at the LA Phil 2012 Opening Night Gala (photo: Mathew Imaging)

Third photo: Julie Andrews and ABT star Roberto Bolle at the LA Phil Opening Night Gala (photo:

Fourth photo: Heather Helms Lillard with Matthew Lillard of “Trouble with the Curve” and “The Descendants” at the LA Phil Opening Night Gala (photo:

Fifth photo: Actor Chris O’Donnell at the LA Phil Opening Night Gala (photo: Mathew Imaging)

Sixth photo: The Los Angeles dance company BodyTraffic in “The Chairman Dances,” composed by John Adams and choreographed by Barak Marshall, at the LA Phil Opening Night Gala   (photo: Mathew Imaging)



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LA Phil Opening Night Gala

Published Sept. 29, 2012 – Ellen Olivier, Society News LA