Music Center's Resident Groups Plan Rich Season

ALL told, four million people will see Los Angeles Music Center productions this year - half of them at the Center and the other half at diverse venues across an eight-county area. And they'll choose from a dazzling array. Since the young Zubin Mehta led the Philharmonic at the Music Center's opening in 1964, the orchestra has been giving more venerable symphonies like Boston's, New York's, and Cleveland's a run for their money. One highlight of the upcoming orchestra season will be Stravinsky's ``Oedipus Rex,'' Nov. 30-Dec. 3. The production will be conducted by the Philharmonic's new music director-designate, Esa-Pekka Salonen and directed by the Mark Taper Forum's Gordon Davidson.

In 1967, the Ahmanson Theatre and Mark Taper Forum opened with dual purposes: The Ahmanson was to present popular fare - half road shows, half original productions; the Taper was to develop cutting-edge drama without worrying about box-office receipts. Both have achieved broad success.

The long line of Taper originals includes ``Children of a Lesser God'' and ``The Shadow Box.'' Upcoming highlights include a series starting next March of 1950s and '60 plays by dramatists whose work changed the theater - Albee, Beckett, and Ionesco, among them.

The Ahmanson has presented a parade of plays with big names that reads like a ``Who's Who in Theater'' - Hepburn, Tandy, Cronyn, Lemmon, Maggie Smith, and many more. This season's sellout is the just-opened ``Phantom of the Opera.''

Since becoming the first bi-coastal national dance troupe in 1983, the Joffrey Ballet has received critical acclaim for productions such as ``Romeo and Juliet'' and for projects like its reconstruction of Nijinsky's lost ``Le Sacre du Printemps.'' This season the company will be performing ``Le Noces,'' ``The Green Table,'' and a new untitled work by Gerald Arpino, based on American vaudeville.

In its first three years, the Los Angeles Music Center Opera has tackled a string of ambitious productions including ``Tristan und Isolde,'' with direction by Jonathan Miller and sets by David Hockney. This year it will present ``Marriage of Figaro'' directed by Sir Peter Hall; Maurice Sendak's ``Where The Wild Things Are'' and ``Higglety Pigglety Pop,'' conducted by Oliver Knussen and Randall Behr; and John Adams's ``Nixon in China.''

The Master Chorale is known for its interpretation of classics like the Bach's B-minor Mass and for specialties like its Scottish Highlands Concerts. One of the special events this season is the Chorale's world premi`ere of ``Three Poets'' by Gordon Getty. And the group's founder, Roger Wagner, will conduct a 10th anniversay ``Messiah'' sing-along Dec. 10 and 11.

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