Any other year, summer would be classical music’s down time. But in 2021, it’s shaping up to be the high point of the concert season. Last month, the Los Angeles Philharmonic announced its return to the Hollywood Bowl with five concerts in May and June for audiences of first responders — the orchestra’s first live performances since Covid cancellations began in March 2020. Today, the LA Phil unveils the rest of its Bowl season, with more than 50 performances on the calendar through September.
Things kick off with two fireworks concerts, July 3 and 4, led by Hollywood Bowl Orchestra Principal Conductor Thomas Wilkins. Wilkins conducts a handful of programs with the LA Phil too, including a July 30 date with singer and actress Cynthia Erivo and a Sept. 2 program that brings together pianist Aaron Diehl, soprano Julia Bullock, and music by George Gershwin and Margaret Bonds.
The Bowl sticks to classical programming on Tuesdays and Thursdays with repertoire that, understandably this year, flirts a little with chamber-orchestra proportions (Peter and the Wolf on July 15, Mozart and Mendelssohn on July 27). But there are plenty of big works on the schedule, from Pictures at an Exhibition (July 20) to Tchaikovsky’s Fifth Symphony (Aug. 24 and 26), and some big projects and plans too. In August, the LA Phil launches its Pan-American Music Initiative, originally slated to start in fall 2020; a new violin concerto by Arturo Márquez, plus a centennial program of music by Astor Piazzolla and two concerts with singer-songwriter Carlos Vives, inaugurate this multiyear project. The LA Phil’s music and artistic director, Gustavo Dudamel, conducts these four performances and leads more than a dozen concerts altogether this summer.
It wouldn’t be a Hollywood Bowl season without some all-star guests in every genre. Christina Aguilera sings with the LA Phil July 16 and 17, Yo-Yo Ma plays the six Bach Cello Suites on Sept. 14, and saxophonist Kamasi Washington headlines the first KCRW World Festival concert this season, July 18. There are the usual films in concert — this year, The Princess Bride (July 31), Black Panther (Sept. 10–12), and Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (Sept. 17) — along with a program of movie music conducted by composers John Williams and David Newman (Sept. 3–5). And fireworks aren’t the only tradition making a return this summer; there’s the sing-along Sound of Music (Aug. 21) and, to close out the season, “Mozart Under the Stars,” with Dudamel and the LA Phil (Sept. 28).
For the complete season schedule, tickets, and the venue’s Covid protocols, which the LA Phil anticipates will evolve over the summer, visit the Hollywood Bowl’s website.