August 1 , 2004
The London Philharmonic Orchestra, with renowned conductor Kurt Masur at the baton, is scheduled to perform as part of the inaugural 2005-06 season of performing arts events at the Mesa Arts Center, the Tribune has learned.
The Mesa Arts and Cultural division, which oversees the $94.5 million, still-in-construction Mesa Arts Center, has not completed a contract with the orchestra nor has it publicly announced the programming choice or any other acts to be booked in the center’s first season. But London Philharmonic Tour manager Matthew Todd confirmed that a March 5, 2006, stop at the Mesa Arts Center’s 1,600-seat Ikeda Theater had been "penciled into" the orchestra’s American tour itinerary. A performance date in Tucson also is on the calendar, Todd said.
Todd did not say what classical selections the Philharmonic might perform in Mesa. It’s notable, though, that the orchestra will be led by Masur — at 77, a German-born conductor known for his 11-year stint at the helm of the New York Philharmonic, from 1991 to 2002, who now also serves as musical director for the Orchestre National de France in Paris as well as principal conducting the London Philharmonic and guest conducting for top symphonies worldwide.
For Randy Vogel, arts administrator for the Mesa Arts Center and organizer for the center’s four theaters, booking the concert represents more than bringing a renowned orchestra to town.
"That’s a feather in the cap for the venue," he said. "What you have in this particular instance is one of the world’s greatest living conductors in the opening season. The statement this says to Mesa, or that Mesa is sending out to the rest of the arts community, is that ‘we’re for real.’ "
It also highlights a lack of notable visiting orchestras performing in the Valley.
"There isn’t, locally, a group that sees itself as presenting visiting symphonies," said Eric Sellen, marketing director for the Phoenix Symphony. "It’s not something we do. Tucson does it occasionally. (Arizona State University) decided some years back to not do it anymore. There’s a lot of risk for visiting orchestras. It’s a $100,000 a crack (to book a professional orchestra), and that means you’ve got to sell those tickets."
The price tag for Masur and the London Philharmonic on the American tour is around $175,000, though programmers like Vogel can whittle that down somewhat. Vogel has $1.5 million with which to schedule big-name acts for the Mesa Arts Center’s first season.
He hopes that admission for most performances will range from $25 to $65, though ticket prices for the season haven’t been finalized and can vary wildly depending on the type of show.
What else is planned for the inaugural season — including the act or acts that will be a part of the grand opening gala in fall 2005 — Vogel won’t say, only that the public should expect to see a season of music, theater, dance and other performing arts groups of a high caliber. The center is being built downtown at the southeast corner of Main and Center streets.
Former Mesa Vice Mayor Dennis Kavanaugh, an early advocate for the arts center and now a board member of the Friends of the Mesa Arts Center, said the center’s many high-tech features, such as the Ikeda Theater’s ability to be acoustically "tuned" to suit each performance, have perked the ears and raised the eyebrows of performing artists and their agents.
"When the arts center opens, it will be a state-ofthe-art facility at least for the first few years," Kavanaugh said. "It’s easier to do the booking because people want to try the place out."
But even Kavanaugh is being kept in the dark about plans for the season.
"The security’s been so tight," he said. "They want to create a sense of suspense and surprise."