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Last Updated: Friday, 24 October, 2003, 10:51 GMT 11:51 UK
Disney concert hall finally opens
Fireworks over Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles
Fireworks over the new Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles
The $276m (163m) Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles has finally hosted its first concert.

Beset by delays, the gala event marked the opening of the hall, which celebrated architect Frank Gehry was commissioned to design 15 years ago.

Warren Beatty, Sydney Poitier and Liza Minnelli were among the Hollywood stars attending the event on Thursday.

But some protesters outside complained of a conspicuous display of inequality, pointing to the nearby poverty of Skid Row.

Cultural profile

The inaugural concert featured music by composers Bach, Mozart, Gabrielli, Stravinsky and Ligeti by the Los Angeles Philharmonic.

The new concert hall will become the orchestra's permanent home.

The concert hall is seen as the US city's chance to increase its cultural profile away from just movie-making.

The LA Philharmonic's Esa-Pekka Salonen, right, with acoustician Yasuhisa Toyota, left, and architect Frank Gehry
Not only can you hear everything in it, you can see everybody and watch other people
Frank Gehry (centre)

Supporters hope the multi-million venue will become an icon for the city, in much the same way as Gehry's Guggenheim museum for Bilbao and Spain.

"This will have a huge impact on the perception of Los Angeles as a cultural environment," said Philharmonic conductor and music director Esa-Pekka Salonen.

He said the orchestra members were still coming to terms with their new home.

'Voyeur's paradise'

"We are adapting to a new acoustic situation," he said. "The musicians and the hall are in a situation where both influence each other," he said.

Gehry said he was proud of his new building, whose acoustics had been designed by Japanese acoustic expert Yasuhisa Toyota.

"It's a voyeur's paradise," Gehry said of the building. "Not only can you hear everything in it, you can see everybody and watch other people, which is something we like to do."

The idea for a dedicated concert hall in LA was put forward by Walt Disney's late widow Lillian, who initially donated $50m (29.5m) to the project because of her husband's love of classical music.

The Walt Disney Concert Hall
The project ran into delays in the 1990s
Gehry said he took Lillian's love of flowers as his inspiration for the building.

"I showed her a bowl of white roses and I said, 'I'm going to make a flower for you," he said.

"And she didn't quite get it. She thought I was putting her on. But I think, as you drive around the city, it's kind of a flower. I hope it is, for her."

$1,500 dinner

The hall has floral carpets and a fountain made of Delft china in the shape of a rose in her honour.

The Los Angeles Philharmonic was previously resident at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion but the acoustics there meant much of the sound was swallowed, forcing musicians to play more loudly.

"In the new hall, a normal Los Angeles music lover will have the first opportunity to hear what the orchestra really sounds like, and I think they will be pretty astonished," said conductor Mr Salonen.

The opening concert was put together to showcase what the concert hall acoustics have to offer, from solo recitals to the full symphony orchestra.

Guests attended a $1,500-per-head dinner before taking their seats in the hall.

The BBC's Rosie Millard
"Lack of money and political will meant the project stalled"

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