Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles opens with fanfare and fireworks

Friday, October 24th 2003, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

LOS ANGELES (AP) _ The debut of the Walt Disney Concert Hall began with a solo voice singing ``The Star Spangled Banner'' and ended with silver confetti, cut in the outline of the Frank Gehry landmark, falling on a cheering crowd.

The Los Angeles Philharmonic, Los Angeles Master Chorale and jazz singer Dianne Reeves wowed a packed crowd who loudly endorsed the hall's much-heralded acoustics. Thursday evening's grand gala closed with fireworks illuminating the night sky.

``I've never heard music like this,'' said Elliott Horwitch of Beverly Hills, a longtime subscriber to the Philharmonic.

``I love sitting in the middle _ this is a stroke of genius,'' his wife Adrienne said.

The concert was the first of three opening galas following more than a decade of struggle to build the stainless steel and glass landmark that resembles a ship in full sail or a flower in bloom.

The 2,265-seat venue drew rave reviews.

``The outside is spectacular,'' former Chrysler chairman Lee Iacocca said during intermission. ``The acoustics are out of this world.''

The hall was the idea of Disney's widow, Lillian, who donated $50 million in seed money in 1987. By 1996, the project was running out of money. Then-mayor Richard Riordan called on billionaire philanthropist Eli Broad for help.

Lillian Disney gave another $25 million, other gifts followed, and construction began again in 1999.

Gehry designed the hall before his acclaimed Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain. The two buildings share a gleaming metal exterior with few straight lines.

Located near the Music Center, the Disney Concert Hall is intended to be the centerpiece of a plan to rejuvenate the downtown.

The city has announced a $1.2 billion plan to create a 16-acre downtown park, linking the Disney Hall and the new Roman Catholic cathedral at one end with the refurbished Central Library at the other.

``I hope what this means is that L.A. has finally found its center,'' said Laura Trombley, president of Pitzer College.