I remember June 1999, the first time I went to Ojai for its annual Music Festival: Esa-Pekka Salonen was festival Music Director that year and was being joined by the Los Angeles Philharmonic and many of his famous friends, including fellow Finns Anssi Kartunnen, Magnus Lindberg, and Olli Mustonen. While those folks represented many good reasons to go that year, the real draw for me was the chance to see Dawn Upshaw in such an intimate place; add in the fact that she was going to be singing the world premiere of Salonen’s “Five Images After Sappho” and it was a no brainer.
Alas, Upshaw ended up requiring emergency back surgery and withdrew from her Ojai dates. Laura Claycomb stepped in to sing the world premiere, doing an admirable job and making a compelling case for Salonen’s song cycle in her own right. More importantly, Upshaw eventually recovered and ended up recording the Sappho before going on to resume her successful and noteworthy career. That said, it would have been good to see her in Ojai.
This weekend, Upshaw returns to the Ojai Festival not just as a performer but as Music Director, plus Ojai is inaugurating their newly renovated Libbey Bowl (whose architect, David Bury, sadly passed away on the eve of the festival’s opening). Prior commitments kept me from attending this year’s festival, so I’ll have to miss Dawn in Ojai again and live vicariously through the various internet reviews.
Christopher Hawthorne’s architectural review in the LA Times HERE