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Disney Concert Hall Hailed as New LA Landmark


Sixteen years in the making, a concert hall that will be the new home of the Los Angeles Philharmonic was inaugurated Monday. The modernistic building, designed by architect Frank Gehry, was heralded by dignitaries as a city landmark.

Outgoing California Governor Gray Davis, recently ousted by the voters in a special recall election, joked that this day will not be recalled, except with pride and gratitude.

Mr. Davis and other officials were celebrating completion of a building that critics called "impossible." With its billowing sheets of stainless steel, the structure is reminiscent of sailing ships, says architect Frank Gehry, who also designed the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain. He says the concert hall is like a flower in the heart of the city.

Mr. Gehry said the interior of 2,300 seat concert hall is even more special. Listeners surround the orchestra in a wood-paneled auditorium. "We tried to make it a beautiful room to listen to music and to experience the Los Angeles Philharmonic, like it's never been experienced before," he said.

The dedication took place outside, the sun gleaming off the steel roof. Deborah Borda, president of the Los Angeles Philharmonic Association, cut the ribbon. "Ladies and gentlemen, we hereby dedicate on this very special day, the 20th of October, the Walt Disney Concert Hall," she said.

The project began with a $50 million donation from Lillian Disney, widow of children's entertainment mogul Walt Disney. From the beginning, it faced skeptics. But former Los Angeles mayor Richard Riordan was a believer. As the cost of the project climbed, Mr. Riordan enlisted the help of his wealthy friends to support construction. One was Eli Broad, a billionaire businessman.

Mr. Broad said the building will be a symbol of the city. "It will really join the Eiffel Tower in Paris, the parliament buildings in London, the Sydney Opera House, as one of the most photographed buildings in the world," he said.

The concert hall's final cost was $275 million.

Former mayor Riordan said the project has changed Los Angeles, and together with the city's new Catholic cathedral, the Staples Center sports arena and a new conservatory, it marks the city's cultural arrival. "Los Angeles has been described as a bunch of suburbs in search of a city. Well, we found the city today. With the new Disney concert hall by Frank Gehry, the new cathedral, Staples, the Colburn School of Music, Los Angeles is truly a great cultural capital," he said.

The Disney Hall's debut concert will be held Thursday.

Saturday, John Williams and Esa-Pekka Salonen will conduct an evening of movie music. Hollywood stars Tom Hanks and Catherine Zeta-Jones will be on hand for the program, with director Steven Spielberg.

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