Native son Donato Cabrera returns to Las Vegas as the Philharmonic’s new music director.
His musical education began in Vegas, and now conductor Donato Cabrera (seen in front of Tim Bavington’s sculptural interpretation of Aaron Copland’s Fanfare for the Common Man in Symphony Park) has come full circle.
This month, Donato Cabrera takes the stage as the Las Vegas Philharmonic’s new conductor and music director, returning to a city he grew up in. The incredibly busy Cabrera—also resident conductor of the San Francisco Symphony and music director of the San Francisco Youth Symphony, the California Symphony, and the New Hampshire Music Festival—managed to find a few moments to talk with us about his homecoming and his views on classical music.
Why choose Las Vegas?
It intrigued me because I grew up in Nevada and I’ve always wanted to find a way to come back and work here. I spent the first 10 years of my life here, so I feel very connected, and I still have family that lives in Las Vegas. From the very beginning I had a sense of homecoming.
And the orchestra?
It’s a fantastic group of musicians, and there’s an excitement and interest by the board, the administration, and other constituents to move forward and make the Vegas Philharmonic more integrated with the cultural fabric of Las Vegas. And of course, The Smith Center for the Performing Arts is an incredible venue.
Where did you get your strong interest in living composers?
In New York when I graduated, there were a whole bunch of us looking for opportunities to perform together—musicians and our friends who had gone to school as composers. We decided to form a contemporary-music ensemble so that we could perform music that was basically the music of our friends. It became immediately clear to me that it’s so exciting to be in the room with a composer of music that has just been written.
How important is it to perform new classical music?
When you go to an art gallery, by and large the art you’re experiencing is art of living artists. Music is the only art form that has become truly stuck with art that was written hundreds of years ago. Very little of it is new. In order for it to survive, there needs to be an interest, especially by musicians, to promote and perform music by living composers. Maybe there’s another Mozart out there just waiting to be performed, but we’ll never know unless we do it.
The Las Vegas Philharmonic’s 2014-15 season begins September 27 with a performance by guest soprano Deborah Voigt. 702-749-2000; thesmithcenter.com