Donato Cabrera has never looked forward to a concert quite the way he is his next one.
“I can’t wait till I walk out on stage and just see everyone’s faces in the audience just dying to hear the orchestra play again,” says Cabrera, the music director of the Las Vegas Philharmonic. “That’s going to be a very special moment.”
The conductor will host a livestream event at 1 p.m. Friday to preview the 2020-21 concert season. He’ll be joined by cellist Joshua Roman, the Philharmonic’s first artist in residence, along with guest artists on the group’s Facebook and YouTube pages.
When the Philharmonic takes the Reynolds Hall stage Oct. 16 and 17 for its Beethoven Fest, it will be playing in front of an audience for the first time since March 7. (Kurt Weill’s “America,” scheduled for April 4, and Tchaikovsky “Symphony No. 4,” planned for May 9, were canceled. The March 26 spotlight concert is still officially postponed.)
“In terms of planning the music, that isn’t going to change,” Cabrera says. “In terms of how we may have to present a concert, that is a moving target.”
No one knows what next week will look like, let alone October. The 2020-21 season was finalized late last year, a necessity when coordinating performers’ schedules with the availability of The Smith Center. So the conductor is planning for a return to normalcy, while remaining able to adjust to the current situations — whatever they might present.
Among the season’s highlights is “The American Woman,” scheduled for Nov. 14. The celebration of U.S. composers is tied to the 100th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th amendment, which gave women the right to vote. “I’m particularly proud that that’s happening,” Cabrera says.
Then there’s “A Very Vegas Holiday” on Dec. 5. It’s an offshoot of last season’s “Very Vegas Showcase,” hosted by Keith Thompson and featuring performances by local talent.
“I love the fact that that concert can only be done in Las Vegas,” Cabrera notes. “Sure, we’re doing Handel’s ‘Messiah,’ and we’re doing a Beethoven symphony, but you can see those things elsewhere. And they’re wonderful. But you will not see that concert anywhere else, or anything like it. And I’m proud of that.”
The conductor has been spending his stay-at-home time compiling “The Music Plays On,” a daily blog musing about some of his favorite music, along with links to videos of those performances.
“I’ve really appreciated this sort of forced opportunity of creating other avenues of reaching our audience,” he says. “I’m so happy I’m doing these things, and I don’t plan on stopping that once I start conducting again.” After all, he says, “When the season is in full swing, conducting — actually getting on a podium and waving my arms around — only is about 12 hours out of the week.”
Cabrera lived in New York in the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. The musical events that followed, such as the star-studded “The Concert for New York City” at Madison Square Garden, remain etched in his memory. It’s a testament, he says, to the healing power of the arts.
“I think, actually, only the arts can do that for our society. That’s what the arts do all the time is bring people together and show us the best of humanity. And that, in and of itself, even if it wasn’t during a pandemic, is healing. Going to a concert of any sort, going to a museum of any sort is always a healing moment, whether we realize it or not.”
The arts, Cabrera says, are as vital now as ever.
“These are the Band-aids,” he says of these shared experiences. “These are the things that will stitch the community back together.”
The Las Vegas Philharmonic 2020-21 schedule at a glance: All concerts are scheduled for 7:30 p.m. in Reynolds Hall, with pre-concert conversations with music director Donato Cabrera and guest artists beginning at 6:30 p.m.
Oct. 16-17: Beethoven Fest
Nov. 14: “The American Woman”
Dec. 4: Handel’s “Messiah”
Dec. 5: “A Very Vegas Holiday”
Jan. 23: “Gershwin & Ellington”
Feb. 20: “Appalachian Spring” and “Grand Canyon Suite”
March 6: “Beethoven V. Coldplay”
March 20: Meow Meow’s “Pandemonium”
April 10: “Symphonie Fantastique”
For tickets and more information, see lvphil.org.