Meet the film director helping Dudamel paint the story of ‘The Creation’ inside Disney Hall

Alberto Arvelo is used to hiring composers to set music to his films. The Venezuelan director’s most recent feature, “Libertador,” employed none other than Gustavo Dudamel — in his debut film score — for that task.

The roles were reversed, however, on Arvelo’s new assignment: setting film to Dudamel-led concerts of Joseph Haydn’s epic oratorio, “The Creation.” 

“It’s exactly what should happen with a good music in film,” Arvelo said. “Good music is something that you can feel, that can create something that’s not there. Basically, if music is there, it’s because we have to add something to that moment, to provoke this combustion in some way. This is more or less the same concept, but exactly in a reverse way.”

In performances at the Walt Disney Concert Hall on Thursday through Saturday, Arvelo’s imagery will accompany Dudamel conducting the Los Angeles Philharmonic, guest vocal soloists and the Los Angeles Master Chorale in Haydn’s 1797 work based on biblical texts and John Milton’s “Paradise Lost.” (A fourth matinee performance on Sunday will forgo the visuals for a purer musical experience.)

The filmmaker began working on the project a year ago, seeking ways of painting the story of creation — from chaos to water to the stars — in abstract, emotional strokes.

“Gustavo, from the beginning, told me that he wanted something very contemporary, from today,” Arvelo said.

For his part, Dudamel will conduct a faithful interpretation of the piece, with Haydn’s prescribed number of musicians.

“It’s very simple, the text,” Dudamel said. “It’s the creation of Earth, it’s the creation of many things. But with the music of Haydn … the first part, the chaos, is [like] a piece from the 21st century. You feel that it’s not Haydn. He’s so ahead of his time.”

Arvelo’s moving pictures are — in his words — “a beautiful, crazy cocktail” of photographs, aerial drone footage from Joshua Tree and Yosemite, animation and textures of actual oil paintings and canvases. Using computers, he mapped the whole interior of Disney Hall in order to project — with four projectors on four surfaces around the room — onto designated parts of the hall.

In one sequence, a waterfall cascades around and behind the hall’s famous organ “fries,” bouncing and splashing off the rear seats.

When he learned that architect Frank Gehry described his hall as the inside of a ship, Arvelo seized on the idea of taking the audience on a voyage through creation.

“We felt from the beginning that the biggest risk in this project is to be obvious,” he said, “to show the audience what the audience is expecting, in some way. We have to take the audience to a different place — then beauty appears.”