Entertainment behind the scenes
Dude’s on fire!
That’s how actor Jack Black described Gustavo Dudamel, the new music director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, at a free concert for 18,000 people at the Hollywood Bowl Saturday to welcome the 28-year-old Venezuelan conductor.
Black was one of many celebrities who joined the five-hour “Bienvenido Gustavo!” fest to tout music education for kids, a new audience for classical music and multicultural musical offerings — all espoused by Dudamel, the most popular export of Venezuela’s famous public music school network “El Sistema.” Music legends like Quincy Jones, Sergio Mendes, Herbie Hancock, Flea (Red Hot Chili Peppers), actor Andy Garcia and composer John Williams also turned out for a night of music under the stars.
Even U.S. President Barack Obama got in on the act — not in person, but he did send a letter Saturday to the Los Angeles Philharmonic saying “music is the universal language which builds intercultural relationships” and he “hopes the L.A. Phil inspires others to study the arts.”
One of the highlights of the night came from a hundred kids from underprivileged South L.A. in the new El Sistema-inspired Youth Orchestra of Los Angeles, who made their Hollywood Bowl debut with Dudamel conducting Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy.” Their families sat in the front, in what is known as the pool circle — the most coveted seats in the Bowl. VIPs and the city’s cultural elite sat behind them, sipping wine and picnicking.
Then, dressed in a cream colored Armani dinner jacket, Dudamel and his Los Angeles Philharmonic delivered the show’s powerful final act — Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9, complete with a huge chorus and four vocal soloists. Los Angeles Times music critic Mark Swed called it “a Beethoven Ninth to be remembered.”
Two big screens on either side of the stage gave view to Dudamel’s expressions, his graceful motions and his hair — the hair being very important part of the movement as his black ringlets fly to and fro. Even jaded critics enjoy watching Dudamel.
After a standing ovation, Dudamel returned to the stage and spoke in both Spanish and English about America being one continent — no South, no North, no Central America. He flashed his boyish grin and said he had a surprise. The Philharmonic played the last minutes of the symphony again, this time to an eruption of fireworks. No doubt thousands of first-time concertgoers joined the ranks of classical music lovers — that’s saying something in L.A.. And this is too: Dude was on fire!
Photo credit: Reuters/Fred Prouser (Gustavo Dudamel meets the press, Sept. 30, 2009)