Out West Arts: Performance at the end of the world

Opera, music, theater, and art in Los Angeles and beyond

I Hate This Part Right Here

August 02, 2009


The Gustavo Dudamel hype machine took another notch up this weekend here in Los Angeles. The occasion was the first public availability for tickets to the most inexplicably anticipated non-event since the Michael Jackson funeral – a single show at the Hollywood Bowl welcoming Dudamel as music director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic. The program which is entitled “Bienvenido Gustavo!” scheduled for October 3rd will conclude with a performance of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony preceded by several hours of community youth orchestras playing god-knows-what with a smattering of local music celebrities like Flea, Herbie Hancock, and David Hidalgo. If the thought of Dudamel’s wildly hit-or-miss conducting abilities don’t make you wince, the very notion of the sheer amount of pandering and filler to be suffered through under that hot afternoon sun definitely should.

But still there were apparently thousands of people both in person, on the phone, and on line looking for the free tickets Saturday morning and afternoon. And we’re told by the Los Angeles Times that very many of these people walked away empty handed and frustrated. Of course, the L.A. Times has played one of the larger roles in generating all of this hype to begin with. With its near total lack of any critical ear or thought about Dudamel’s actual performance track record to date, the paper has glorified a very young and talented man whose actual achievements have been variable and lackluster at best. (Things can change quickly with a little age, and if you don't believe me, just ask Daniel Harding.) Of Dudamel's several performances in Los Angeles with both the L.A. Philharmonic as well as other ensembles, his approach is more often promising than it is fulfilling.

Still, what’s left of our local news outlet is milking every last smile and tear it can from all this much ado about nothing. While the L.A. Times hasn’t missed a beat in covering the changing banner that hangs on the outside of the Walt Disney Concert Hall, it has failed to point out that in fact, the Philharmonic made tickets available to supporters of the organization weeks and weeks ago for a minimum generous donation of around $1500 each as I recall. (I threw the mailer away long ago, but that should be the right figure if my memory serves me.) Apparently the people’s maestro can still be had first and foremost by the folks with the deepest pockets. There’s already a second market for the tickets on line, for those of you who just can’t get enough of whatever it is you’re supposed to want this week. But if you’re feeling disappointed about missing out on tickets, take my advice. There’s about a million things you could do in October for free or otherwise that will be more rewarding than this media stunt. Read a book, take a nap, or better yet join me at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion for the Thomas Hampson recital being sponsored by the Los Angeles Opera that day. As for Dudamel, he may one day be worth getting this excited about, but today is not that day.


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