The LA Philharmonic's summer season at the Hollywood Bowl has almost wrapped up, but there are still a few more opportunities to see them.
At the baton will be musical director Gustavo Dudamel, currently in his seventh summer season.
For more on the shows, Take Two's A Martinez sat down with the maestro himself, Gustavo Dudamel.
You chose such a wide range of works this year: from the Italian opera "Tosca" to West Side Story and "Rhapsody in Blue." What was the thought process when you were putting together the catalog for this summer?
Well, look, I think we have a beautiful variety of what classical music, in the sense of music, can be combined.
For example, we started with Tchaikovsky and Korsakov. Let’s say that is a Russian program, but at the same time we are rehearsing and preparing West Side Story. And for this program especially Gershwin and Ravel, we had a wonderful soloist that is Yuja Wang. And it’s a beautiful history about Gershwin and Ravel. It’s a connection because Gershwin traveled to France to meet Ravel and asked Ravel to be his teacher. So Ravel told him ‘What I can teach you?’ It was kind of if you are great composer you are doing great, so it’s beautiful. And you see two composers from the same time; even you can feel in the Concerto In G by Ravel that this in a way has some jazzy elements.
These jazzy harmonies that combine perfectly with Rhapsody in Blue. So I think, of course. Also, it’s a very demanding program, but if you see then we do Tosca, then we do the Tchaikovsky spectacular so it’s a kind of combination of what all music can be.
Have you gotten used to the venue? You’ve been doing for so long already. Does it eventually become, ‘OK, this is where I work.’
You know what happened to me with the Bowl? Every year I became more in love with the venue, and it’s because of the atmosphere of the place. The open air, the people. I have been in two concerts as an audience this season. I came for the Star Trek movie with music live, and I also came for Brian Wilson’s Pet Sounds 50th anniversary. And it is a nice thing to sit there and to feel the atmosphere, the people. It’s not the normal concert hall - no, it’s this kind of atmosphere of air. You can drink, you can eat something. It’s magic. And I did my debut here, eleven years ago, and it was at the Hollywood Bowl.
In the beginning, I didn’t understand the place. I was kind of ‘Wow, it’s open air, how is the sound?’ But during the years we have been improving a lot of things, technical things here, it’s every time more interesting for me to be here in Summer.
For me, it seems the outdoor aspect grants it a level of accessibility that maybe an indoor place wouldn’t. Since coming to LA, you’ve been trying to make classical music more accessible. I’m wondering, did you keep that in mind when selecting the pieces that you were going to do?
Absolutely. You have to call the attention. We are an orchestra that takes modern music, for example, as an important part of our season. But when we do, we combine this entirely new music with a traditional one, and this is a beautiful way for the new audience to have something that they are used to listening and to be introduced to a new world. So these kind of things are very important. I’m talking about access. This is a place of inclusion. This is a place of work. Everybody can come with their families and connect with classical music.
How often do you see kids here?
A lot. A lot. I see a lot of little children coming with their families because you can bring your basket with some food and you can do you picnic and listen to beautiful music. I think it’s a beautiful environment.
One of the great things about art is that it can manage to thrive even under the roughest conditions. So I’m wondering when you go back to Venezuela, and you see these kids that are involved in music, is creativity still thriving despite the country around them?
Yes. It’s why I say to you it’s a symbol how things can work. Let’s put the analogy of an orchestra. An orchestra is a community. You have a hundred musicians there, sitting. First of all, they have different instruments, with different colors, with a different range of sound, but they have to create harmony. You have to listen to each other. You have to create an interpretation, so it's a beautiful symbol of creativity and teamwork that you can do. El Sistema is a symbol of that. It is working. And every day we have more children involved, so let’s say it’s a beautiful element of the country of our society of how things can work. And it keeps working even in the difficult situation that we are living.
We’re at the Hollywood Bowl. Right down the street from us is the Hollywood Walk of Fame. You are going to get a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame with Selena, the former Tejano music star, and Eva Longoria. Now you’re an LA-dude officially. Is it special for you to have a star?
Well, I’m very honored, first of all, and it’s beautiful. I don’t know what to say. Thank you, and I think, let’s say, it’s a recognition not only to Gustavo Dudamel, I feel part of a group — a beautiful group of a generation. And this generation of musicians that are dreaming, working hard to create true music. Being a musician or not being a musician, in that sense, I take this recognition. In the personal one, a conductor without an orchestra is nothing because it’s not sound if I stood in front of you and moved my hands. I need these people in front of me, so it’s recognition for them. For all my musical families. The Simon Bolivar Orchestra, Los Angeles Philharmonic, and all the people that I work with. They are part of this and in that sense, it’s a star for all of us.