No doubt the glow of the Philharmonic's capturing the hottest commodity in the music world, Gustavo Dudamel, as their music director, further animated the Oct. 7 performance. Just in from a turn with the Vienna Philharmonic and starting his second season in LA, the young Venezuelan gave a first half salute to Rossini with overtures and arias with the stellar assistance of Florez, the top lyric tenor singing today. The second half featured popular, engaging works by Latin American composers, something the two principals both know something about.
The party started with orchestra supporters and celebrities getting the "red carpet" treatment, complete with a media frenzy, in front of the dramatic sweep of the Walt Disney Concert Hall; the hall is now considered one of the world's top concert venues, along with others like Carnegie Hall in New York, the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam and the Musikverein in Vienna. Party tents were in abundance inside the complex for the late night champagne and dinner following the concert.
The concert opened with the overture to "La gazza ladra." After this and the second overture, "Semiramide," Florez sang an aria from those operas. There was last minute surgery trimming the length with the famed overture and an aria from Rossini's "William Tell" cut. The conductor, in a brief statement after the opening overture, amiably accepted blame, likening the program to an overweight bag at the airport. A scheduling issue of management was the more likely culprit.
The second half, featuring engaging Latin-American music with Dudamel conducting Jos_ Pablo Moncayo's "Huapango" and Arturo Mšrquez's "Danzon No. 2." Florez sang four songs, one of which allowing this writer to finally associate a composer with the evergreen hit, "Granada" (Agustin Lara, 1897-1970). The audience responded warmly to the spirited rhythms.
The concert closed with two predictable encores, the aria "Ah, mes amis" from Donizetti's "La fille du r_giment," with the famous 9 high Cs, and a broad and loose rendering of Verdi's "La Donna Mobile" from "Rigoletto." The audience cheered the glittery finish.
With this writer's first impression of the acoustics, the hall seemed to be tuned more to the taste of the previous music director, Esa-Pekka Salonen. The precise, analytical sound coming from the stage seemed at odds with my previous experiences with concerts in Paris with Dudamel, who looks for a more unified, warm sound. The voice of Juan Diego Florez can have a richer hue in other halls too. But the vivid orchestra sound made a strong impression and confirms the general impression that this is one of America's top concert venues.
The "pops" tone of the opening concert does not indicate a new direction for Philharmonic programming; pianist Emanuel Ax and Dudamel began a series of concerts of music by Beethoven, Schumann and Weber the following day and, the following week, Dudamel conducted that imposing and contemplative 20th Century masterpiece, Messiaen's "TurangalêÎla" Symphony.
The concert was broadcast live on LA's classical stations and on NPR, was recorded on video for the PBS "Great Performances" series and will also be available on iTunes, European and Asian broadcasts, and a DVD will likely follow. The gala evening reportedly earned some three million dollars for the Los Angeles Philharmonic's coffers.