Here's the latest sign that California's gone crazy for Gustavo Dudamel. Pink's, the legendary Hollywood hot dog emporium, has named one of its franks for the 26-year-old music director-designate of the Los Angeles Philharmonic. The Venezuelan-born Dudamel joins such luminaries as Martha Stewart and Rosie O'Donnell on Pink's menu.
Dudamel doesn't take over the L.A. Phil until the season after next, but he was on the left coast earlier this month to lead his Simon Bolivar Youth Orchestra as part of its U.S. concert tour, and the young conductor was the toast of Tinseltown. CBS's 60 Minutes videotaped him eating his namesake dog at Pink's and the local press raved. The Los Angeles Times said Dudamel and his young players "set Walt Disney Concert Hall afire" while the Orange County Register called him, "an immensely talented, electric performer." Dudamel received similar acclaim in San Francisco.
Next up for Dudamel: New York. He and his youth orchestra just played Carnegie Hall — Simon Rattle shared conducting duties. Dudamel takes his baton to Avery Fisher Hall to lead the New York Philharmonic at the end of November.
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Geneva to New York and back to Geneva in a span of just 29 hours — that's the journey mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato made a the beginning of November when she was asked on short notice to fill in for an ailing Susan Graham at the Richard Tucker Foundation's annual gala. DiDonato was in Switzerland rehearsing for her first-ever performances of the title role in Handel's Ariodante when she got a call from the Tucker Foundation's Barry Tucker. DiDonato has a soft spot for the organization — it honored her in 2002 — so she jumped at the chance to help out at the gala.
As she wrote in her blog (yankeediva.blogspot.com), just an hour after Tucker's phone call, "I'm booked on a round-trip ticket leaving in 14 hours, arriving in New York four hours before the [gala], set to return immediately after the concert, arriving in Geneva tomorrow just in time to step off the plane and into my first orchestra staging rehearsal of that Handel opera back in Geneva. By my calculations, that's 29 hours. Yes, I know. I'm nuts."
Back in Geneva, DiDonato wrote about what a revelation Handel has been for her: "Just when I think I've discovered so much about Handel's genius, he goes and throws in a little Ariodante, ANOTHER heartbreaking, dissolve-me-to-blubbering-pieces, RIDICULOUSLY gorgeous aria from the cosmos? I mean, sincerely, WHERE did this music come from?" After Ariodante closes in Geneva this month, the American mezzo heads to Barcelona for the holidays, where she sings Rossini's Cenerentola at the Liceu.
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Another American mezzo, Michelle DeYoung, makes a big debut next month — her first appearances at La Scala. De Young sings the role of Brang‹ne in Tristan und Isolde, in a new production by the famed French director Patrice Ch_reau, conducted by Daniel Barenboim, for the house's season opening night on December 7. (Strikes permitting.) De Young writes in her online journal (at www.michelledeyoung.com) that working with Ch_reau is "amazing" and adds, "He is so full of energy, it overflows. I feel like I am learning so much, and it's opening my mind."
De Young's fans will have two chances to check her out her Brang‹ne in New York in the New Year. On January 16 and 17, Symphony Space will screen the La Scala opener. Then in March, DeYoung sings the role on the stage of the Metropolitan Opera for the first time, with stars Deborah Voigt and Ben Heppner. Other season highlights for DeYoung include a two-city tour of Bart‹k's Bluebeard's Castle with the London Symphony Orchestra and performances of Mahler's Third Symphony under Dudamel in Rome.
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Any time violinist Sarah Chang tours, she tries to spend some time visiting local schoolchildren to teach them about the violin and share her love for music. During a recent trip to Korea, her parents' native land, the young American musician met with 12 underprivileged kids at a Seoul church. The children, who are studying violin at local community centers thanks to corporate grants, showed varying degrees of ability, but Chang offered nothing but encouragement, telling them, "Good, very good! Your playing is gorgeous," according to the Korean newspaper Chosun Ilbo.
Chang is on tour to promote her latest recording, of Vivaldi's Four Seasons, with the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, on EMI. Before an October concert in Manchester, England, Chang told a reporter that "Winter" is her favorite of the four concertos even though she detests cold weather.
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Soprano Diana Damrau will start the New Year with a tour to support her first album for Virgin Classics, which is out this month. She sings arias by Salieri, Mozart and others in Lyon, Berlin, Leipzig. Grenoble, Toulouse, D‹sseldorf and Paris ... The United Nations has paid tribute to conductor Simon Rattle and his orchestra, the Berlin Philharmonic, for its work on behalf of young people. The Philharmonic has been named a U.N. Goodwill Ambassador and will undertake efforts to benefit UNICEF ... In January, soprano Deborah Voigt opens the 10th season of Lincoln Center's American Songbook series. She will sing a program of show tunes titled "Songs of the Great White Way."