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The ups and downs of Dudamelmania

September 26, 2009 | 11:30 am


It’s here: Dudamelmania.

Gustavo Dudamel -- a.k.a. GD and the Dude -- doesn’t hit town until Wednesay, but the Los Angeles Philharmonic has certainly gone into high promotional gear for its new music director, and the media is taking the bait big time. Though well aware of the risk of overexposure and too-high expectations, we at the L.A. Times are hardly blasé as we examine the Dudamel phenomenon. For more on those expectations see my critic's notebook in this weekend's Arts & Books section.

When I last spoke with Dudamel in May in his dressing room in Gothenburg, Sweden (where he is music director of the Gothenberg Symphony), I asked whether he is prepared for the hoopla.

“In a way it’s wonderful,” he said, his eyes sparkling. “It’s important when you can go to people who don’t know classical music. If we can get their attention, build a new community downtown and also develop interest in community concerts, I think this will be a good example to the rest of the symphonic world."

It’s all, that is, about the music.

Unfortunately, though, danger signs are already apparent. How much money has the L.A. Philharmonic just thrown away on a silly video game and Dudamel iPod app that is supposed to show something about conducting?  This is really just celebrity hype that uses Berlioz as jingle -- and neither the game nor the app work all that well.

Next, look at the nonsense coming out of the Music Center. In L.A. Weekly, the Center’s president, Steven D. Roundtree, parrots the phony old line about aging orchestra audiences, which makes it sound as though the Dudamel hullabaloo is some kind of marketing ploy.

Fortunately, Dudamel so far has the right priorities.

“It’s so exciting, you cannot imagine how exciting,” Dudamel said in Sweden about his anticipation for his new life in Los Angeles. “It’s exciting to build things. That’s what’s beautiful.” 

-- Mark Swed

Photo: Los Angeles Philharmonic billboard on Sunset Boulevard. Credit: Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times