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Beamed to a screen, Dudamel, L.A. Phil and actors do Tchaikovsky and Shakespeare [Updated]

March 13, 2011 |  7:51 pm

DudamelTchaikovsky The Los Angeles Philharmonic suffered a couple of "oops" moments Sunday afternoon during its second step into the new world of simulcasting performances from Walt Disney Concert Hall to audiences in movie theaters all over the United States and Canada.

But not to worry too much — the glitches in this installment in the L.A. Phil Live series didn't occur until after Gustavo Dudamel had finished conducting the orchestra in three Tchaikovsky pieces inspired by works of William Shakespeare, each prefaced by a dramatic vignette. Matthew Rhys soliloquized before the opening "Hamlet," Orlando Bloom and Anika Noni Rose waxed tragically romantic before the concluding "Romeo and Juliet," and Malcolm McDowell did triple duty as Hamlet Sr.'s ghost, Prospero in "The Tempest" and the Prince in "R&J."

The first rough spot came as Kate Burton, the backstage host for simulcast viewers, interviewed Dudamel moments after he'd finished his bows. The sound nearly went out on Dudamel's answers several questions into the session. The good news was that the audience in front of screen No. 11 at the Century 20 in Huntington Beach had been clearly enjoying the engaging maestro's answers and let out a collective gasp — "aaoohh!" — at the moment it seemed they'd be deprived of more. But luckily the rest was not silence, as the sound improved from whispery to thin. 

Then came the coming attractions — a quick pre-recorded reel promoting the third and last round of the series, a June 5 matinee of Dudamel conducting Brahms' Fourth Symphony and his double concerto for violin and cello. Somebody apparently punched a wrong button after the video had begun, and Burton came on wearing an expression of pucker-faced surprise that drew laughs at the cinema — and that she'll either pay to have destroyed or send to all her friends, depending on her sense of humor.

[For the record at 6:40 a.m., March 14: An earlier version of this post misidentified Kate Burton as Deborah Borda, the philharmonic's president.]

OrlandoBloomHamlet Some of the best news, from the Phil's perspective, may have come from Row 4 of the mall theater in Huntington Beach, in which 254 of the 295 seats had been filled, according to a cinema staffer. That's where Kathy and Mark Miller of Huntington Beach sat, wearing flannel shirts, he in a trucker-style cap, taking in what they said was their first live classical performance.

"I've never done this, and it was good," said Kathy, a country music fan. One of her co-workers at a Huntington Beach engineering firm, a Phil subscriber, had suggested they check it out. At $20 a ticket, she said, "this was an affordable way to get introduced to it." 

Also pleased were Bonnie Gibson and John Oddo of Costa Mesa, veteran classical music aficionados who'd caught the Pacific Symphony's Philip Glass program Thursday, then listened to it again on the radio. In January, they said, the theater wasn't full when L.A. Phil Live had debuted with a program capped by Beethoven's Seventh Symphony. On Sunday, the couple hadn't planned to sit in Row 3, "but it was packed when we got here," Gibson said.

This, they said, was a way to enjoy the beauty of Disney Hall at about a third the ticket price and minus the time, expense and aggravation of the commute (the cheapest tickets for the June 5 Phil concert were $61.50, but none are left at that price).

Gibson and Oddo said they were impressed at the precision video work, which cut with flawless timing from 20-foot-tall close-ups of the ever-emotive, physically pulsating Dudamel to views of whichever section or individual player was commanding the musical moment.

"Hamlet" and "Romeo and Juliet" gave key solos to principal oboist Ariana Ghez, and at the end she got her own round of applause from the mall crowd when the camera alighted on her. Seeing Dudamel's sorrowfully transported countenance as Ghez soloed plaintively during "Hamlet" had been a peak moment of the simulcast — as was the kid-on-a-rollercoaster look of excitement the conductor wore while summoning and riding the orchestra's  momentum during a long surge of "The Tempest."

"The close-ups were all perfectly crafted, and the wide spans were great," Oddo said. "The sound could be better. To match [concert hall sonics] in a theater is a tall thing. If they could work on it, it would be nice." Indeed, what was heard in Huntington Beach was standard-issue mall-cinema sound, clear but lacking the nuance, dimension and presence of a concert hall.

Some elsewhere tweeted notes on the simulcast:

@jolewitz "extremely moving performance."

@LizHebert (Houston) "Gustavo Dudamel is such an incredible musician! Thanks to my oboe prof's husband for taking the studio."

@barbe3 (Louisville) "Fanastico!"

@aponcol (Montreal) "Very nice! Bravo Gustavo!"

But what Culture Monster wants to know is what the man in the front row behind the stage was writing or reading on his device Sunday while Orlando Bloom was playing Romeo directly in front of him.


Music review: Dudamel conducts Tchaikovsky's Shakespeare scores

Reciting Shakespeare while admiring Dudamel

L.A. Phil to transmit performances to HD-equipped movie theaters

— Mike Boehm

Photos: Gustavo Dudamel conducts the Los Angeles Philharmonic in Shakespeare-inspired Tchaikovsky piece Thursday in the same program whose Sunday matinee was simulcast to movie theaters; Orlando Bloom plays Romeo during the Disney Hall concert.  Credits: Lawrence K. Ho/Los Angeles Times. 

Comments () | Archives (12)

The backstage host was KATE BURTON, not Deborah Borda

Too bad the reviewer can't tell the difference between Kate Burton (loved her on Grey's Anatomy) and Deborah Borda...

You might want to figure out who you're insulting before you type your article... I'm embarrassed for you that even with opening credits, introductions, and lower thirds you couldn't manage to figure out the difference between Kate Burton, director and host and Deborah Borda, the Phil's president (who never appeared on camera backstage.) It seems to me you just wanted to find something to trash. You couldn't even spare a few lines about the actual SHOW? It was spectacular and now your venomous article is circulating spreading dirt on something that we should be supporting in our town. The combination of theatricality and music was phenomenal and I hope they do more just like this soon.

Culture monster- you're focusing on all the wrong things. The guy behind Orlando was filming him with his phone and being a total A$$, and no one could control it I'm sure- but who cares because Orlando Bloom was on screen playing Romeo! And nailing it. He was great, the show was great, and I don't think you were even paying attention... since Deborah Borda didn't appear live once. Kate Burton, though- looked ravishing and did a fantastic job of directing as well as hosting, so she gets major props. Let's support our great LA productions when we can- they're rare in this town and bravo to the Phil for trying new things!

Yes it's amazing that someone who is reporting for the LATimes doesn't know who Deborah Borda is.

Thanks for the blog comments. I watched the presentation in Palm Springs and the sound glitch was minimal. I'm most surprised that the LA Times didn't review this concert.
What's that all about?

The program was spectacular and brilliant despite technical glitches. This isn't the movies, it's live music and an opportunity to present the work of a gifted conductor and superb artists in the orchestra to a significantly greater audience. The potential for this medium is great. I would think you'd forgive the small issues that didn't impact the overall event. Camera work significantly improved over the first show. Has any other symphony attempted to do this? Has any other symphony performed live Shakespeare on the same stage as the orchestra in a single, non stop performance? The Howard Hughes cineplex had to open a 2nd theatre to accomodate the growing demand for these affordable tickets. The people around me couldn't stop clapping and were mesmerized throughout the performance. Please consider the bigger picture.

Just want to know: the John Oddo who was quoted, is that the well-known musical arranger John Oddo? The one who worked so beautifully with Rosemary Clooney during the last years of her career?

I agree that it is surprising, given that it's Los Angeles, that there would be any technical glitches. We have all the best people for live events living in one city. That said- it's live theater. Things happen. I don't think the audiences minded. And I'll mention that the horn section seemed a bit off during some of the pieces... but overall, the theatricality of this event was breathtaking. The audiences jumped to their feet when it was over. It was an event. It was a moment. It was spectacular. The reviewer who wrote the above is, honestly, just a bit mean- and maybe a bit too big for his britches. The earlier version of this article was much harsher against Ms. Borda before he realized his huge mistake and retracted. I think this show deserved a better review AND a better reviewer.

Does the LA Times writers' manual encourage critics to use Jewish-American expressions? Mike Boehm uses the phrase, "But not to worry too much." Elsewhere in today's edition, Chris Pasles, reviewing a concert by Jonas Kaufmann, writes, "What's not to like?" These expressions may be cute, but they don't add up to great writing style. So give us a break already.

I review some of the telecasts of the Met on my site. I find most of the camera work uninspiring, repetitious and opera unaware . So it was a pleasure to sit through the L A Phil Dudamel concert. Both the play sections and the music were videoed with care and knowledge. Who was the video director? He or she is to be praised for their work. One drawback, the curtain calls were not shown to full advantage of the players. They are an equal partner in any opera/concert telecast and need to be worked out before the telecast. I have become a Dudamel fan!

Is the LA Times ever going to report on the business side of this venture? It would be interesting to learn what it costs to put a broadcast out, what revenue has been generated and what attendance trends are there between the 1st and 2nd broadcast, amongst other topics.


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