Dudamel loves the Bowl; it was where he made his American debut. Being a man of the people, the Hollywood Bowl is certainly where the people, old, young, rich, and poor can gather on a summer’s night to hear some music. Dudamel loves his music and wants to give it to as many as he can. 2011 was no exception. He presented four separate evenings in diverse styles in what he calls “ this magical place.”
The first concert was a meeting of superstars Dudamel and the young pianist Lang Lang. They are both 30 and have never played together before. Both artists are known for their expressive and technically versatile styles. The theme for the evening was Russian exhilaration. Dudamel started things off with Borodin’s Polovtsian Dances that is also the basis for the musical stage as Kismet. Well, it certainly was kismet when Lang Lang and Dudamel combined forces to present the very popular Piano Concerto No. 3 by Prokofiev.
The concerto demands a very showy display of technique on the piano, and Lang Lang was up to the challenge, making the Bowl audience rise to their feet. For his encore, Lang Lang chose to play Liszt’s Consolation #3 which displayed his romantic, but still showy skill as a pianist. Dudamel wound up the evening with a nearly perfect rendition of Ravel’s orchestrations of Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition. It was a thrilling evening.
Dudamel’s next appearance was only a few days later when he took on the monumental Turandot by Puccini. For one of the few times that I have seen him, he did carry a score while his usual mode is scoreless. Dudamel gave us an exuberant rendition complete with atmospherics provided by the Bowl’s lighting designer, with a giant harvest moon projected onto the rear of the shell. The singers for the evening were Poretta, a last minute replacement from New York, as the Calaf hitting High c after high c and holding them seemingly forever. Hong was the usually meek Liu, but here she dressed quite elegantly and sang with more gusto, which is appropriate for the Bowl. The ice princess herself was attempted by Christine Brewer, a noted Wagnerian and Straussian soprano. Oddly she did a lot of swooping to reach her notes and was more a desperate Princess rather than a towering Ice Princess. Los Angeles Children’s Chorus provided a powerful choral sound behind the orchestra.