A pessimist might have gazed in dismay around Royce Hall, UCLA, Sunday night to see the auditorium half-empty for a "special" benefit concert by (and for) the American Youth Symphony.
Audiences that normally flock to hear Mehli Mehta and his young players for free evidently abandoned the orchestra when a call for support was issued. Distressing.
An optimist, on the other hand, would have seen Royce as half-full on Sunday.
This positive thinker would have also relished the enthusiastic playing, brilliant sound, accessible repertory and the bonus of a bona fide celebrity--Burt Lancaster.
The actor recited Ogden Nash's whimsical little verses that introduce each segment of Saint-Saens' "Carnival of the Animals." Lancaster accomplished his minimal duties with appropriate wit and cool professionalism (despite an inadvertent flip-flop of movements). Mehta drew crystalline playing from his charges (Paul Diebold was the expressive cellist in "The Swan"), while Jean Barr and Armen Guzelimian offered shimmering pianistic support.