"All this -- it's a lot of fun," maestro Gustavo Dudamel said Thursday night at the inaugural gala for the Los Angeles Philharmonic, regarding all the hoopla surrounding his arrival.
It wasn't just the Oct. 3 free concert at the Hollywood Bowl, his picture on city buses and the free Bravo Gustavo app for iPhone users. The pieces of confetti that rained down on concertgoers following the event at Walt Disney Concert Hall had his name printed on them in boldface capital letters.
"I feel like a witness to history," said Tom Hanks, recalling stories of audiences in centuries past who stormed the stages after great performances. "That's the way I feel tonight. What a performance!"
His wife, Rita Wilson, called the concert "electrifying."
"This is where to be tonight in L.A.," said Carla Sands, a member of the gala committee.
Sony Chief Executive Howard Stringer took special note of the onstage dynamic. "Did you notice how Gustavo and the audience were connected? The orchestra was so energized."
To celebrate the evening, a Venezuelan street scene, bursting with color, had been created on Grand Avenue just outside Disney Hall. In keeping with the Latin theme, guests dined on camarones (shrimp) and chimichurri and the band played to a Latin beat.
"This really rivals the excitement around the opening of Walt Disney Hall in 2003," said David Bohnett, chairman of the gala. "He is bringing a new dynamic to Los Angeles."
Bohnett counted nearly 1,000 guests at the gala and estimated that net proceeds would top $3 million. Regardless of a ticket price starting at $2,500, committee member Merle Mullin said, "the hardest part was saying no to people. We were not sold out; we were oversold."
"It is wonderful to be able to bring music to the complete community," Dudamel said, emphasizing that "Saturday's free concert brought music to a new audience, and many kinds of music: jazz, Latin music and the beautiful Beethoven."
But this night was about the celebration. "I'm having a blast," said Eloisa Maturen, the music director's wife, in speaking of her introduction to L.A. "I love the energy of the city."
"We found him first!" declared Quincy Jones, recalling that last year Harvard awarded a Q Prize, named in Jones' honor, to Dudamel and Jose Antonio Abreu for their music programs for Venezuela's youth.
Alyce Williamson, another committee member, called Dudamel "a passionate dude."
Kimberly Marteau Emerson, also a committee member, called Dudamel's arrival "transformative to the city."
Many concertgoers also thanked Lenore and Bernard Greenberg for their underwriting of the evening's first piece, the world premiere of John Adams' "City Noir," which gala patron Warner Henry dubbed "Sax in the City" for its emphasis on horns.
In welcoming celebrators, L.A. Philharmonic President Deborah Borda noted that 50 people had come from Venezuela to help Dudamel and Maturen commemorate the occasion. She then invited the couple to start the party with the first dance.
Also in the crowd were Qualcomm co-founder Irwin Jacobs and his wife, Joan; Eli and Edythe Broad; former film executive and committee member Sherry Lansing and her husband, director William Friedkin; Pasi Hamalainen and his wife, Dr. Carey Cullinane; Disney Hall architect Frank Gehry; and author Judith Krantz. Committee members also included Allen Brill, Margaret Eberhardt, Joan Hotchkis, Jane Nathanson, Carolyn Powers and Elizabeth Segerstrom.