Conductor Gustavo Dudamel and the L.A. Philharmonic were joined by tenor… (Jay L. Clendenin, Los Angeles…)
By assembling an "Americas & Americans" festival at the Hollywood Bowl last week, Gustavo Dudamel gave himself permission to cover a vast territory, there being many Americas and an awful lot of us. But it wasn't enough. For the final program Sunday night, he simply short-circuited the musical MapQuest, barely landing on our side of the Atlantic in a program of popular opera and operetta, light classics and Broadway.
On the other hand, this mild night at the Bowl with Dudamel and the Los Angeles Philharmonic was made for pleasure and can be viewed as only in L.A. It starred Plácido Domingo. Dudamel and the Spanish tenor, who also happens to head Los Angeles Opera, developed an instant friendship when Dudamel arrived as music director of the L.A. Phil three years ago. They have long promised to make music together. On Sunday they finally fulfilled that promise.
They weren't, however, alone. The Puerto Rican soprano Ana María Martínez was also on hand.
PHOTOS: Dudamel, Domingo: Together at the Bowl
Nobody, of course, steals the show from Domingo or Dudamel, let alone both together. A couple of showmen, they hammed it up for the video cameras and happily addressed the sold-out audience of close to 18,000.
FOR THE RECORD:
Concert composers: In the Aug. 21 Calendar section, a review of the Hollywood Bowl concert on Sunday with Gustavo Dudamel and Placido Domingo said that Maria Grever's "Te Quiero Dijiste" was the only piece by a woman that was part of the "Americas and Americans" festival. "Besame Mucho," which Domingo sang on Sunday, was also written by a woman, Consuelo Velazquez. —
Dudamel was Dudamel, ever engaging. Domingo was Domingo, defying age with a voice commanding as ever. He also knows that, at 71, vocal time is running out and is clearly compelled to make every moment matter. Still, the night would have mattered less without Martínez.
She is a hard singer to figure. She always makes a strong impression. I thought her wonderful at her L.A. Opera debut in "La Bohème" in 1997, and she didn't disappoint in the company's production of Verdi's "Simon Boccanegra" earlier this year.
She has been involved in any number of valuable recording projects, including Philip Glass' Fifth Symphony, neglected operas by Isaac Albéniz and new operas by Daniel Catán and Bright Sheng. But there also are appearances on the DVDs of Andrea Bocelli's concerts in Central Park and at the Statue of Liberty. Her attempts to class-up such a crossover act has not helped her reputation.
But Martínez is in her prime, and she sounded it Sunday, turning Dudamel and Domingo into a kind of Jules and Jim, overeager to court her favor. That has been part of their charm, and charm goes a long way when a concert is thrown together, as this was obviously was (the lack of a printed program is always a giveaway). But Martínez was, nonetheless, memorable.
The program's progression was Viennese operetta followed by opera in the first half. Broadway preceded Spanish zarzuela and Argentine tango after intermission. The operetta portion was hard to bear. Von Suppe's "Light Calvary" Overture wore its clichés proudly. Over-emoted and under-rehearsed numbers by Franz Lehár and Emmerich Kálmán did not show tenor nor soprano even close to their best.
FOR THE RECORD:
Concert composers: In the Aug. 21 Calendar section, a review of the Hollywood Bowl concert on Sunday with Gustavo Dudamel and Plácido Domingo said that Maria Grever's “Te Quiero Dijiste” was the only piece by a woman that was part of the ¿Americas and Americans¿ festival. ¿Bésame Mucho,¿ which Domingo sang on Sunday, was also written by a woman, Consuelo Velázquez.
Domingo was still warming up for "Winterstürme" from Wagner's "Die Walküre" early in the first half, but the concert caught fire with Martinez's performance of "Un Voce poco fa" from Rossini's "Barber of Seville," in which she produced surprisingly jazzy coloratura ornaments and brought a seductively dusky quality to her voice while still retaining its soprano sheen.
Domingo was himself by the time the singers reached a duet from "Rigoletto." His taking on this Verdi baritone role has not been without criticism. He sings like, and his voice rings like, a tenor. Here, though, he offered the best of two worlds, substantial but not woolly. Dudamel conducted more flexibly than he had in his complete "Rigoletto" concert performance a week earlier. Meanwhile, Martínez's Gilda proved rewardingly complex vocally and dramatically, vulnerable but certain.