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Gustavo Dudamel statement: 'Unpleasant and very unfortunate'

The Los Angeles Philharmonic music director was detained and questioned at the airport in Tel Aviv. He was there to guest conduct with Israel Philharmonic Orchestra.

February 19, 2013|By David Ng, Los Angeles Times
  • Gustavo Dudamel conducts the L.A. Philharmonic.
Gustavo Dudamel conducts the L.A. Philharmonic. (Lawrence K. Ho / Los Angeles…)

What was supposed to be a brief guest-conducting job with the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra in Tel Aviv has turned into a media frenzy for Gustavo Dudamel, the music director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic.

Dudamel traveled to Israel in late January to conduct a concert series of music by Mozart and Haydn with the country's top orchestra.

Upon his arrival at Ben Gurion International Airport in Tel Aviv, the Venezuelan conductor was detained by security officials and was subjected to lengthy questioning, according to his American spokeswoman.

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He endured a similar round of questioning at the airport at the time of his return trip.

Dudamel wasn't available for interview but he said in a statement sent by his London manager that "these matters are both unpleasant and very unfortunate. I love making music with the Israel Philharmonic and we hope to find ways of working with them in the future."

Some reports in the Venezuelan and Israeli media have questioned whether Dudamel was carrying the necessary paperwork at the time, specifically a letter of invitation from the Israeli orchestra.

The conductor's manager, Mark Newbanks, said that Dudamel "had in his possession all of the necessary paperwork and work visas for his visit."

The conductor's representatives declined to comment on the nature of the airport interrogations and how long they lasted.

It's not uncommon for foreign artists to be detained for questioning upon arrival in Israel, according to Leon Botstein, a conductor and the president of Bard College in New York, who has had a long relationship with the Jerusalem Symphony.

"I was questioned and detained coming in and out [of Israel] several times a year," Botstein said.

"You have to get used to the humiliation of travel, especially for non-Jewish citizens in Israel. It's just the nature of the security."

Some online reports have stated that Dudamel is considering not returning to Israel as a result of his recent experience. Mary Lou Falcone, the conductor's spokeswoman in New York, said she couldn't confirm these claims.

Israel has had tense diplomatic relations with Venezuela because of President Hugo Chavez's support for Iran.

Venezuelan authorities have released a statement that called the incident "evidence of attack politics and discrimination that Israel perpetrated against citizens of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela."

Dudamel has performed regularly with the Israel Philharmonic as guest conductor, including a 2008 tour that came to New York and Orange County. He is in Los Angeles this month for a series of concerts starting Tuesday at Walt Disney Concert Hall.

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