It's safe to say the LA Phil's inaugural performance in Caracas was a success.
There's been no shortage of excitement surrounding the orchestra's first visit to the home city of Music Director Gustavo Dudamel. After all, the orchestra was warmly welcomed at the airport by El Sistema founder and Dudamel mentor Maestro José Antonio Abreu. The LA Phil's concerts in Caracas - ticket price $8 - sold out in mere hours. The energy surrounding the visit has been, as they say, electric.
However, according to all reports, the orchestra wasn't in any way prepared for the welcome given them by the audience for their first performance of Mahler 9.
After being sped through Caracas' legendary traffic via police escort to the Teresa Carreño Theater for a quick sound-check before the performance, orchestra members and staffers were surprised to note how early the audience showed up - out of necessity to beat the traffic, sure, but also out of enthusiasm. According to all, there was a palpable energy in the air as the sellout crowd of assembled Caraqueños - young, old, casually dressed, decked-out - waited for the returned favorite son to lead his new orchestra from his home podium.
And lead them he did. According to Mark Swed, Gustavo and the orchestra may have been tired from travel, disoriented due to Caracas' high altitude, concerned about the different acoustics in the theater and filled to the brim with Mahler music (and chocolates), but none of these outside factors were evident to the audience as they put forth a bravura performance of Mahler 9 that was ecstatically received by the audience.
You can read his review of the performance here. And you can see how mad the Caracas audience is for Mahler in the video below.
In fact, the audience rose to their feet and cheered for 10 solid minutes, with the El Sistema pupils in attendance cheering most vociferously for their instruments of choice. It was a heartwarming display and the warmest possible welcome "home."
One can only imagine the ovations that will accompany grand spectacle - consisting of Gustavo, the LA Phil, the Simón Bolívar Symphony Orchestra of Venezuela, various soloists and the National Youth Choir of Venezuela - that will be Mahler's Symphony of a Thousand as it's beamed live to movie theaters thousands of miles away, a mere five days from now.