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George Christy Exclusive: Gustavo Dudamel Scores Big With L.A. Philharmonic Gala

Famed Beverly Hills Courier columnist George Christy gives you an insider's peek into Hollywood's A-list parties and personalities.

“Have you ever seen anything like this?” Quincy Jones was talking with Ginny Mancini about wunderkind Gustavo Dudamel’s inaugural gala with the L.A. Philharmonic at the Walt Disney Concert Hall. “A triumph!” Also seated with Gustavo, who surely everyone knows he’s only 28, and Eloisa Maturen, his beautiful wife, were Tom Hanks and wife Rita Wilson. Tom deemed the black-tie evening “historic,” and Rita sighed that the sold-out concert was “electrifying.” Guests flew in from San Francisco, New York, Europe, and from Gustavo’s native Venezuela, where, as a prodigy, he schooled with El Sistema program that gives instruments to musically inclined youngsters.

Gustavo’s parents, Solangel and Oscar, were 20 when they fell in love, and three years later on January 26, 1981, Solangel birthed Gustavo before marriage, with grandparents worried the couple was too young for a baby. Grandmother Engracia Vasque de Dudamel, who nicknamed Gustavo Mi Chiquito (“my little one”), didn’t want another musician in the family, especially a violinist (“who will be able to stand all the noise in the house?”). She wanted Mi Chiquito to train in karate and sports, but by age 13 Gustavo’s musicianship took over when he began conducting the Simon Bolivar Youth Orchestra, quickly capturing the attention of international maestros Daniel Barenboim, Claudio Abbado, Simon Rattle, and our L. A. Phil’s departing Esa-Pekka Salonen, who hand-picked his successor.

To open the gala concert, L.A. Phil’s charismatic maestro premiered John Adams’ sinuously alluring City Noir, a three-movement symphony, often evoking the jazz cadences of George Gershwin and Leonard Bernstein. John reveals he found inspiration in the Raymond Chandler novels, the Black Dahlia murder, and films from the ’40s and early ’50s. Such cinemas, we assume, as Double Indemnity with Fred McMurray and Barbara Stanwyck; John Huston’s The Maltese Falcon with Humphrey Bogart; This Gun for Hire starring Alan Ladd; even the latter-day Chinatown with Jack Nicholson and Faye Dunaway.

RELATED: Click here to read George Christy's full column at the Beverly Hills Courier.