Classical conductors spend a lot of time on airplanes flying from one job to the next and are thus used to the frustrations that come with modern-day air travel. But for Gustavo Dudamel, a recent episode during a trip to Israel seems to have gone beyond the usual airport aggravations.
Dudamel was recently in the Middle East for a guest conducting stint with the Israeli Philharmonic Orchestra. According to Israel newspaper reports, the conductor was subjected to extended questioning at Tel Aviv's Ben-Gurion International Airport upon his arrival and at the time of his departure from Israel, separating from his Israeli Philharmonic escort.
It appears that Dudamel, 32, is considering not returning to Israel based on the unpleasant experiences. The conductor was reportedly not carrying the orchestra's letter of invitation and this was what led to the interrogations. But at least one classical music blog disputes this version of events.
At least one blog is speculating that the questioning might have been politically motivated. Hugo Chavez, the president of Dudamel's homeland of Venezuela, has been an ally of Iran, which is hostile to Israel. Dudamel is regarded as an important cultural figure in his native country.
In a statement sent by Dudamel's agent to classical-music blogger Norman LeBrecht, the conductor said: "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."
Venezuelan authorities released a statement that called the incident "evidence of attack politics and discrimination that Israel perpetrated against citizens of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela."
Israel is known for its heavy security for travelers at airports.
Dudamel toured with the Israel Philharmonic in 2008, with stops in New York and Orange County. He is music director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic and is due back in Los Angeles this week for a series of concerts starting Tuesday at Walt Disney Concert Hall.