Gustavo Dudamel drawn into debate over political unrest in Venezuela

Gustavo Dudamel drawn into debate over political unrest in Venezuela
Gustavo Dudamel leading a concert in December at Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles. (Lawrence K. Ho / Los Angeles Times)

Gustavo Dudamel has found himself in the midst of a political debate in his native Venezuela over a recent concert he conducted that was attended by the country's controversial leader, President Nicolas Maduro.

The Times' World Now blog reported Friday that Dudamel led a performance of the Youth Orchestra of Lara in the city of Maracay on Wednesday. Maduro, who was in the audience, is facing a national crisis following eruptions of violence in a number of cities, leaving three dead and many more injured.


On the day of the concert, Maduro had announced that he would authorize the arrest of opposition leaders who he believes to be plotting an overthrow.

Dudamel has been criticized on social media for the Wednesday concert and he issued a prepared statement the next day.

"Our music is the universal language of peace and for that reason we regret yesterday's events," the conductor's statement said. "With instruments in hand, we say no to violence and an overwhelming yes to peace."

Dudamel's representatives in London and New York didn't respond to a request for comment on Friday.

Last year, Dudamel attended the funeral of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. The Chavez administration had supported the country's El Sistema music program, which provides free music education to poor youth.

Maduro served in the Chavez administration as the minister of foreign affairs and later as vice president. He is seen by many as a Socialist hardliner in the vein of Chavez, who was himself regarded by his opponents as a dictator.

Dudamel is scheduled to lead a series of concerts with the L.A. Philharmonic starting Feb. 21 at Walt Disney Concert Hall.