Standing under a gala tent set up next to Walt Disney Concert Hall on Grand Avenue, fresh from conducting a program of “Gershwin and the Jazz Age,” Los Angeles Philharmonic Music Director Gustavo Dudamel again confirmed that Tuesday’s L.A. Phil’s opening night gala was his eighth.
“[The gala] is always very special, but [as I’m] getting older, it feels even more special,” said 35-year-old Dudamel, who joked earlier in the night that his dark curly locks now show touches of white since he joined the L.A. Phil.
He told the crowd of 500 gala-goers that regardless of his travels guest-conducting throughout the world, “We have the best [orchestra].”
The gala offered guests an evening of dining and dancing and a concert featuring Broadway stars Brian Stokes Mitchell and Megan Hilty, pianist George Li and clarinetist Boris Allakhverdyan. And if you weren’t there, here are five things you missed.
1.) The star-studded crowd included Christoph Waltz (“Inglourious Basterds”), Amanda Peet (“Togetherness”), Alex Meneses (“Telenovela”), Matthew Lillard (“Scooby-Doo”), William Shatner (“Star Trek”), Larry David (“Curb Your Enthusiasm”), John C. Reilly (“Wreck-It Ralph”), Don Johnson (“Miami Vice”), jazz great Herbie Hancock, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, Los Angeles County Supervisor Don Knabe, architect Frank Gehry, choreographer Benjamin Millepied, L.A. Phil president and CEO Deborah Borda, Edythe and Eli Broad, Jane and Michael Eisner, Eva and Marc Stern, and Sherry Lansing and William Friedkin, among other prominent Angelenos.
2.) It was hard to avoid talk of politics, but the Austrian-born Waltz saw a connection between arts and politics. “Where I come from, culture is a very important part of politics and the government spends a lot of money on it,” he said, during the pre-concert reception. “Here, the arts take private money and I find that is not only praiseworthy — I find it heroic.”
3.) Speaking of the heroism of the night’s guests, who dined on French restaurant Patina’s tournedos au poivre, L.A. Philharmonic Assn. Board of Directors Chairman Diane Paul announced proceeds of the event were more than $3.2 million, including tickets for the full soiree beginning at $2,500, tables selling up to $150,000 and additional support from luxury watch brand Rolex.
4.) Inside the tent, as he accepted compliments from gala goers, Stokes Mitchell called the Gershwin song “Ain’t Necessarily So” one of his favorite numbers. “It’s fun to see the audience react, and they always react pretty much the same way,” he said. “They don’t know I’m going to do a singalong.… And then they get it.”
The two-time Tony winner then spoke with enthusiasm about his previous appearances at Disney Hall — the concert hall’s original three-day, opening blowout in 2003. Stokes Mitchell sang the 1940s song “Laura,” and said the best part was that the song’s composer, David Raksin, was in the audience.
5.) “Getting to sing with Stokes and Gustavo and the L.A. Philharmonic in this hall — it’s just a dream situation,” said Hilty. “I have to take a moment tonight to enjoy this. I don’t want to let this go by too fast.”
Hilty, the star of NBC’s musical show “Smash” and TV Land’s upcoming series “The First Wives Club,” said she particularly enjoyed singing the Gershwin classic “Someone to Watch Over Me.”
“The arrangement was done for Ella Fitzgerald and it’s gorgeous,” she said. “In my opinion, she’s the greatest singer ever.”
Ellen Olivier is the founder of Society News LA.