Malibu Seen / By Kim Devore


There was color, drama and plenty of Latin flair as Gustavo Dudamel kicked off his second season as music director with the Los Angeles Philharmonic.

Entertainment legends Neil Diamond, John Williams and Herbie Hancock sailed up a raspberry red carpet along with locals like LA Opera prez Marc Stern and his wife Eva.

The VIP reception hall was dressed up in the colors of the evening with vivid reds and hot pinks against a graphic black-and-white backdrop. Tables were topped with colorful red carnation pompoms embellished with hot pink bling. The centerpiece was a towering arrangement of pink roses, dahlias and hydrangea. Servers made the rounds with bites of smoked salmon and braised beef while LA Phil prez Deborah Borda, dressed in a midnight blue taffeta gown, talked shop with power players like Eli Broad. Soon it was showtime and when the Dude is at the podium, it’s always an awesome affair.

The concert featured special program of bel canto arias and popular Latin-American canciones developed by Dudamel and famed tenor Juan Diego Florez, as well as overtures and arias by Rossini and songs by Granda, Lara, Grever and Gutierrez.

After a rousing five-minute standing ovation, two encores and a shower of silver-and-pink streamers, guests made their way to the tented party palace on Grand Avenue. The look was cool, chic and contemporary with black sequin tablecloths, black-and-white goblets, and candelabras and arrangements of white tulips, freesia and red roses. A changing light display was projected onto giant oversized spheres suspended overhead.

We were greeted by a lively seven-piece combo that played everything from Latin classics to Coldplay. Chairman David Bohnett thanked the crowd for helping to raise nearly $3 million to support the Los Angeles Philharmonic and its education programs. The initiatives include YOLA, Gustavo Dudamel’s signature youth program.

Deborah had words of praise for the new music director and mused about how time flies. “It’s hard to believe this is only your second year,” she said. “It feels like you always lived here. We are so lucky to have you with us.” Celeb chef Joachim Splichal pulled out all the stops with a trio roasted tomato tart with olive tapenade, marinated poached shrimp and compressed heirloom potato salad. The tapas were followed by oak grilled beef tenderloin with black trumpet mushrooms and porcini sauce topped off by a rich hazelnut dessert. Melissa Manchester sang standards like “Let’s Face the Music and Dance” accompanied by flamboyant ballroom hoofers. As the evening kicked into high gear, even the Dude hit the dance floor for a quick spin.

The opening night program was taped by PBS as part of its Great Performances series. So even if you didn’t make it down to Disney Hall, you can still share the experience. The program airs Dec. 29.

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