GUSTAVO, ARE YOU GOING TO BE A BYSTANDER OF YOUR OWN ORCHESTRA’S PERFORMANCE?

“I call on political leaders to find the necessary ways to solve the crisis in Venezuela”. Gustavo Dudamel.

Everything has to be viewed within a context. If we look one cell through a microscope, it would look totally different as if we looked at it from another perspective, like being part of a larger organism for example.

If I viewed Gustavo Dudamel’s statement through such a microscopic perspective, I would have to say that I totally agree with him. He is “the future of music” as Sir Simon Rattle called him once. The least one can say about Dudamel is that he is one of the most gifted directors in the world today.

He is also a product of El Sistema, the Venezuelan organization that provides musical education to more than one million Venezuelan children and youth, which has been used as a model for youth orchestras in different parts of the world. Foreign observers are led to believe by the Venezuelan government’s propaganda apparatus, that El Sistema is the product of the socialist regime, a sort of socialist miracle. That’s not true at all, because El Sistema is an organization created in 1975, and has continually produced great results since its inception. It is the product of the work and vision of Jose Antonio Abreu, who has directed it from the beginning and has served under the other 5 presidents before Chavez and Maduro came to power.

Now, that we are getting a broader point of view, and are seeing Dudamel as part of the larger Venezuelan social system, we have to look at him in the light of the conflict that is ravaging the country. In this context, consciously or not, he and everything that he stands for, musically and personally, have been used as an instrument for the regime’s propaganda purposes. It is impossible at this stage of our observation not to make a comparison between Dudamel and Wilhelm Furtwängler, director of the Berliner Philharmoniker during the Nazi era when the orchestra willingly allowed itself to be used as propaganda to enhance the reputation of the Reich.

I won’t make any judgments about Dudamel’s behavior in this context, because I don’t think I am qualified to do that. However, let Gabriela Montero do it. She is a brilliant world-class Venezuelan pianist and also a product of El Sistema, and she refers to Dudamel as a “collaborator” of the regime. Now that we have a broader view of Dudamel in the context of a larger social system. I am able to say to him the following.

Gustavo, I think that your statement is too little, too late. Off tempo, as you would say to a musician who is not playing well. You should have made this statement years ago. I notice that you are making a call to the Venezuelan politicians. Well, let me give you one piece of news. This is not a political process anymore, it is a struggle for freedom between the unarmed, liberty-loving people of this country against a very powerful and cruel foe. Furthermore, the process is in the hands of the regular Venezuelan citizens, who en masse are out on the streets fighting for their freedom and getting decimated by the brutality of the police and paramilitaries of Maduro’s dictatorial regime.

As a matter of fact, Gustavo, today, April 26, while you were in LA making this declaration in the comfort of your home, one national guardsman from the regime for which you played so much, fired a gas grenade at point-blank to the chest of Juan Pablo Pernalete, a 20-year-old brilliant scholarship awarded student of the Universidad Metropolitana, killing him on the spot. His only crime was to dream of a better future. He is one of the close to 30 citizens, mostly youth, assassinated so far by the regime’s police and paramilitaries, just for protesting peacefully.

So, Gustavo, the Venezuelan youth that you so much love, are out on the streets playing a different kind of music this time. They are playing a very real and dangerous flashmob of Beethoven’s Fidelio. Are you going to let them play it by themselves and be a bystander of your own orchestra’s performance? Or you are to brilliantly direct them once more? You, and only you have the answer.

May God have mercy on you and all of the Venezuelan citizens.
Helio Borges

This article proved to be premonitory, because one week after I published it, ARMANDO CAÑIZALEZ, a young violinist of “El Sistema”, was shot to death by a police officer while protesting against the government.

PS. Beethoven’s Fidelio. Wikipedia describes Beethoven’s opera, Fidelio, as a “story of personal sacrifice, heroism and eventual triumph with its underlying struggle for liberty and justice mirroring contemporary movements in Europe.” In it, Leonore, disguised as a prison guard named Fidelio, rescues her husband Florestan from death in a political prison. The opera’s Prisoners’ Chorus “is an ode to freedom sung by a chorus of political prisoners.”

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