DANVILLE — The hottest star in classical music, 29-year-old Venezuelan Gustavo Dudamel, will conduct the venerable Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra at Centre College's Norton Center for the Arts on Sept. 27, during the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games.
"This is the jewel in the crown of the Fortnight Festival," Alltech founder and president Pearse Lyons said, referring to the arts and entertainment festival that will coincide with the Games, Sept. 25 to Oct. 10 at the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington.
The Danville engagement will be a rare U.S. appearance outside of New York for the Vienna Philharmonic, considered by most observers to be among the best, if not the best, orchestra in the world.
The only other U.S. appearance by the Vienna orchestra with Dudamel will be Oct. 3 at New York's Carnegie Hall. That will be the final concert in a series of three Vienna Philharmonic performances that will open the legendary venue's 2010-11 season.
But they come to Danville first.
Norton Center's director of programs and public relations, Debra Hoskins, said the process of inviting the Philharmonic and Dudamel started in February 2008, with the intention of attracting the biggest name possible to play Danville during the Games.
"At first, I was told it was impossible to get the Vienna Philharmonic to come to the Norton Center," Hoskins said. But she contacted the orchestra through the Austrian embassy in Washington and, "they were intrigued by the idea of coming during the World Equestrian Games."
Hoskins said it was the orchestra that, at her suggestion, secured Dudamel for the concert.
At the time, Dudamel was a rising star in classical music, known for his work directing the Simón Bolívar Youth Orchestra of Venezuela and for high-profile guest conducting gigs around the world. His star has since shot across the music world's sky, having finished his first season as music director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic.
The Los Angeles Times' Mark Swed wrote that Dudamel's L.A. Philharmonic debut represented "an embrace of a new generation and cultural point of view."
In L.A., he is known as "The Dude" and is celebrated by Hollywood glitteratti. His L.A. Phil debut was broadcast by PBS, he has been profiled on TV programs such as 60 Minutes and 20/20, and he has been named to numerous lists of influential people, not just in music.
The Vienna Philharmonic is among the most storied orchestras on the planet, having given world premiere performances of symphonies by Johannes Brahms and counted conductors such as Herbert von Karajan and Leonard Bernstein as its artistic leaders, though the orchestra has had no principal conductor or music director since 1933.
Tickets to the orchestra's performances in its home base of Musikverein in Vienna are as difficult to get as University of Kentucky basketball tickets, with waiting lists the only available option for subscription concert seasons.
For the Danville concert, tickets, which range in price from $100 to $375, go on sale at 9 a.m. Thursday. The top-tier tickets include a pre-concert dinner by chefs flown in from Paris. Centre College students will be able to attend the orchestra's rehearsal for free.
But the event will also be available to people outside the Norton Center's Newlin Hall. Pat Dalbey, president and general manager of WLEX-TV, said the Lexington NBC affiliate is planning a live broadcast of the concert, and portions of it might be used in NBC's coverage of the Games. NBC is a sponsor of the concert along with a half-dozen local sponsors.
"It's a community event of exceeding importance," Dalbey said. "We know a lot of people who can't get inside the hall will still want to be part of it."
The program will include Antonin Dvorák's Symphony No. 9 "From the New World" and music by Bernstein and Maurice Ravel. The Danville audience will have some glitter of its own: Princess Haya of Jordan, president of the FEI, has already accepted an invitation to the event.
At Tuesday's announcement, Lyons said additional Fortnight Festival acts will be announced June 17 — 100 days from the opening of the Games.
Reach Rich Copley at (859) 231-3217 or 1-800-950-6397, Ext. 3217.