What It’s Like to Watch Gael Garcia Bernal Replace Gustavo Dudamel as Conductor of LA’s Philharmonic

Los Angeles gets a bad rap. New York and San Francisco are considered our nation’s cultural meccas because they have substance. Los Angeles? Eh, not so much. Lots of people think we’re the city of dreamers without depth. If you believe this, you are wrong. So wrong. Case in point: last week’s Mozart concert at the Hollywood Bowl, where the only blonde on stage was an opera singer.

We all know that LA has perfect weather, and this night was no exception. At a crisp 73 degrees, the night was beautiful. The Hollywood Bowl was packed. 17,000 bodies stood in silence, ready to sing the National Anthem. As I pretended to know the words, I started laughing. To my right, I had an Australian mother and daughter, to my left a dude from Cuernavaca. Behind me, an octogenarian sang the Star Spangled Banner with gusto. Then silence, followed by a standing ovation. Gustavo Dudamel had entered the stage. Without pretense, he proceeded to blow our minds and caress our ears with the sweet sounds of Mozart.

Mr. Dudamel is a Venezuelan conductor who has directed the Los Angeles Philharmonic since 2009. He’s also the inspiration behind Rodrigo on Amazon’s Mozart in the Jungle. Rodrigo is played by the conductor of our hearts, Gael García Bernal. On this night, Amazon filmed Gael fake conducting LA’s Philharmonic. It was funny. It was charming. It was Dudamel on steroids.

Gael made some serious reggaetón moves while conducting the overture to Mozart’s “The Marriage of Figaro.” What makes Gael and Dudamel extraordinary is the zest and pizzaz they perform with. Their energy is infectious. Gael’s performance was short, but no one cared. Why? Because everybody was happy. Plus, most of the audience was there for the “Hear the Hair” OG. (On the show, Rodrigo’s wild, curly hair is his trademark and led the symphony to come up with ads emblazoned with the slogan “Hear the Hair.” He was not impressed.)

I’m not going to lie – I went for Gael but I stayed for Dudamel. At the risk of being corny, that night was special. As Gael was being introduced, the atmosphere was jovial and I thought to myself, “Dude, you are at the Hollywood Bowl, watching a Venezuelan conductor introduce the face of Mexico to a multi-cultural audience before they film a scene for a TV show about a man devoted to an Austrian composer. Damn.” At that moment I became the world’s happiest unpaid extra.

The scene will appear on season two of Amazon’s Mozart in the Jungle.