Gustavo Dudamel, Ruben Blades opera

23 July 2012, 14:32 | Updated: 23 July 2012, 15:08

Playing to an audience of thousands in an old Caracas airport, Gustavo Dudamel brings Panamanian music legend Ruben Blades' salsa opera to life.

Gustavo Dudamel and his Simon Bolivar Youth Symphony Orchestra were joined by Panamanian salsa legend Ruben Bladés for an epic performance of Bladés’ own ‘salsa opera’, Maestra Vida, on Sunday. Taking place in central Caracas and enlisting the talents of over 140 musicians and actors, the large-scale work has not been performed since its debut recording in 1980.

The Los Angeles Philharmonic conductor Dudamel directed the performance at the former Carlota Airport. He remarked that just because he is more accustomed to more traditional classical works, it doesn’t mean he doesn’t have “salsa in his veins.”

Bladés, a veteran of Panamanian salsa music, initially recorded Maestra Vida as an album in 1980 with trombonist Willie Colon. The new collaboration with Dudamel is a landmark performance for Bladés, who described the experience as “living the dream.”

An audience of tens of thousands were expected to attend the concert, which was billed as a “Concert For Peace” and supported by the Venezuelan El Sistema orchestral education programme. Also featured in the concert was a performance by Venezuelan pop star Franco De Vita.