That left little time off, other than a week on a Venezuelan beach in February to chill out after the Mahler Project, and another last summer in Los Angeles after putting on a two-week "Americas and Americans" festival at the Hollywood Bowl. But he also does less guest conducting than many star maestros, blocking out decent chunks of time to be in his homes in Los Feliz or Caracas with his wife, Eloísa Maturén, their son and their large extended family.
Dudamel is Abreu's protégé in the grandeur of his ambition, and he has absorbed Abreu's missionary zeal. The Bolívar orchestra's worldwide tours typically include conferences and symposia on music education — as there were recently in Berkeley and New York, and as there were last summer when the orchestra went to Britain for various Cultural Olympiad residencies. The theme is always that music can transform lives. This zeal, no doubt, lends Dudamel some of his energy and, perhaps, the compulsion to constantly push his limits. The Mahler Project wasn't Dudamel's only seemingly "crazy" effort. Another was what he accomplished over just a matter of weeks in late spring. First there was a staged performance of Mozart's "Don Giovanni" with the L.A. Phil in Disney Hall. Where opera companies allow six weeks or more to mount a new production, this was up and running in less than two.
At the same time he was madly learning a densely complex new opera by John Adams, "The Gospel According to the Other Mary," which the composer worked on up to almost the last minute. Dudamel, the L.A. Phil, six solo singers and chorus gave a remarkably secure performance of its concert premiere at the end of that month with a little more than a week's rehearsal. (This March they will fully stage the work in Disney Hall and take the production to New York and Europe.)
On June 3, after the final matinee performance of "The Other Mary," Dudamel hopped on a plane to Vienna, where he had a rehearsal the next morning with the Vienna Philharmonic for his big Schönbrunn Palace concert three days later. The Austrian capital's social event of the season and a draw to thousands of spectators, the palace concert was yet another big production, one involving ballet dancers and television crews. The live show is now released on DVD, and on it Dudamel looks at first slightly tense, but he is soon enough cheerfully in his element.
The closest Dudamel comes to a reflection on 2012 is to call it a dream come true. And that has only encouraged him to dream on.
"You can't imagine what he wants to do next," his manager, Mark Newbanks, says.
Gustavo Dudamel in 2012: Take a look at the conductor's hectic schedule.
Jan. 19-Feb. 5: Conducts a complete cycle of Gustav Mahler's symphonies with the Los Angeles Philharmonic and the Simón Bolívar Symphony Orchestra of Venezuela for the Mahler Project in Los Angeles.
Feb. 6: Demonstrates the meaning of "stupendous" on PBS' "Sesame Street."
Feb. 8-18: Repeats the full Mahler Project in Caracas, Venezuela.
Feb. 12: Wins first Grammy Award for recording of Brahms' Fourth Symphony with the L.A. Phil.
Feb. 18: Conducts Mahler's Eighth Symphony with 1,400 musicians and singers in Caracas, shown live in movie theaters internationally.
March 21-31: Six-city tour with Gothenburg Symphony to Sweden, Spain and Portugal.
April 13 and 20: Conducts Brahms symphony cycle in with Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France at Salle Pleyel in Paris.
April 26-May 3: Takes Berlin Philharmonic on European tour, which includes the annual May Day Europa concert, this year at the Spanish Riding School in Vienna.
May 18-June 3: With the L.A. Phil conducts operas "Don Giovanni" and the world premiere of John Adams' "The Gospel According to the Other Mary" at Disney Hall.
June 7: Conducts the annual outdoor Vienna Philharmonic concert at the Schönbrunn Palace.
June 21-July 2: Tours Britain with Bolívar orchestra as part of Cultural Olympiad, including four-day residence at Southbank in London; continues to Amsterdam, Barcelona and Madrid.