Breaking: Gustavo Dudamel becomes a Spanish citizen

Breaking: Gustavo Dudamel becomes a Spanish citizen


norman lebrecht

March 24, 2018

The Spanish government has granted citizenship to the Venezuelan conductor ‘for family and cultural reasons’. Dudamel is married to the Spanish actress Maria Valverde.

He has been unable to return to Venezuela since speaking out against the horrors of the Maduro regime.

His change of nationality comes on the day of the death of his Venezuelan mentor, Jose Antonio Abreu, a regime loyalist.


  • Alejandro Berger says:

    Dudamel is an opportunist who supported the Chávez régime that was instrumental in making him famous. It was a sad day when he celebrated the closing of RCTV, a symbol of freedom of speech in Venezuela, in 2007. For a long time he was silent while his country was being torn to pieces by Chávez and the Castro brothers. Now that he has international fame, and with Abreu out of the picture, he doesn’t need the Maduro régime or his country for that matter. He’s one of a few who can turn his back. He feels no pain for his countrymen. The end justified the means in his case.

    • Sue says:

      Incredibly, there were many waxing lyrical comparatively recently on the death of Castro about how good socialism communism is/was for that country. There are still millions of useful idiots, it appears. Dudamel has grown up; thank goodness for that.

      • Anon says:

        Reality is not black or white, unlike in your head.

      • Furzwängler says:

        Indeed Sue. Several of the useful idiots are sitting on the front bench of the Labour Party.

      • Leonardo R. says:

        Socialism, communism is no good..that’s ok.
        How about the dictatorship of wild capitalism we are experiencing today turning to ashes the economies around the world to make a few richer and richer at expenses of everybodyelse, speculating in the stock marke, exempt of taxes and so on?

  • M2N2K says:

    It would’ve made much more sense for this post to include his picture with his current wife who is Spanish rather than the picture with his first wife who is Venezuelan.

  • MacroV says:

    I assume that marriage to a Spanish citizen entitles Dudamel to Spanish citizenship, at least eventually. So something he might have done even without the turmoil in Venezuela. Citizenship in a Schengen country might also make it less hassle work in the zone.

    • Caravaggio says:

      Which translates to possibly more ho hum, mediocre appearances with the august Vienna PO, something the band doesn’t deserve. Look out.

      • Barry Guerrero says:

        I don’t think Dudamel’s recordings with the Vienna Phil. are mediocre at all. Straight forward and to the point might be better descriptions, with little ‘interpretive’ intervention. If that’s mediocre to you, then so be it. Besides, I think this topic brings more into question as to how the Wiener Phil. goes about doing its business – the way it relates to its endless parade of guest conductors. It’s interesting that they sound pretty much the same, regardless of who’s in front of them. I view that as both a good and bad thing.

        As for Dudamel, these changes may mean that he can spend more time studying and focusing on the music. But I think working with young players will always be important to him.

    • Carmen says:

      Of course, this makes working in the EU much easier for him! I’ve always wondered if the large no. of high profile conductors & soloists who marry outside of their work zone – EU’s who marry Americans, Americans marrying EU’s, Russians marrying both – do so for working privileges in other countries.

      Spanish citizenship for someone who marries a Spaniard is no way automatic. They have to jump thru the hoops just like everyone else. Unless you’re Dudamel.

      What’s startling in this story is that Spain is granting citizenship to Dudamel like a prize for conducting. He skipped the lines. There are thousands of expat citizens living in Spain who must undergo a long and complicated process for applying for citizenship. It ordinarily takes years.

      For example, Spain has recently opened the path to citizenship to Sephardic Jews, who must present precise and well documented connections to Ladino ancestors who were expelled from Spain 500 years ago. A rabbi’s certification is required, as I understand it. These folks have done their work and are waiting.

      Non EU’s who have lived and worked in Spain for decades – regardless of whether they are married to a Spaniard – also must present complicated documentation in order to be vetted for the citizenship application. Extensive exams in the Spanish language and culture are required. Sephardic Jews applying for citizenship also must pass these exams. Again, the wait for your average law-abiding expat who applies for Spanish citizenship after all the paperwork is completed is 2 – 5 years.

      In many cases, a Spanish expat worker who wishes to retire in Spain and continue to receive health care coverage must become a citizen.

      Many of Brexit’s most vulnerable victims – elderly British pensioners who’ve lived for many years in the south of Spain – must also apply for Spanish citizenship now for health care and other reasons. They also face a wait time of 2- 5 years.

      So along comes Gustavo Dudamel who is awarded Spanish citizenship almost instantaneously, apparently for his merits as a conductor and because he’s just married a Spanish actress. He’s a wealthy man. He can pay for his own health care. He has no retirement issues right now. His job is in LA, for heaven’s sake. He seldom even condescends to guest conduct Spanish orchestras.

      Is it really fair that his citizenship application should be bumped ahead of the thousands of deserving folks who are waiting, many with much more pressing needs than his? Shame on Spain for its cloying, celebrity-hungry stance on conceding citizenship.

      • anon says:

        “Brexit’s most vulnerable victims – elderly British pensioners who’ve lived for many years in the south of Spain”

        Somehow, I don’t think British pensioners who can afford to retire in southern Spain (and southern France, and southern Italy) are “vulnerable” in any meaningful sense of the word. They are living in paradise above the living standards of the local retirees, and if illness strikes, they fly home to get free British health care.

        • Carmen says:

          Actually, the majority are not, I’m afraid. Ever been to Benidorm or that area? These are definitely not wealthy retirees. It’s a budget destination, both for British tourists & for British retirees. They are middle/lower middle class. Most are surviving on modest pensions from the UK, with free access to Spanish health care. Perhaps they are marginally above the means of Spanish pensioners in that area, but that’s because it’s one of the least affluent areas of Spain. Spanish pensions are generally among the highest in Europe.

          True, they’ve got Ryan Air if they need to go home for health care. But would you really want your grandparents relying on Ryan Air every time they needed to see a dr.?

          • Furzwängler says:

            As Anon says: Nonsense. The wealthy Brit retirees who live along the Côte d’Azur, from St Tropez to Cannes and Nice, and from Cap Ferrat and Cap d’Ail to the Italian Border, are the ones whose taxes keep large sections of the French local economy going. Same in Spain and Italy.

            And dream on if you believe that Schengen still means open borders in anything but name. Passport controls have been reintroduced almost everywhere. Try Nice airport for size (and for often long queues at passport control).

          • Carmen says:

            To Furzwangler: you & anon are making assumptions that all British retirees living abroad are wealthy. I’m afraid you are mistaken. That’s a huge generalization.

            I can only speak for Spain, but this is what I know.

            The Benidorm area of Spain – the Costa del Sol, or “Costa del Brits” is chock full of middle & lower middle class British pensioners. Also Dutch & German retirees who look to be slightly better off.

            These are working class people who have taken their modest UK pensions to retire in a sunnier place. Many are quite elderly now and are heavy users of Spain’s free health care system. Periodically there are horror stories in the press about indigent aging British expats stranded in Spain, or recently, the discovery of a group of elderly Dutch retirees living together in near poverty in the Spanish village where they’d come to retire years before.

            Their pensions provide them just enough to get by in Spain. But if something goes wrong – a health crisis, a theft or some type of disaster – they are stranded. No money, not speaking the language, often no family, no resources to return to the UK. It’s tragic.

            When the results of the Brexit vote were announced in Spain, there was such a panic among the elderly British pensioners in the south of Spain that the British Ambassador had to give a public address on youtube to calm them.

            I’m sure there are wealthy British expats living in Spain who do, as you say, support the economy. But there is a much larger and vulnerable group who are just barely getting by. These are the folks who would benefit from, above Gustavo Dudamel, the privilege of Spanish citizenship.

            And just for the record: it’s a ridiculous assumption to think that anyone who chooses to live or retire in a foreign country must be extraordinarily wealthy. Now THAT is complete nonsense.

          • Furzwängler says:

            With due respect, dear Carmen, Benidorm, along with places such places as Lanzagrotty and Aya Napa in Cyprus are hardly places where most elderly Brits would choose to retire. Thanks to Ryanair etc. these are holiday destinations where you will find a certain kind of Brit and also German, who are there simply for the sun and cheap booze (“Sun, Sangria and Sex”, as it’s known) to get smashed out of their skulls. A horrible and disgraceful sight, usually.

            Any retiree who can afford to do so will head for places like Estepona, Puerto Banús, Marbella and other lovely destinations along Spain’s southern coastline, or up in the north of the country.

            For a sample of “Benidorm Man” (and Woman), try to watch the new (and past) BBC1 series ‘Benidorm’, if you can get it where you are. So horribly true to life and enough to make one’s hair stand up on end!

          • Carmen says:

            Dear Furzwangler, thank you for your civilized response! You sound like an elegant person with good taste.

            I agree completely with your description of the type of foreigner that Benidorm attracts. I, also, would be loathe to retire there. But unfortunately, statistics show that the Alicante region of Spain, the coastal area where Benidorm lies, is home to the largest no. of British expats in Spain, most of whom are over 65. They aren’t just visiting. They live there. Many are homeowners.

            So many of them “fly under the radar” – never taking out permanent residence cards or even registering their cars – that it’s hard to get an accurate statistic. Here, for example, is a recent breakdown. I concede that it’s not 100% accurate because of the undocumented elderly pensioners, but if anything, the numbers are actually higher.


            Just a caveat – these are not the same type of people you see on the show Benidorm, which I believe takes place in Benidorm proper. The permanent residents live in picturesque outlying villages to Benidorm. There are colonies of British, German, Dutch, even Norwegian permanent residents. Many have been there for decades. They are older than the traditional Benidorm crowd, and a large no. of them are retired working class pensioners.

        • Anon says:

          Nonsense, many of them retired to Spain, because they couldn’t afford to retire in their own country.

          • Carmen says:

            Exactly. Which makes them especially vulnerable in Brexit, the point I originally made.

      • Lawyermusiclover says:

        All countries have laws so nationality and citizenship can be granted in a Ministers Cabinet meeting under extraordinary circumstances (in Spain is article 21 of the Civil Code). Daniel Barenboim requested the Spanish citizenship by letter to the then Secretary (Minister) of Domestic Affairs, José María Michavila, on September 2nd 2002 and was granted almost inmediately. Same happened with Anna Netrebko in Austria. Travelling around the world with a Venezuelan passport, even if it carries Dudamel’s photo, it is a problem, so I understand why he did so.

        Non spaniards married to a spaniard have to prove at least one year of legal residence in Spain and can’t have a criminal record. Otherwise the residence requirement in Spain to be able to apply for citizenship is five years for persons with refugee status; two years for nationals of Ibero-American countries, Andorra, Philippines, Portugal, and Sephardic-origin jews; and one year for widowers of spaniards, those married to spaniards under the conditions explained before, and people born on Spanish Terrytory.

        • Carmen says:

          Correct. But you are not including the wait time for processing once the residence requirements have been fulfilled & paperwork submitted. It’s averaging 2 – 5 yrs. now.

          Of course the Spanish govt. can concede citizenship instantaneously. Of course it’s legal. At the same time they gave citizenship to Dudamel they also gave it to the former president of Colombia. They can pretty much do whatever they want & it’s legal.

          And yes, we are all aware of Barenboim’s Spanish citizenship. He holds several citizenships as I recall. Another case of the govt. jumping on the celebrity bandwagon in granting citizenships. Perfect example of how it backfired.

          The only thing Barenboim has ever done for Spain is suck the Andalusian govt. dry for funding for his East West Divan Orch. project. As soon as the money ran out, nearly bankrupting Spain’s own orchs. in that region, he pulled out and moved the operation to Germany.

          Like Dudamel, he also rarely agrees to conduct Spanish orchs. By a fluke, I know of one Spanish orch. where he actually did once. He was rude and arrogant and self-entitled and refused to stop smoking his stinky cigars backstage. He tried to keep the musicians overtime and became furious when they wouldn’t stay. A very ungracious and disrespectful “fellow” citizen of Spain, to say the least.

          As far as Dudamel having to travel on a Venezuelan passport, I have no sympathy. He is one of the highest paid conductors in the world. He has a team of managers who are also well paid to sort out his international engagements. If he has difficulty traveling internationally then maybe he should just stay put in LA & do the job he’s getting paid so much money to do.

          • Michael says:

            If he ends up being a tax resident in Spain, he will have to pay a huge amount in taxes. Maybe that is why Spain is happy to grant citizenship to the wealthy.

      • Alejandro Berger says:

        I agreed with Carmen 100% and will add that I looked into the Spanish Citizen application for Sephardic Jews and, in addition to all the requirements, there is a non refundable cost attached that most people cannot pay.

  • jean says:

    Too much paella is not good for the weight

    • jean says:

      Good idea: a new photograph with another lady, I suppose his new wife, and he’s slim

      • Alejandro Berger says:

        When I saw the post yesterday the photo was with his Spanish wife. I must say he looks thinner in this one.

        • M2N2K says:

          No, initially the photo was of Gustavo Dudamel with his first wife Eloisa Maturen who is Venezuelan. That is why it was changed yesterday to the present one – with his current wife Maria Valverde who is Spanish. Otherwise there wouldn’t be any reason for this change.

  • collin says:

    Don’t cry for me, Venezuela
    The truth is, I never left you
    All through my wild days, my mad existence
    I kept my promise
    Don’t keep your distance

    And as for fortune, and as for fame
    I never invited them in
    Though it seemed to the world they were all I desired
    They are illusions, they’re not the solutions they promised to be
    The answer was here all the time
    I love you, and hope you love me

    Don’t cry for me, Venezuela

  • Anon says:

    “Jose Antonio Abreu, a regime loyalist.”

    What are you supposed to do, when your body of work is indivisibly connected to the country you work in, regardless of the regime that governs it?

    99% of these armchair commenters, Mr. Lebrecht included, would falter into ‘regime loyalists’ themselves, were they to make a living in a country that was not relatively free like GB or the US, such is the nature of humanity.

  • The Voice from America says:

    Way too little … way too late.

  • veronica says:

    He became persona non grata in Venezuela after speaking out–regardless of whether it was too little, or too late, or a welcomed realization. The Maduro government can revoke his passport at any time—which would’ve screwed him even in the U.S. (especially now with everything that is going on). This was a smart move and I was wondering why he hadn’t done it months ago.

  • Miss Laurie says:

    I like Dudamel. He seems to have a great deal of charm

  • Hernan says:

    For many of the young Venezuelans who loved Dudamel, he is viewed as a traitor who bit the hand who gave him everything. With Dudamel’s treachery, he broke Maestro Jose Antonio Abreu’s heart. I am certain that the family of Maestro Abreu does not want a traitor to play in his funeral. Dudamel is not a real Venezuelan, for a real Venezuelan defends his country when the super imperial power, the United States has an undeclared war on Venezuela, and Dudamel has become an accomplice in his silence. Very sad.