When maestro Joseph Valenti waves his baton Saturday night to open the 25th season of the Peninsula Symphony, the resulting musical spell promises to be as enchanting as if it were cast by a magician's wand.
"A Night at the Opera" is a free concert of operatic favorites sung with the support of the 70-piece orchestra.
"It is common to hear expressions of amazement from community symphony leaders across the country when they hear we are still going strong on a voluntary basis that provides free admission to the community," Eric Allan, president of the Symphony Assn., said in a statement marking the symphony's silver anniversary.
The concert begins at 8:30 p.m. at the Rolling Hills Covenant Church auditorium. Dr. Conrad Wedberg, former president of the association, will give a lecture on the program at 8 p.m. Tickets for the lecture are $5.
The symphony is supported by paid subscriptions, gifts by patrons, corporate contributions and public grants.
"We're real proud that we've survived giving free concerts while other major orchestras have gone belly-up," said Mimi Horowitz, the association's executive director. "But now it's a real crunch. We'll have to move to a more sophisticated fund raising."
The orchestra, founded in 1967 by Valenti, has always played a "full symphony repertoire, not just pops and not just chamber music," Horowitz said.
Saturday's program features soprano Kathy Knight of Carmel Valley and tenor Edgar Moore of Galveston, Tex., singing selections from several operas.
Knight has performed with more than 70 orchestras and numerous opera and musical theater companies. She also has sung on Broadway, television and radio and at the White House.
Moore has an operatic repertoire of more than 60 roles, performing with the Texas Opera Theatre, the Houston Grand Opera and many other opera companies and orchestras.
The overture to Mozart's "The Marriage of Figaro" will begin the program, followed by selections from that opera. Between the overture to Strauss' "Die Fledermaus" and ballet music from Verdi's "Aida," Moore and Knight will sing Strauss' "Watch Duet," Moore will sing "Questo e Quello" from Verdi's "Rigoletto," and Knight will sing "Depuis le Jour" from Charpentier's "Louise."
After the intermission, the orchestra will play the overture to "La Forza del Destino" and music from "La Traviata," Dvorak's "Rusalka," Donizetti's "Don Pasquale," and Puccini's "La Boheme." Moore will also sing an aria from "Don Pasquale" and join Knight for two duets.
Valenti, 64, has studied with Pierre Monteux, Serge Koussevitsky and Dr. Alfred Sendrey. His lengthy conducting experience includes leadership of the Southeast, Culver City and San Francisco symphony orchestras and the Warner Bros. and Hollywood studio orchestras. He has composed four symphonies and teaches trumpet.
Valenti took up the trumpet when he was 10. Two years later, he began playing in nightclubs, with adult supervision, for $3 to $10 a job. He has performed for presidents and kings and recorded the trumpet solo for the theme to Michael Landon's television series "Highway to Heaven."
Homespun psychology helps Valenti mold the sound he wants from the orchestra, which includes local avocational musicians, as well as professionals.
He said Monteux taught him to yell sparingly during his rehearsals. His mother offered similar advice. "She told me that you catch more flies with honey than with salt," Valenti recalled.
Audiences should leave a concert soothed by the music, Valenti said. And so for his program he chooses "music that sends a pleasing message to the heart and soul."
What: The Peninsula Symphony "A Night at the Opera."
Where: Rolling Hills Covenant Church auditorium, 2222 Palos Verdes Drive North, Rolling Hills Estates, between Palos Verdes Drive East and Western Avenue.
When: Saturday, 8:30 p.m. Lecture at 8 p.m.
Admission: The concert is free; $5 for the lecture.
Information: Call the Peninsula Symphony at (310) 544-0320.