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Nervous Despite the Raves, Ovation


Although he cut a dashing figure in a tux and was chatting up a storm with Candice Bergen, Herbert Ross was a nervous wreck at the opening night of the opera.

"La Boheme" marks Ross' debut as an opera director. The veteran film director ("The Turning Point," "Steel Magnolias") admitted to being wracked with anxiety at the premiere Thursday night of this Los Angeles Music Center Opera production.

"I'm nervous," he said. "Wringing wet and nervous."

Despite that, he said he was pleased by the audience's response (bravos and a standing ovation), and praised the singers for their efforts.

But was Ross more nervous about this opening, or about the next night's opening of his new film, "Undercover Blues?"

"I'm nervous all the time," he said. "I can't compare the degree or the quality of nervousness. I'm just nervous."

Ross received more bravos at the gala black-tie party that followed the opening of the opera season. Some 700 guests (who paid $650 a ticket) ate, talked and danced until after midnight at a sit-down dinner on the Plaza.

Co-chairs Mary Hayley and Selim Zilkha transformed the open-air space into a scene reminiscent of a street scene in Paris, circa late 1800s. Lending that Toulouse-Lautrec feel were can-can dancers, street lights and potted trees.

Feasting on a meat-heavy dinner (pate, veal sausage, ramequin de boeuf Bourguignon ) were Ross' wife, Lee Radziwill (the gala's honorary chair), Anne and Kirk Douglas, Bergen, Anjelica Huston and husband Robert Graham, Douglas Cramer, Caroline Ahmanson, Barbara and Marvin Davis, Joan and John Hotchkis, Patti and Tommy Skouras, Reese and Mary Milner, Dominic Shiach, Sasha White, Henry and Ginny Mancini and Jack Valenti. Joining the party later were the cast and conductor Placido Domingo with his wife, Marta.

"I've never been to the opera in Los Angeles," said Bergen, who said she's known Ross for "a long, long time. I was really interested to see what his first opera would be like, and I was really thrilled by it. I thought it was a feast. And then to have Domingo conducting, what more could a girl ask?"

Does this mean she might come to another performance?

"Yes, yes," she said. "I just have to figure out how to get tickets."

Mary Hayley surveyed the scene around her and said, "I really wanted the party to be like this. I'm thrilled. The fact that nobody's sitting down is a sign that everybody's having a good time. They're not all trying to get home."

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