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Opera Stars Make Merry After 'Widow' : Cast members, including a former Met artist and an Orange County native, join the post-performance bash.

January 25, 1994|KATHRYN BOLD

Two opera singers--one a famous soprano, the other a growing talent--shared the spotlight at an opening night celebration Friday for Opera Pacific's "The Merry Widow."

Roberta Peters, who starred in the Segerstrom Hall production, and local-girl-makes-good Robin Follman (making her Opera Pacific debut as Valencienne), joined about 150 guests at the Center Club in Costa Mesa for the post-performance bash. The party honored members of Opera Pacific's Impresario Circle, donors of a minimum of $5,000 annually to the local opera company.

Divine Diva

Peters, still singing 43 years after she made her debut at age 20 at New York's Metropolitan Opera House, arrived looking like a glamorous diva in a jacket that sparkled with gold beads.

She chatted busily at the party, saying she would give her vocal chords a rest the following day. She keeps socializing at a minimum before a performance. "I read, and I do my crossword puzzles," said Peters, who attended with her husband, Bertram Fields.

Opera Pacific's general director, David DiChiera, recounted his first meeting with Peters:

"We met on 'Nightline' with Ted Koppel. We were discussing opera in America. She's been a great advocate of opera," he said.

For her part, Peters said she loved singing at the Orange County Performing Arts Center.

"I've sung in lots and lots of different companies all over the world. I can't tell you what a joy these last 10 days have been," she told the crowd. "I very much believe in regional opera, and I think you're doing a fabulous job here."

A New Voice

Follman, a 24-year-old Orange County native who showed up in a red-beaded sheath with her blond hair swept up in a knot, said she loved working with Peters.

"Roberta's my idol. I grew up listening to her," said Follman, whose parents, Robert and Carole Follman (who live in Coto de Caza), attended the party. "I would love to model my life after hers. She's taken me aside and given me little encouraging remarks. She's a diva in the nicest sense of the word. You never see her do the diva tantrums."

Follman began her career singing with the adult chorus of Opera Pacific. "Everybody's been so nurturing," she said.

Opera Pacific supporters were excited to see one of their own succeed. "Robin is our own home-grown singer. She did a great job," said Tom Hammond, Opera Pacific board president. "We're particularly proud of her because she's sort of come up through our chorus."


Guests mingled with the opera stars while sampling sliced roast turkey, made-to-order pastas with marinara or cream sauce and assorted sweets.

" 'The Merry Widow' is so light and pretty. It's nice to go home humming the songs," said Laila Conlin, outgoing president of the Opera Pacific guild alliance, who attended with her husband, William.

Members of the Impresario Circle are serious opera buffs, said Gayle Widylor, the group's chairwoman.

"Some travel to different cities around the country to hear opera. They're real aficionados," she said.

Also attending were: "Merry Widow" performer Ron Raines and his wife, Dona Vaughn; director/choreographer Dorothy Danner; conductor Mitchell Krieger; chorus master Henri Venanzi, and production underwriters John and Donna Crean. Also, Richard and Jolene Engel, Robert and Maxine Gibson, Eugene and Meredith Gratz, Walter Henry and Maria del Carmen Calvo, William and Carolyn Klein, Edward McGrath, Charlie and Maggie Price, Maria Price Testa, William and Barbara Roberts, Walter and Gerry Schroeder and Robert and Joyce Vaughn.

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