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COVER STORY : Not as Easy as 1-2-3 : Bringing Jose Carreras, Placido Domingo and Luciano Pavarotti back together was tough and expensive. But when you consider the rewards, it might just be worth it--for the Three Tenors and their fans

July 10, 1994|BARBARA ISENBERG | Barbara Isenberg is a Times staff writer

Imagine Dodger Stadium on a warm July night, packed with people, magic in the air.

Now send the baseball players home, build a stage in center field flanked by trees, waterfalls and classic columns, and plop three world-class singing cash machines onstage.

What do you have? "Encore! The Three Tenors," a concert-cum-potential-gold-mine set for Saturday, the evening before the World Cup championship soccer match. Tenors Jose Carreras, Placido Domingo and Luciano Pavarotti join conductor Zubin Mehta for a Southern California reprise of their precedent-setting 1990 concert in Rome.

At a cost that "Tenors" impresario Tibor Rudas claims is "a lot more" than $10 million, little will be spared to turn Dodger Stadium into a classic amphitheater where, promoters swear, sound will rival a concert hall. Not only are concert tickets at stake, some still available at prices as high as $1,000, but so are mega-dollar record, TV and video plans.

Nobody at the Rudas Organization will discuss income, but reliable sources estimate the concert alone would gross $12.5 million to $15 million should it sell out. And Rudas says he's signed 274 contract pages on this project--more than on all the other events of his 50-year career combined.

Rudas and his network of big-scale-event mavens have been planning this concert for the past two years. Decisions have ranged from just what should go into a three tenor sandwich plate (salmon, chicken and eggplant) to how to assure aircraft will "fly neighborly" over Dodger Stadium next Saturday night. Not to mention what the tenors will sing.

More than 40,000 seats in the stands, priced at $15 to $150, sold out months ago through Dodger Stadium's ticket office and phone sales, say promoters of the event. Another 13,000 more expensive seats placed on the playing field will be on four different levels to assure better sight lines.

The concert will be 2 1/2 hours long, with two acts' worth of familiar arias and show tunes of the sort each tenor has performed in individual large-scale concerts. Carreras, Domingo and Pavarotti--one by one and together--will be accompanied by the Los Angeles Philharmonic and the Music Center Opera Chorus.

Last month, the tenors sang together for the first time since Rome in 1990, performing for charity in Monte Carlo for Prince Rainer, Princess Caroline and invited guests. Among those expected in Los Angeles' celebrity-studded audience, say promoters, will be former Presidents Bush and Reagan and their wives.

"Encore!" will be the first joint appearance by the celebrated singers and Mehta in the United States. Given the financial success of the 1990 concert's assorted spin-offs, promoters are missing few opportunities to emulate its lucrative afterlife.

Taped broadcasts of the 1990 concert have been public television's top fund-raisers, for instance. KCET Channel 28 alone has aired the show 21 times since it first aired in March, 1991, and every time has included pledge breaks.

Although Saturday night's concert will air live elsewhere, it will be blacked out in Los Angeles and Orange County. It will air on KCET on Sunday at 4 and 7 p.m. and KOCE Channel 50 at 5 and 8 p.m. and, no doubt, many more times after that.

PBS, of course, is just the start. Satellites will deliver the show to more than 100 countries, nearly all of which will air the concert live or within 24 hours. Records and videos could be in stores as early as Aug. 30.

Expectations are running high, of course: London Records advertises that the 1990 "Three Tenors" concert album was "the world's No. 1 classical bestseller" at more than 10 million records and videos worldwide. Officials at Warner Music Group, which acquired worldwide TV, radio, record and home video rights for the 1994 concert, say they hope to do even better.

Warner's Atlantic Records will release "The Three Tenors in Concert: 1994" in the United States, and its Teldec Classics International will handle international release. Warner affiliates will assemble a home video of the concert and, later, a "making of" video. Already out on newsstands around the world, in five languages, is an official $10 pre-concert program from San Francisco-based Collins Publishers.

Noting the vastness of their repertoire, including opera, crossovers and Neapolitan songs, Carreras is quoted in the program as saying the tenors had "a lot of ideas" about selections. "Believe me," Carreras says, "the repertoire has always been the easiest part of planning this concert."


The three tenor phenomenon got its start back in June, 1989, during a post-concert dinner one night just outside Rome.

Carreras and his manager, Mario Dradi, got to talking: If Dradi was such a good promoter, asked Carreras, would Dradi be able to set up and pull off a concert starring Carreras, Pavarotti and Domingo?

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