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3 Tenors Hit High Note With Arias in Arena

July 17, 1994|BARBARA ISENBERG and TED ROHRLICH | TIMES STAFF WRITERS

On turf normally reserved for the artistry of Dodger center fielders, three men acclaimed as the world's greatest tenors--Jose Carreras, Placido Domingo and Luciano Pavarotti--brought their exquisite voices to Chavez Ravine on Saturday night in a concert intended as a soaring musical complement to today's final game of the World Cup.

The tenors' performance was set as a reprise of their spectacularly successful concert on the eve of the last World Cup final four years ago, when they appeared for the first time on the same stage outside Rome. That concert, before a crowd of only 6,500 at the 3rd-Century ruins of the Baths of Caracalla, led to the biggest-selling classical recording of all time.

This time, flanked by trees, waterfalls and columns on a specially built stage, the tenors were aiming for an even more lucrative extravaganza. Lifelong soccer fans all, they headed their high notes to satellites, which passed them to television sets in 100 countries. Promoters predicted that as many as a billion people could score a global village share of the popular arias and show tunes that a sellout crowd estimated at 56,000 saw and heard firsthand.

The concert, called "Encore! The Three Tenors" and presented in association with the World Cup, had two acts of the sort of songs that each tenor has performed individually in large-scale concerts. The tenors were accompanied by the Los Angeles Philharmonic and the Los Angeles Music Center Opera chorus, with Zubin Mehta on the podium, as he had been in Rome. Familiar songs such as "Granada" by Domingo and "With a Song in My Heart" by Carreras were greeted with applause as soon as they began.

And when the three tenors did the Frank Sinatra trademark "My Way," the huge Dodgervision screen spotlighted Ol' Blue Eyes himself sitting in the audience. Sinatra stood and the three tenors applauded him.

The tenors have reached almost cult status, particularly Pavarotti, who has played to crowds of 150,000 or more in London, New York and Paris and drew some of his devotees to Los Angeles. "We're Pavarotti groupies," said Tom Dakoske of Agoura, whose wife, Judianne, was wearing Pavarotti's painted face on the left thigh of a pair of white jeans. "We've seen him in Paris, San Diego, New York and the Hollywood Bowl."

More than 40,000 seats in the stands, priced at $15 to $150, sold out months ago. The field was packed with rows of folding chairs set on wood platforms of varying heights. Celebrities and other opera fans paid as much as $1,000 apiece for some of the 13,000 seats on the field.

The atmosphere was festive. Souvenirs were for sale: feet cushions at $15, hats at $20, assorted shirts from $23 to $60, and signed baseballs by the three tenors and Mehta were $20. A red carpet led the way to the high-priced seats. And every ticket came with its own set of binoculars.

As soon as the gates opened at 5 p.m., limousines, taxicabs, private cars, chartered buses and even a few motor scooters began to pour into the parking lot.

Picnickers dressed in everything from formal attire to Bermuda shorts enjoyed wine and champagnes in tailgate parties as the sounds of CDs and tapes from the 1990 concert drifted from cars.

Many said they were opera lovers who had planned on coming since about a year ago, when plans for the concert were announced.

Ottawa businessman Antonio Ruiz and his wife, Lise, ordered their tickets last September after she saw an ad in a newspaper. They had missed the Rome concert and did not want to miss this one. "It only happened once before," Ruiz said, "and it may never happen again."

Others who did not plan so far ahead had to pay a premium. Scalpers outside the stadium and a few inside--many fewer than at a typical Dodger game--appeared to be doing well.

Henry Cheng, a Pasadena engineer, said he was prepared to pay $200 or $300 for seats legitimately priced at half that or less. His wife, he explained, is "crazy about this. . . . If I get it for her, she will love me forever."

Dunja Radosavljevic, an opera lover and advertising student at Cal State Northridge, was on a tighter budget. She had only $70--and needed $10 just to park. "Oh, well," she said, "maybe I'll pay for parking and go listen outside (the stadium). They can't sing opera too low."

Others who came were simply people who knew Dodger Stadium would be the place to be Saturday night.

"After fires, floods, earthquakes and a high-profile double murder, Los Angeles has become the center of negative attention," Peg Yorkin, chairwoman of the Feminist Majority, a women's rights organization, said a few days before the event. "I felt it was incumbent upon me to attend one of the top cultural events of the year."

From the stands, the outfield looked like a cross between an amphitheater and an open-air Hollywood sound stage. In center field, the stage and a painted scenic backdrop were so big that the real and fake landscapes hid pavilion seats.

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