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R S V P : It Was Spanish Opera Music to Cry For


Los Angeles' newest organized group of opera lovers were treated to a program of Spanish music so emotional some cried.

Members of Hispanics for L.A. Opera were in the audience to hear Placido Domingo and Veronica Villarroel perform "In Concert: A Celebration of Spanish Music" on Thursday night at the Pasadena Civic Auditorium.

Following two hours of zarzuela music (Spanish light opera), several encores and a couple of standing ovations, about 350 members drove to the Ritz-Carlton Huntington Hotel for a black-tie dinner in honor of Domingo that benefited the L.A. Opera. (Tickets were $375 and $500.)

"You see the amount of Hispanic people we have in this country and so it's wonderful when we are able to bring something to them," Domingo said. "It's not like an evening like this is available to everybody, but this eventually will pave the road to have good music and theater that I'm sure the Latin people would love to see. We have to start with this to be able to build something greater and bigger."

Hispanics for L.A. Opera was begun three years ago when Alicia Garcia Clark, a member of the board of directors of the L.A. Opera League, wanted to reach out to the city's Latino community.

"I knew that Hispanic people loved music," she said. "It was just a matter of finding them."

She and her husband, Ed, did, contacting friends who in turn told their friends. The group currently has more than 900 members and associate members and is growing, with Alicia Clark as the executive chairwoman.

"We have people of different economic levels, and we try to have different events with various prices," she added. She credited Domingo with coming up with the idea for this concert, which was dedicated to his mother, the late zarzuela artist Pepita Embil.

Attorney Gilbert Moret, one of the group's members, said, "It's not surprising we have so many Hispanics involved in the L.A. Opera. Opera is universal. It's not limited to one ethnic group or another.

"I grew up with zarzuela. The performers tonight were just magnificent, and the emotion they brought to the music was so important, to the extent that it brought tears to my eyes, and I'm sure to the eyes of many others," he said.

Sitting down to a late dinner that included Spanish tapas, grilled salmon and Cabernet-poached pears were Music Center Opera General Director Peter Hemmings and his wife, Jane; Domingo; Villarroel; L.A. Opera board chairman Bernard Greenberg and wife Lenore; board president Richard Seaver; Rose Parade float designer Raul Rodriguez; Chilean Consul General Ricardo Concha and his wife, Jeanine; Annabelle and Lorin Wilson; Dr. Jesus and Carolina Ramirez; John and Joan Hotchkis; Mary Lou and Andy Camacho; Lorraine and Joseph Saunders; Jose Nazar; Flora Thornton and Eric Small; Ryuko and Shinji Sakai; Diane and John Ouellet, plus Domingo's three sons and his sister.

The concert and gala were sponsored by Lexus with additional underwriting by KMEX and Univision Television Group.

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