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Director for Opera Pacific Job Is Selected

John DeMain, who has worked with the O.C. company before, sees a 'wonderful challenge' in keeping the 10-year-old troupe forging ahead.

March 08, 1997|CHRIS PASLES | TIMES STAFF WRITER

COSTA MESA — John DeMain, a former director of the Houston Grand Opera who led Opera Pacific's inaugural production in 1987 and returned to conduct four other works, has been chosen music director of the local company.

The position was created by general director Patrick L. Veitch, who has restructured the company's management since he arrived in September. Previously, the music director and the general director's roles had been taken by David DiChiera, Opera Pacific's founder who left last year to run another of his projects, the Michigan Opera Theatre.

Since 1994, DeMain, 53, has been artistic director of the Madison (Wisconsin) Opera and has directed the Madison Symphony, positions he will retain. He will be in residence in Orange County 22 weeks a year and conduct three operas during the 1998-99 season and three more the next season. "All of the [1997-98] season was [planned] by Dr. DiChiera," Veitch said.

Before he moved to Madison, DeMain spent 18 years with the Houston troupe, where he conducted several world premieres including John Adams' "Nixon in China" and Philip Glass' "Akhnaten." For Opera Pacific, he led Gershwin's "Porgy and Bess" in 1987, Puccini's "Tosca" in 1992, Gounod's "Faust" in 1993, Verdi's "Aida" in 1994 and Strauss' "Die Fledermaus" in 1996.

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In his new position, he will be responsible for musical standards and for overseeing the selection of orchestra musicians, the chorus and some singers. He will be principal advisor to Veitch for selection of vocal soloists.

"I surveyed the field, I spoke with many of the musicians in the orchestra and members of the chorus, talked to general directors across America, and it kept coming back to one name--John DeMain," Veitch said Friday.

"He was my first and only choice. So I began a concerted effort to persuade John to join this battle royale, to build a great opera company in Orange County.

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Speaking by phone from Madison, DeMain said he is excited about joining the 10-year-old group.

"Opera Pacific is still a relatively young company. What it's achieved in 10 years is quite remarkable. It's also a wonderful challenge to be surrounded by two wonderful companies--Los Angeles and San Diego. I think we do very well, but to compete with those two companies consistently will take time and energy. But it's worth the effort."

Added Veitch: "Right away, John is starting to work with me on plans for the 1998-99 season, which in operatic terms, is tomorrow."

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