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Did They Hear a Waltz!

Supporters of Opera Pacific's educational outreach make a night of arias and dance at a black-tie, European-style affair.

November 17, 1998|ANN CONWAY

The scene: Nights at the Opera, an aria-and-waltz packed benefit for Opera Pacific. The black-tie ball Saturday at the Four Seasons hotel in Newport Beach grossed more than $300,000 for the Irvine-based opera company's educational outreach programs.

Strauss and then some: In the style of a classic European opera ball, guests waltzed their way through an elegant sit-down repast--field greens with pear, filet of beef and grilled salmon--then settled back for a serenade by opera stars performing selections from "Rigoletto," "Carmen" and "Gianni Schicchi" with the Opera Pacific Orchestra.

Also on the bill: a waltz exhibition by members of the Beverly Hills Cotillion Dance Ensemble.

"This feels so much like Vienna I could cry," said German-born Barbara DeMain, wife of Opera Pacific artistic director John DeMain. "I'm homesick!"

Baubles on view: Should female guests have been wondering how to accessorize for a night at the opera, Cartier--with $50,000 in donations, the gala's major sponsor--provided clues: During the champagne reception, three mannequins dripping in $6 million worth of diamonds pirouetted under a spotlight. "Less is more in the number of pieces one wears at one time," advised Sylvie Freund-Pickavance of New York, Cartier vice president. "But the trend we see is that people are looking for more quality."

Honoring a visionary: After the concert, guests raised their glasses to David DiChiera--general director of the Michigan Opera Theatre--who founded Opera Pacific in 1986 and has served as its general and artistic director. "I'm very moved tonight . . . very honored . . . this special evening is very special to me," he said. "Coming here in 1985 to plant the seed and develop an opera company was a great privilege and a wonderful experience."

Quote: "I've been commissioned to compose an opera that will be premiered in Montreal in 2001--and I'm going to invite John DeMain to come see it," DiChiera said. "Perhaps I'll come back here as a composer at a season of this wonderful opera company."

Guest list: gala co-chairwomen Gayle Widyolar and Ruth Ding; Martin Hubbard, executive director of Opera Pacific; Patrick Seaver, board chairman; Henri Venanzi, orchestra conductor; Jeanette Segerstrom; Sandy and John Daniels ("It isn't everyday you get to do a Strauss waltz to an opera orchestra," he said); Arlene Dungca; Floss and Ed Schumacher; Mark and Barbara Johnson; Whitney and Jerry Mandel; Doug and Donna Bunce; Bill and Laila Conlin; Nancy Sorosky; Elaine Redfield; Jerry and Maralou Harrington; Cleva and Bob Howard; Gayle and Bob Anderson; Bill and Barbara Roberts; and Gerry and Walter Schroeder.

What's next: Opera star Marilyn Horne will appear at Opera Pacific's annual celebrity luncheon on July 14. For information: (949) 474-4488.

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