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Domingo Enters on a High Note

The opera star sings at a tribute marking his new role as Los Angeles Opera artistic director.

March 28, 2001|PATT DIROLL | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

There's no question that Placido Domingo has been the mainspring of Los Angeles Opera on both sides of the footlights since the company was founded 15 years ago. Last week, Southern California opera lovers made it official with "Placido Domingo and Friends: The Welcome Concert & Gala," a spectacular bienvenidos that he sang in six languages in tribute to his new role as the opera's artistic director.

Following the program in the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, which ranged from "Lohengrin" to "Buen Borincano," Domingo's lively duet with Ricky Martin, nearly 700 gala-goers (tickets were $1,500) strolled over to a tent erected on California Plaza, to dine with the concert's stars.

Co-chairwomen Kelly Day, Sherry Lansing and Nancy Daly Riordan chose a Latin theme in honor of Domingo and Alberto Vilar, major underwriter of the Wednesday gala. Lavish flowers in bright colors reminiscent of Xochimilco's gardens banked the bandstand, where the Swingtown band played past midnight.

Spotted in the crowd were conductors Valery Gergiev, Kent Nagano, Esa-Pekka Salonen and John Williams, plus a platoon of Tinseltown types including Dustin Hoffman, Michael York, Sharon Stone, Kathy Bates, Mira Sorvino, Nicole Kidman, Morgan Freeman, David Hyde Pierce and Sela Ward.

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Maude and Richard Ferry, chairman of the international executive search firm Korn-Ferry International, were honored by SOAR! (Support Our Aging Religious) at its fifth annual benefit dinner at the Regent Beverly Wilshire Hotel. SOAR! was established in 1986 by concerned laypeople following a report in the Wall Street Journal on the mounting financial crisis among aging members of Catholic religious communities in the United States.

Since then SOAR! has distributed nearly $4 million to congregations in 42 states. The black-tie evening featuring Bob Newhart--his sister is a nun in Chicago--raised $300,000. "That's a record for us," said Rita Hofbauer, a former nun who serves as president of SOAR!

Peter Mullin, who co-chaired with William Simon Jr., attributed this year's success to the Ferrys themselves--and their agreeing to be honored at the event. "In the past, Maude and Dick have always declined public recognition for their longtime support of civic and charitable efforts," said Mullin. More than 450 guests turned out for the March 19 event, including nuns from local orders.

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Several of the real-life characters mentioned in "QED," Peter Parnell's new play about the late Caltech physicist and Nobel laureate Richard Feynman, were among the guests at the party following its opening Thursday at the Mark Taper Forum.

In addition to the play's stars, Alan Alda and Allison Smith, guests included Ralph Leighton, author of "Tuva or Bust," upon which the play is based; Feynman's former secretary, Helen Tuck; his student Danny Hillis; and Feynman's old friend Jirayr Zorthian and his wife, Dabney; and physicist Stephen Hawking.

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A safari-style event to benefit El Faro, a tiny orphanage on the outskirts of Tijuana, was held March 18 at the Assistance League of Southern California.

The event, titled "An African Sundowner," was the brainstorm of actress Sharon Lawrence and acting coach Leigh Kilton Smith, who have been pals since they both waited tables in New York. With help from author Bibi Jordan ("Safari Chic") and party planners John Tripp and Gary Livingood, the Fountain Court party site was transformed into an elaborate Tree Tops scene.

Smith and Lawrence spent last Christmas at the orphanage. "We spent five days there and fell in love with those 51 children," Smith said. "It was the best Christmas ever."

Coming Up

* The Foundation Fighting Blindness presents the first "Blind Man's Bluff" Cocktail Party and Silent Auction on Thursday at the Reata Restaurant in Beverly Hills. Tickets are $55. Call (310) 445-8863.

* John Lithgow, Jane Curtin and Jeff Goldblum will be special guests as UCLA Library celebrates half a century of collecting Thursday on the Powell Library Rotunda on campus. For information, call (310) 206-8526.

* Sonance and the Associates of House Ear Institute will honor Tina and Rick Caruso at their annual benefit gala featuring Lou Rawls on Thursday at the Beverly Hilton Hotel. Tickets are $275. Call (213) 483-4431.

* On Thursday, Pasadena's Mayfield Senior School will be the setting for the fourth annual chamber music evening hosted by the Friends of Coleman to benefit the 55th Coleman Chamber Ensemble Competition to be held at Caltech on April 28. Tickets are $100. Call (626) 793-4191.

* The 50th annual Dinty Moore Dinner to benefit St. John of God Retirement & Care Center takes place Thursday at the Regent Beverly Wilshire Hotel. Tickets are $100. Call (323) 731-7141.

* The Footlighters' 62nd Cabaret Ball to benefit children's charities in Southern California will be held Friday at the Beverly Hilton Hotel. Tickets are $200. Call (310) 470-6334.

* On Friday, the Crown City Consort will present its inaugural concert to support AIDS Service Center's programs at 8 p.m. at Pasadena's All Saints Church. Tickets are $25. Call (626) 441-8495, Ext. 244.

* The American Red Cross of Santa Monica will honor Lifetime television's "Strong Medicine" actress Jane Seymour and local heroes at the seventh annual Red Cross Spirit Awards on Saturday at Santa Monica's Museum of Flying. Tickets are $150 per person. Call (310) 394-3773.

* The Auxiliary for Good Shepherd Center for Homeless Women will hold its 17th Annual Forget-Me-Not Awards benefit brunch/lunch at the Beverly Hilton Hotel on Sunday. Tickets are $65. Call (323) 933-0923.

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Patt Diroll's column is published Tuesdays. She can be reached at pattdiroll@earthlink.net.

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