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Benefit goes back in time

February 02, 2003|Ann Conway | Times Staff Writer

Is L.A. ready for Nicolas Cage, conductor?

With a silent auction bid of $4,000, the Academy Award-winning actor won the chance to conduct the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra at two of its season performances later this year. Cage was among nearly 400 guests attending the orchestra's "A Baroque Fantasy" at the Millennium Biltmore Hotel, a benefit raising $250,000 for its musical education programs for children. "We're thrilled by his interest in the orchestra -- Nicolas Cage is a delightful person with a serious interest in classical music," said orchestra music director Jeffrey Kahane.

Greeted by costumed attendants and heralded by fanfares played by orchestra trumpeters, guests swept into the court of young Prince Leopold of Cothen, a patron of the most famous composer of the Baroque era -- Johann Sebastian Bach. "I wanted to create a magical environment that would make people feel they had stepped back in time, that they were in the 18th century era of a German court where Bach was presenting his music for the first time," said gala chairwoman Joyce Fienberg.

No sooner were guests formally announced than they were escorted into the Tiffany Room for a champagne reception with costumed ladies and noblemen of the court, a harp serenade and an exhibition of the minuet. An orchestra concert featuring soloists Hilary Hahn on violin and Allan Vogel on oboe followed in the Crystal Ballroom, where guests sat theater-style, enjoying Bach's Violin Concerto No. 1 in A Minor and Concerto for Violin and Oboe in C Minor. Then it was on to the Emerald Room for the 90-minute silent auction and cocktail reception. Guests returned to the ballroom -- transformed into an opulent dining salon -- for a late supper of pheasant pate, roast lamb, apple strudel and fine wines.

The partygoers seemed to enjoy all of the promenading at the Jan. 25 affair. "It gives us a chance to move around," said one trooper. "At most galas, you're stuck in one place."

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