Pacific Symphony's home is Segerstrom Hall in Orange County Performing… (Los Angeles Times / LA Times…)
When the Orange County Performing Arts Center opened on Sept. 29, 1986, the festivities began with a congratulatory telegram from President Ronald Raisin -- as its reader, board member Timothy Strader, pronounced the sender's name before quickly correcting himself.
Then Leontyne Price sang "The Star-Spangled Banner." The evening's headliners, the Los Angeles Philharmonic conducted by Zubin Mehta, concluded with Beethoven's Ninth, supported in joy by the massed voices of the Pacific Chorale and the now-defunct Master Chorale of Orange County.
For The Record
Los Angeles Times Friday, October 14, 2011 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 4 News Desk 1 inches; 38 words Type of Material: Correction
Pacific Symphony: An article in the Sept. 25 Arts & Books section about the Segerstrom Center for the Arts' 25th anniversary said that the Pacific Symphony launched its annual American Composers Festival in 2003. It began in 2000.
For The Record
Los Angeles Times Sunday, October 16, 2011 Home Edition Sunday Calendar Part D Page 3 Calendar Desk 1 inches; 32 words Type of Material: Correction
Pacific Symphony: A Sept. 25 article about the Segerstrom Center for the Arts' 25th anniversary said that the Pacific Symphony launched its annual American Composers Festival in 2003. It began in 2000.
A quarter-century on, amid the sublimities and the slip-ups, the masterstrokes and the miscalculations, the center -- which this year was renamed the Segerstrom Center for the Arts -- remains unchallenged as the colossus of big-time performing arts in Orange County.
Its annual budgets have grown past $50 million a year, and the center has held true to its founding principle of doing it without taxpayer support.
The center celebrates its anniversary with free programming: Saturday and Sunday performances of an outdoor, interactive kids' show, "We Built This City," from Australia's Polyglot Theatre, and two Sunday concerts -- a 1 p.m. organ recital by Cameron Carpenter and a 5 p.m. outdoor rock show by Ozomatli.
Here are memories, brilliant, disappointing and quirky, that have sprouted these 25 years from a former lima bean field.
A diva's rocky road to stardom: In 1987, an unknown Renee Fleming sang in an all-Andrew Lloyd Webber program by the Master Chorale, providing, per the Times review, "stratospheric obbligatos on cue" during a medley drawn partly from "Jesus Christ Superstar," and "strong, secure vocalism" during Webber's "Requiem." In 1990, the still-unheralded singer was back -- wearing eyeglasses, for some reason -- as Donna Elvira in Opera Pacific's "Don Giovanni." The third time was the charm: In 2002, the "gifted and magnetic" soprano was now headlining a recital for Opera Pacific. By 2011, reviewed as "America's diva," she had come full circle, jetting in to help celebrate leading donor Henry Segerstrom's 88th birthday with a concert that included rock songs from her "Dark Hope" album.
Sondheim more boffo than Sir Andrew: "Into the Woods" played to more than 98% of capacity during a weeklong run in 1989, its box-office gross besting by $5,000 a record Lloyd Webber's "Cats" had set a year earlier. But "Cats" is the most frequent Broadway visitor -- eight engagements. In 1994, Lloyd Webber's "Phantom of the Opera" set the extended-run attendance record of 149,354 (94% of capacity for 53 shows). "The Lion King" drew 148,081 in 2005.
Who's got No-Doz? Coffee and cola were banned from the center's bars and refreshment carts for the first 10 years, for fear of what brown spills might do to the carpeting. A ban on red wine continued for a few additional years.
After the fall: With many refugees of the Vietnam War having settled in Orange County, 1995 saw premieres of two works commemorating the 20th anniversary of Saigon's fall. The Pacific Symphony commissioned Elliot Goldenthal's "Fire Water Paper: A Vietnam Oratorio," then recorded it at the center with the Pacific Chorale and the Ngan-Khoi Vietnamese Children's Chorus. Yo-Yo Ma did overdubs for the Sony Classical release. A Cal State Fullerton-based training orchestra affiliated with the Pacific Symphony premiered "1975," a symphonic suite by Khoa Le, who had fled communist forces and settled in Orange County.
The Man in Black does ancient Egypt: In 1988, Johnny Cash strode onto the stage of Segerstrom Hall, where his backdrop was the set for Opera Pacific's production of "Aida," then in mid-
run. His greeting to the audience: "As you probably know after three songs, this is not 'Aida.' "
Rock 'n' roll is (finally) here to stay: Economics, an overcrowded schedule and lack of interest by the center conspired to drastically limit performers of the rock era during its first 20 years. That changed with the 2006 opening of the new wing, where Sheryl Crow was the first headliner in the 500-seat Samueli Theater. Cash, Ray Charles, k.d. lang and Art Garfunkel and James Taylor as guest soloists with the Pacific Symphony were among the few before her.
Esa-Pekka's high school days: When Esa-Pekka Salonen made his center debut in 1992, conducting the Los Angeles Philharmonic, he was already an O.C. veteran, having led the Phil at Santa Ana High School Auditorium in December 1985.
Overenthusiasm in the appreciation of music is no vice. Early on, some observers scoffed at the inexperienced audiences' tendency to applaud between symphonic movements. But Keith Clark, the Pacific Symphony's founding music director until his 1988 ouster, saw no problem. "I'm glad people are clapping in the wrong places because