LA Opera 2012 Season Opening Night

Stana Katic, Anna Gunn, Christoph Waltz Help Set Fund-Raising Records at LA Opera’s 2012-2013 Season-Opening Night

 

At the Sept. 15 Season-Opening LA Opera Gala, after-party chair Stana Katic of TV’s “Castle” said she attends operas in cities throughout the world, naming “Madame Butterfly” in St. Petersburg, Russia, and “Tales of Hoffman” in Prague, Czech Republic, among them. Also seen regularly at the LA Opera here in Los Angeles, Katic said she was happy to lend her support to the gala.

“It’s a popular assumption that Los Angeles only has film and television,” she said. “We forget sometimes that Los Angeles offers traditional arts as well – the opera, ballet, art museums.”

Continuing, Katic added, “Opera speaks to the human experience. Opera enlightens and lifts.” (And if anyone is wondering, Katic is as beautiful, charming and articulate in person as she appears on screen.)

The record-setting heat also played a part in that night’s gala experience, as the day’s temperatures soared to 103 in downtown Los Angeles. En route to the Music Center, my car’s temperature gauge read 107 and while there was shade on the plaza, where the reception took place, opera patrons were expecting a hot time indeed.

Ironically, gala organizers had chosen a fire theme, naming the shindig, “Ignite!” and calling support categories “blaze,” “fire,” “flame,” “flare,” “ember,” “spark” and “flash.”

“We like to carry a theme through,” joked gala chair Jill Baldauf, “although we never meant to take it this far.”

After a champagne reception and early dinner, guests proceeded to the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion for Giuseppe’s Verdi’s “The Two Foscari,” starring Placido Domingo, in his 140th role. Domingo is also the opera’s general director.

In the near-capacity crowd were Christoph Waltz, Academy-Award winner for “Inglorious Basterds;” Anna Gunn, 2012 Emmy Award-nominated actress for “Breaking Bad;” MOCA director Jeffrey Deitch, LA Phil president Deborah Borda, Colburn School president Sel Kardan, LA County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky and fashion designer Sue Wong.

Over dinner, Gunn said she grew up living opposite the Santa Fe Opera House and recalled her first opera experience at age 9, when she and a group of girls saw an outdoor production of “The Magic Flute.”

“It really was magic,” Gunn said. “I’d never seen anything like it.”

Before the evening ended, the gala crowd returned to the plaza, where tables had been re-set with a nightclub ambiance for the “Aria” after-party with rock music, flaming centerpieces and a performance by fire twirlers. Aria is the opera’s younger support group for young professionals in their 20s, 30s and 40s.

Baldauf said this year’s gala attendance by Aria members had tripled.

While the gala tickets started at $2,500 each, packages for the opera and Aria party alone began at $225. Combined with patron support, Baldauf also noted that gala proceeds topped $1.5 million.

From onstage, Marc Stern – the opera’s board chair – welcomed the crowd before Domingo took the podium to welcome guests, especially the Aria crowd, the opera’s “new young people, who will one day be members of the board,” he said. Domingo then introduced Baldauf and Katic,  who took a moment to call Domingo “intoxicating.” Also called to the stage were conductor James Conlon, director Thaddaeus Strassberger and Domingo’s co-stars in the night’s opera, including the mesmerizing Marina Poplaskaya and Francesco Meli.

More in the crowd were production sponsor Milan Panic; supporter Barbara Augusta Teichert and opera patrons Marilyn Ziering and Howard Walter, Mary Hayley and Selim Zilkha, Claude and Alfred Mann, Carol and Warner Henry, Kathy and Frank Baxter, Edye and Eli Broad, Joan and John Hotchkis, Joyce and Kent Kresa, Lori and Michael Milken, Nancy and Barry Sanders, Lenore and Bernard Greenberg, and Carla and Fred Sands.

In addition to Katic and Baldauf, the committee also included honorary gala chair Mary Hayley and members Nancy Griffith Baxter, Linda Brittan, Hilary Clark, Hilary Crahan, Alison Crowell, Jennifer Diener, Mary Lloyd Estrin, Diane Gray, Leonore Greenberg, Carol Henry, Beth Karmin, Carla Sands, Lisa See, Joyce Sommer, Eva Stern, Catherine Tosetti, Rachel Weber and Diane Delpit Ziering.

To read more about the LA Opera Gala, click here to see my story in the LA Times Culture Monster section.  To read Mark Swed’s review for the LA Times, click here.

 

Top photo: LA Opera 2012 Season Opening Night with Stana Katic of TV’s “Castle” as chair of the LA Opera’s Aria after-party (Her stunning dress is by Toujouri and for an extra-glam touch, Katic paired two rings together: a pave-diamond band and a pave-diamond octagon ring, both by Renee Sheppard) photo: Society News LA

Second photo: From left, LA Opera 2012 Season Opening Night with Stana Katic of TV’s “Castle,” Christoph Waltz of “Inglorious Basterds” and Anna Gunn of TV’s “Breaking Bad” (photo: Todd Williamson/ Invision for the LA Opera/AP Images)

Third photo: LA Opera general director Placido Domingo and gala chair Jill Baldauf at the LA Opera 2012 Season Opening Night (photo: Todd Williamson/ Invision for the LA Opera/AP Images)

Fourth photo: Placido Domingo, still in costume at the LA Opera 2012 Season Opening Night with Stana Katic backtage after “The Two Foscari” (photo:  Todd Williamson/ Invision/ AP Images)

Fifth photo: Glamorous gowns ruled at the LA Opera 2012 Season Opening Night – here is the stunning model Brandise Danesewich wearing a jeweled and feathered design by Sue Wong (photo: Society News LA)

 

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LA Opera 2012 Season Opening Night with Stana Katic

Published Sept. 16, 2012 – Ellen Olivier, Society News LA