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Opera Buffs’ ‘Bravos’ Fill the Pavilion

Thomas Wachtell, president of the Music Center Opera Assn., had the floor--and the mike. Introducing the association’s executive director Peter Hemmings, who’s been on the job for nine months, Wachtell said firmly, “He’ll help put Los Angeles on the map in operatic circles.” The black-tie crowd in the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion’s Grand Hall applauded with enthusiasm--just as they did later when Hemmings reported that “next week we will announce plans for the 1986-87 (opera) season.”

Monday night it was obvious that opera is once again alive and well in Los Angeles. And that the hope for a local company (“All we need is money,” said opera buff Sol Rubin, a member of MCOA’s board of directors) will soon be realized. What Hemmings described as a “strange mix"--the Deutsche Oper of West Berlin’s opening night of “Tosca,” starring Placido Domingo (he’s the new music director for the MCOA), Teresa Zylis-Gara and Ingvar Wixell; the Los Angeles Master Chorale and the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra “as the pit orchestra"--had the opening-night crowd shouting “Bravo” and applauding long and hard. The exuberance carried over into the Grand Hall where the supper party was staged and the stylish Art Deco band played Cole Porter and other ‘30s and ‘40s tunes for dancing. (The band’s female violinist wears a ‘20s cloche and a bias-cut satin gown.)

The Berlin Opera’s general director Goetz Friedrich brought gifts, two teddy bears, one for Wachtell and one for Hemmings. Karan Armstrong, Friedrich’s American-born wife, who’ll sing in the opera company’s “Die Tote Stadt” tonight, did some heavy table-hopping. And Silvio Varvisa, “Tosca’s” conductor, nodded at all the toasts coming his way.

Mrs. Harry Wetzel and Mrs. Dennis Stanfill were the perfect co-chairs for an elegant party. Decor was Terry Stanfill’s area and, with the help of Milo Bixby, she managed it with flair. Tables were covered with claret (a pale mulberry) cloths; terra cotta pots in the shape of the top of Roman columns were filled with airy arrangements of roses (from the Stanfills’ garden), lilies and cosmos; and the tiny pottery pots in the shape of Roman heads were part of the evening’s loot (along with Neiman-Marcus’ contributions of Lagerfeld fragrances and chocolates from Morrow’s Nut House). The Stanton Averys along with Mr. and Mrs. Bernard A. Greenberg, Virginia and Simon Ramo, Dr. and Mrs. A. M. Zarem, the Stanfills, the Wetzels and the Sol Rubins were “special contributors” to the evening. The list of patrons included Dr. and Mrs. George Roberts, John and Joan Hotchkis, the Rams’ Georgia Frontiere, the Norman Lees, Mr. and Mrs. Fred W. O’Green.

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Placido Domingo joined the Wetzels for supper at their table. Except that, between acknowledging congratulations from fans and his table roaming, he hardly had a chance to finish his seafood ceviche and his Cornish game hen. There were plenty of Domingo friends in the Grand Hall, among them Mr. and Mrs. Howard Keel, Esther Williams, Venezuelan actress-singer Maria Conchita Alonso, who was with her manager Randy Phillips who also manages the career of Rod Stewart. In one of those fleeting moments when he was seated, Domingo said that his new position with MCOA will bring him to Los Angeles for two to three months each year.

Amidst the tout Los Angeles that filled the Grand Hall were Olive Behrendt with Roddy McDowall, Vari McKinley McCormac, Toni Zellerbach Haber with Chris Leason, Tim and Nancy Vreeland, Jack Lowrance, Max Eckert, actor Richard Dreyfuss and his wife, architect Bob Ray Offenhauser and his wife Kathy, Art and Lois Linkletter, Sue Cummings with Dr. Ellis Ring, Muriel and Abe Lipsey, the Andy Granatellis, the Charles Reeds, Marilyn and Glen McDaniel, Nancy and Sidney Petersen, Frances Bergen with architect Ted Grenzbach, Belle and Seymour Owens, Peter Paanakker with Eleanore Colt, Annette and Peter O’Malley, the Edward Carters (he’s MCOA chairman), California Atty. Gen. and Mrs. John Van de Kamp, Lois and Robert Erburu, Mr. and Mrs. Arpad Domyan, the Dow Carpenters, Gale Hayman with Igor Stalew, Nick and Felisa Vanoff, Supervisors Ed Edelman and Michael Antonovich, Wallis Annenberg, Gary Pudney, Keith and Bill Kieschnick, Museum of Contemporary Art director and Mrs. Richard Koshalek, British Consul General and Mrs. Donald Ballentyne, Patricia Kennedy, Dwight and Dona Kendall, the Fred Waingrows. And enough more to bring the evening’s body count up to 600.

There were some opera lovers who came to the Music Center Monday night just for the opera. Among those skipping the supper party were Giorgio’s Fred Hayman (“I have sandwiches in the car,” he said half jesting) with daughter Nicole, Betty Endo and Peter Jaram; Mrs. Rudi Fehr with daughter Kaja, a film editor; Mr. Blackwell and R. L. Spencer.

The officers and directors of the local branch of the National Assn. of Arab Americans host a banquet Saturday night at the Sheraton Premiere honoring Prince Sultan Bin Salman Bin Abdul Aziz, the first Arab astronaut. Prince Sultan, the 28-year-old grandson of the late King Abdul Aziz Al Saud, flew into space in June aboard the American space shuttle Discovery from where he supervised the launching of Arabsat, the second Arab satellite. Back home he is acting director of the advertising department of Saudi Arabian television. And during the Olympic Games in Los Angeles last year he acted as deputy director of the Saudi Arabian Olympic Information Committee.

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Honorary chairman of Saturday’s banquet is Roy A. Anderson, chairman and chief executive officer of the Lockheed Corp. Among those who’ve been invited are Mayor Tom Bradley, Col. Chuck Yeager, Northrop’s Tom Jones, Columbia Pictures’ Guy McElwaine, Litton Industries’ Fred O’Green and officials from NASA. During the evening two films will be shown, one about the flight of Discovery, the other on the work of the National Assn. of Arab Americans.

The sun and the dark clouds played hide-and-seek all day prompting Jayne and Henry Berger to vow, “Never again. Next year the party (Henry’s birthday) will be indoors.”

But in the end it all worked out beautifully. The clouds lingered overhead in the barbecue area of Casa Contenta, but the enthusiasm of the guests and outdoor heaters kept everyone cozy. And it wasn’t until at least 10 minutes after everyone had gathered back in the Copper Room for after-dinner drinks that it started raining.

“Whew!” said the birthday boy who less than half-an-hour before had blown out the candles on his ice cream cake. “It’s a miracle,” chimed Stu and Dee Cramer (ground breaking on their new home happens any day now) and Ricardo and Georgiana Montalban (they move into their new home in November).

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The evening turned almost balmy when the Bergers’ major-domo Derek and chef Kris began to set up the buffet--roast beef, chili, corn on the cob, salads, cheeses. And by the time the guests had climbed into their seats around the horseshoe-shaped, copper-topped table no one was mentioning the weather. Jimmy and Charlene Nederlander were talking about their upcoming plays (Claudette Colbert in “Aren’t We All,” opening at the Wilshire Theatre on Oct. 24, and a British musical in New York set to open in New York later) and Frances and Eric Skipsey about tennis (they’re going to Australia and New Zealand for some keen competitions). Richard Gully and Dallas’ Dottie Heyser had some choice bits of gossip. Jerry and Virginia Oppenheimer, back from their European jaunt, were with his son Mark Oppenheimer. And still more contributing to the lively chitchat--Frances Bergen, Marcia and Larry Israel, Florence and Robert (Bones) Hamilton (they’re celebrating his birthday in London), Mary and Brad Jones, Herbert and Juli Hutner, Jacques Camus, Betty and Kurt Niklas, Elsie and Frank Pollock, Beverly and Chase Morsey, Della Koenig with Robin Plunket, Bob and Midge Clark, Louise and John Good, Nancy and Tim Vreeland and ABC Vice President Gary Pudney.


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