Times Staff Writer

Luciano Pavarotti will sing a benefit performance for Opera Pacific at the Orange County Performing Arts Center in 1988, the opera company announced Tuesday.

The Jan. 4 appearance, one of the tenor's rare Southern California concerts in an indoor concert hall, will mark the start of the 1987-1988 Opera Pacific season. It consists of two operas, "Aida" and "Die Fledermaus," and one musical, "Kismet."

Casting and production teams in most cases remain unannounced, except for "Aida," whose roster will include soprano Leona Mitchell in the title role and Vyacheslav Polozov, a tenor who defected from the Soviet Union in 1986, singing the role of Radames. The one new production will be "Die Fledermaus," which Opera Pacific general director David DiChiera said will be cast internationally with sets perhaps built in Southern California.

Overall, the company's second season closely mirrors the first in its general marketing strategy, with a mix of opera and popular entertainment. The 1986-1987 season consisted of two operas, "La Boheme" and "Porgy and Bess," and the musical "West Side Story."

Like last season, DiChiera said, this one represents a search for wide box office appeal for the year-old company, which lacks strong financial backing. He also hopes it will bring back first-season subscribers, whose loyalty to the company is essential to its growth.

"I'm trying to confirm the image that Opera Pacific will represent a gamut of musical theater, operetta and grand opera," DiChiera said. "Probably next year we will expand the season. My strategy is that this year we will consolidate our subscription base (which he gave as 16,000) and develop our donor base."

With a top ticket price of $500 and a bottom price undetermined, DiChiera hopes that the Pavarotti concert will raise $100,000 for the company. Pavarotti's repertoire for the concert was not available, but, DiChiera said, the program would be with a full orchestra largely drawn from the Pacific Symphony.

Since a 1979 performance at the Pasadena Civic Auditorium, Pavarotti's several Southern California appearances have been at the Hollywood Bowl and the San Diego Sports Arena.

All Opera Pacific performances in the 1987-88 season will be at the Performing Arts Center.

Verdi's "Aida," to be sung in Italian with English surtitles, will run for four performances, Jan. 16-26, 1988. The sets are by Wolfram Skalicki. Additional casting has mezzo-soprano Dolora Zajic as Amneris and Andrew Smith as Amonasro.

"Kismet," by Robert Wright and George Forrest, with sets from a Canadian Opera Company production staged in Toronto last year, will run from Feb. 5-21. Eleven of those performances will be sold on a single ticket basis.

Johann Strauss' "Die Fledermaus," sung in English, will run from Feb. 26-March 6.

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