Hockney’s Own Night at the Opera

<i> Gindick is a Los Angeles writer. </i>

Art maven Marci Weisman kissed David Hockney. Horror master-art collector Vincent Price kissed David Hockney. People who didn’t know the rumpled, bespectacled Los Angeles-based British artist came up and shook his hand.

Sunday, the opening of the Los Angeles Music Center Opera’s production of “Tristan und Isolde” (in association with the Los Angeles Philharmonic) was, make no mistake, David Hockney’s night. He designed the sets, costumes and lighting. He inspired AT&T;'s sponsorship of the production. Indeed AT&T;, which pulled the $100,000-plus for the production out of its advertising budget, is plugging its involvement with ads in Time magazine and other national publications for “Tristan und Isolde und David.”

Festive Occasion

If the 4 1/2-hour opera at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion had the feel of a marathon, the AT&T-sponsored; party afterward in the Grand Hall was a proper revelry with Hockney, director Jonathan Miller (choosing a tweed jacket over black tie), conductor Zubin Mehta and Music Center Opera general director Peter Hemmings greeted like victorious football heroes.


AT&T;'s Los Angeles vice president William Clossey and New York-based VP in charge of corporate advertising Zack Manna took it all in like proud parents, standing aside with big grins, while the backstage plaudits were tossed at the names on the program, then seemingly disappearing into the crowd devouring drink and food upstairs.

People were hungry. Why be restrained? The opera started at 5 p.m., ended at 9:30, and everyone was ready to eat. Very cleverly, Pavilion Catering stayed away from anything heavy and formal. Instead, in a tribute to the three cultures represented in the opera, there were mini-buffets with pastries and hors d’oeuvres from France, corned beef and soda bread from Ireland and meat and vegetable pies from England. Also, appropriate music for each country.

Perhaps even more than the opening of the opera season earlier this fall, the first night of “Tristan und Isolde” was considered an event. The people you’d expect were there: performers William Johns, who played Tristan, and Jonathan Mack; Placido Domingo (who will be conducting “Macbeth,” which opens Friday) and his wife, Marta; Don Franzen, who besides being on the Music Center Opera board of directors, is Domingo’s attorney and married to Dale Wendal, who will be appearing as YumYum in the production of “The Mikado” next year; Esther and Tom Wachtell; Jack Metz, who consulted on the vocals; the Mark Taper Forum’s Gordon Davidson.

Other Noteables


But also in the crowd, and certainly the most vocally exuberant about the evening, were people like British poet Sir Stephen Spender, actress Katherine Helmond, media personages Jim Giggins and Gary Franklin, and a heavy injection of art types like Joan Quinn (a gold crown in her fuchsia-streaked hair making her look like one of Wagner’s heroines), Don Bachardy, the County Museum of Art’s Stephany Barron and Richard and Dee Sherwood, Hockney’s New York representatives Andre Emmerich and Nathan Kolodner.

For brand-name glitterati, this was a quiet night. Glamour, yes, but conservatively so. Only a few festive red ties with tuxedos and one or two fedoras; lots of black dresses, both long and short with gold and silver glitter; minimal jewelry, but lots of furs.

Probably the name most whispered was also the most conspicuously incognito. Mikhail Baryshnikov, pale and slight in black jeans and an unmemorable sports jacket over shirt and dark tie, slipped in moments before curtain. He fidgeted through all three acts, then raced out just as the final curtain closed. He did not appear at the party. He had a date, a friend said.