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Arts Center Anniversary Concert Is Music to the Ears

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Forming lines for a free glass of bubbly, enthusiastic patrons clad in tuxedos and sequins crowded into the Orange County Performing Arts Center Saturday evening before a gala concert celebrating the Center’s fifth anniversary.

“I think (the Center) put Orange County on the map, as far as culture is concerned across the country,” said Eileen Dinwiddie, who has lived in Costa Mesa for more than 35 years and watched the Center spring up where a lima bean field was once rooted.

“It’s great to know Orange County values fine arts,” said 16-year-old Margaret Lee of Irvine.

The champagne reception and concert, followed by a $250-per-plate benefit supper, together made up the penultimate of five anniversary events. The celebration continues through today with a daylong birthday party with live entertainment, behind-the-scenes tours of the $73-million facility and cake for 10,000.

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For Saturday’s concert, all five local music groups that call the Center home shared the 3,000-seat Segerstrom Hall for the first time. On stage were the Pacific Symphony, Opera Pacific, the Orange County Philharmonic Society, the Master Chorale of Orange County and the Pacific Chorale. A Center spokesman said about 2,500 people bought tickets to the concert.

Also on the program were guest artists James Galway, who helped make popular the classical flute, soprano Ealynn Voss, mezzo-soprano Gail Dubinbaum, baritone Pablo Elvira, violinist Angel Liu and conductor Anton Coppola.

David Kenny of Newport Beach dubbed the evening “a very important cultural event,” praising the Center’s rapid growth. He said he’d like to see the institution offer more diverse programming, however, suggesting a night of rap music, for starters.

“I think that would be an interesting, bold move,” said Kenny, an advertising account executive. “It would advance the cause against racism 100 million years because there are some very powerful, influential people in Orange County.”

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The Center was the first major regional performing arts facility built exclusively with private money. Segerstrom Hall was named for the Segerstrom family. The family and its development company have donated about $13 million in land and cash to the facility. Henry T. Segerstrom was the Center’s first board chairman.

Since it opened five years ago, the facility has hosted such internationally known stars as dancer Rudolf Nureyev, opera singer Luciano Pavarotti and violinist Isaac Stern, and such groups as the Soviet Union’s Kirov Ballet and the New York City Ballet.

Sunday’s party, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., is free, but all 9,000 passes have been given away. Others interested in attending may do so on a “stand-by” basis and are not guaranteed admission, a Center spokesman said, although there will likely be room for more. Net proceeds from all anniversary activities are to benefit the Center and the five regional music groups.

Just before the concert began, Costa Mesa Mayor Mary Hornbuckle said it was hard to believe the Center had been operating for five years.

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“The time has gone by so quickly, and yet it seems as if the Center’s been here forever,” Hornbuckle said. “It has become a big part of Orange County cultural life.”


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