Mining L.A. Opera Wealth: Los Angeles Opera has named as its new executive director Ian White-Thomson, former chairman and chief executive of U.S. Borax Inc., a mining company. A native of England with degrees in Latin, Greek and ancient history from Oxford, White-Thomson, 63, joined the board of L.A. Opera last year after his retirement from Borax, but has no previous professional experience running an opera company. He will report to L.A. Opera Board President Leonard I. Green, as does Placido Domingo, the company’s artistic director designate. Domingo and White-Thomson met for an hour on Saturday in Washington, D.C., their first extended talk. For the last nine years, White-Thomson has served on the board of KCET-TV, where he was chairman of the station’s strategic planning committee and currently serves as chairman of its compensation committee.
Displeased With ‘Aida’?: Fifteen minutes after the curtain went up on Sunday’s matinee preview performance of “Aida,” composer Elton John stormed out of New York’s Palace Theatre, reportedly displeased with incidental dance music supplementing songs he’d written for the musical with Tim Rice. John’s visit Sunday was his first attendance at the musical--which has its official New York opening on March 23--since its December tryout run in Chicago. “He was unhappy with the way two pieces of music he hadn’t written sounded, and decided to leave,” said a production source. “He calmed down later and said that he would be back next week.” John was unavailable for comment. But Peter Schneider, a co-producer of the Disney show, said, “Elton’s been a great partner but he’s a very emotional and quixotic man who’s been under a lot of pressure lately. He obviously didn’t like something we were doing, but we’ll work it out.” Though John has not been as involved as most composers are during a show’s development, he and Rice have come up with new material since “Aida’s” Chicago tryout, and the show is said to have been substantially improved since then.
Soprano Collapses: French soprano Sylvie Valayre, singing the title role in Puccini’s “Manon Lescaut” at the Orange County Performing Arts Center, collapsed onstage during Act 2 of the Saturday night performance. Valayre, who had been battling laryngitis for two weeks, was taken to a hospital and later released. Elena Filipova sang the rest of the performance--Act 2 was restarted from the beginning--and also sang the full role at the Sunday matinee, closing the four-performance run.
TV & MOVIES
‘Friends’ Cliffhanger: NBC expects negotiations regarding the renewal of “Friends,” TV’s top-rated comedy, to continue until near the absolute deadline, when the network announces next season’s prime-time schedule in May. “Most negotiations go down to the wire,” NBC Entertainment President Garth Ancier told reporters Monday. The show’s six stars are again negotiating in unison, with speculation that their payday--should they agree--could equal or surpass the $600,000 each per episode paid to “Seinfeld’s” supporting trio in its final season.
Kudos: TV writer-producers Marshall Herskovitz and Edward Zwick (“Once and Again,” “thirtysomething”) pick up the Anti-Defamation League’s Distinguished Entertainment Industry Award today for having developed “innovative television shows that have addressed critical societal issues.” . . . “Being John Malkovich” and “The Matrix” were named the best-edited comedy and dramatic films, respectively, at the American Cinema Editors’ Eddie Awards over the weekend. NBC’s “Frasier” and Fox’s “Ally McBeal,” meanwhile, took the TV comedy and drama honors, respectively. . . . In other weekend honors, the production designers of “Sleepy Hollow” garnered the Art Directors Guild’s top film award, while NBC’s “The West Wing” won the TV series honors.
Imax Grammy Concerts: Imax has announced plans for “All Access,” a large-format rock concert film set to premiere next February, coinciding with the 2001 Grammy Awards. Showcased on Imax’s eight-story-high screens and powerful sound systems will be performances by this year’s Grammy king, Carlos Santana, as well as his “Smooth” partner Rob Thomas, and other artists including Sting, Sheryl Crow, Moby, Kid Rock, Macy Gray and George Clinton. A number of performances were filmed at Los Angeles’ Grand Olympic Auditorium in the days surrounding last week’s Grammy Awards, and additional sequences with added performers will be filmed in the coming months.
Destination Palm Springs: Los Angeles galleries including Chac-Mool, Leslie Sacks, Remba and Stephen Cohen will take part in the first Palm Springs International Art Fair, March 15-19 at the Palm Springs Convention Center. Planned as an annual event, the fair will include more than 150 booths featuring galleries from throughout Europe and the Americas.
CBS’ JonBenet Ramsey docudrama, “Perfect Murder, Perfect Town,” won the three-way miniseries race Sunday, attracting about 18.8 million viewers, based on preliminary estimates. It surpassed the opening installments of ABC’s “The Beach Boys: An American Family” (17.7 million) and NBC’s “The 10th Kingdom.”. . . Composer Harvey Schmidt and librettist-lyricist Tom Jones will appear at the Laguna Playhouse, July 8-30, in “The Show Goes On,” a revue drawn from their lives and their shows, which include “The Fantasticks,” “110 in the Shade” and “I Do, I Do.” Three actor-singers will assist. The show premiered in New York in 1997; this will be the second production.