The ongoing 50th anniversary celebration of South Coast Plaza reached its crescendo with the recent performance of the Mariinsky Theatre Orchestra in concert with maestro Valery Gergiev held in the Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall.
Presented to the Orange County audience and an international roster of stellar guests by the evening’s glamorous hostess Elizabeth Segerstrom — widow of the late Henry Segerstrom — the concert and post event dinner was billed as “An Evening of Art, Excellence + Friendship.”
It was all part of the Elizabeth and Henry Segerstrom Select Series in support of very special musical performances at Segerstrom Center For The Arts.
The performance by the Mariinsky Theatre Orchestra was in fact a return engagement for the world renowned ensemble.
In 2006, at the opening of the concert hall in Costa Mesa, Elizabeth and Henry Segerstrom welcomed the orchestra for a three-week festival in honor of the completion of the landmark concert venue.
The Mariinsky presentation of Richard Wagner’s “Der Ring des Nibelungen” was the first time the full work had been performed in Southern California.
For the return engagement a decade later in honor of South Coast Plaza’s 50th anniversary year, the audience experienced Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No. 3 with pianist Denis Matsuev and conducted by Gergiev.
The sold-out concert hall was also enthralled by a selection of Richard Strauss’ “Don Juan.”
The Monday night event called for black tie.
As the crowd arrived at the Center, they walked a shimmering black carpet lined with Cartier pages in their signature red uniforms and pill box hats.
Floral designer White Lilac dressed the entrance to the concert hall in a profusion of white on white blooms with special emphasis on magnificent cascading Phalaetiopsis orchids. It was breathtaking.
Perhaps even more glamorous than the orchids were the patrons. The evening was nothing less than a return to the elegance and sophistication of the Reagan years.
Couture dressing was the demand of the night for women. The gents were equally fashionable.
At the invitation of Elizabeth Segerstrom — resplendent in a deep plum three-tier bustier gown with floral pattern beading and green velvet trim by Marchesa — concert and dinner guests included well known guests from Hollywood, Washington, fashion, business, art and royal establishment circles.
Placido Domingo, in from his L.A. base to support friend Valery Gergiev, Kevin McKenzie, artistic director of American Ballet Theatre in from New York, internationally celebrated artist Bill Viola and architect Frank Gehry joined noted actors Helen Mirren, Taylor Hackford and Ralph Fiennes.
Iconic fashion designer Mary McFadden was spotted in the crowd with Christopher Forbes, vice chairman of Forbes, and Ida Simonsen, president of Stella McCartney America, Inc.
The celebrity crowd also included socialite Lynn Wyatt, a major underwriter/sponsor of the concert, as well as Anton and Jennifer Segerstrom who joined Elizabeth Segerstrom as underwriters and hosts, welcoming the international crowd.
World-wide publishers of very fine books Prosper and Martine Assouline greeted royal guests HRH Princess Michael of Kent and HSH Prince Hugo Verland Windisch-Graetz joining HSH Prince Charles Windisch-Graetz.
Some 160 invited attendees remained for a late evening Champagne dinner created in the Concert Hall’s Box Terrace Lobby.
Cartier provided its Cuvee Brut to set the Monday evening mood. A fabulous menu was prepared by chef Greg Stillman of the Patina Restaurant Group, who incorporated a bounty of seasonal California vegetables and fruits such as beets and sweet potatoes, mushrooms and figs.
Very supportive O.C. patrons in the late-night dinner crowd included Marta Bathal, Elizabeth An, Bette and Wylie Aiken, Dee and Larry Higby, Bette and SL Huang, Britt and Robert Meyer, Susan and Henry Samueli and Margo and Paul Folino.
Also front and center for the elegant evening on the coast were Deborah and Larry Bridges, Kimberly and Robert Bernatz, Lynn and Jim Doti, Joann Leatherby and Greg Bates, John Magnum, Ethan Morgan, Donna Kendall and Ruth Ann Moriarty.
As the dinner hour crept toward midnight, pianist Denis Matsuev joined the affair and switched from classical to jazz, entertaining guests with renditions of Duke Ellington’s “Take the A Train.”
The Pacific Chorale added to the magic delivering a haunting performance of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” and more.
Award-winning actor Ralph Fiennes addressed the dining assemblage commenting: “Perhaps of all arts, music is the one that can sidestep language. Music reaches straight to the soul, putting borders and politics and national differences out of focus.”
“Music, I believe, is the great healer,” Fiennes said. “It is the great unifier.”
B.W. COOK is editor of the Bay Window, the official publication of the Balboa Bay Club in Newport Beach.