The Valley Line: Opera season opens

Blistering heat, lightning, thunder, wind, rain and towering cloud formations that were exploding over the mountaintops. Last week's weather pattern was like a crazy mixed-up grab bag.

Local TV weather newscasters got to add some zing to their reports as this unusual weather action caught everyone off guard. At least they had an opportunity to flip through their files to come up with rarely used graphics to show us folks. Yep, the record-setting high temps in L.A. were even reported in England where my son and his family live.

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Fortunately, just before Mother Nature decided to take a walk on the wild side, the Los Angeles Opera presented its own genre of drama with the opening of its 25th season first with the world premiere of composer/librettist Daniel Catan's "Il Postino" and three days later with Mozart's, "The Marriage of Figaro."

Placido Domingo sang the title role of the Chilean poet Pablo Neruda on opening night of "Il Postino." He showed his versatility by conducting the orchestra in "The Marriage of Figaro" on Sunday afternoon.

There is nothing quite as spectacular as the opera's season opening night at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion. The Chandler's mid-century grandeur was an elegant backdrop as the audience began gathering in the foyer before curtain time. White-jacketed waiters expertly threaded their way through the crowd as they served Champagne from silver trays.

Opera-goers who were planning on attending the post performance gala were formally dressed — men in tuxedos and women resplendent in their beautiful gowns and glittering jewels.

"Il Postino" was based on the 1994 Oscar-nominated film of the same name. Expertly crafted by Catan, the music was sensuously lyrical, reminding me of Puccini's masterpieces.

"Postino" is already booked for presentations by theatres in Paris and Vienna that are co-producing this work.

In its introduction to the world, "Il Postino," underwritten by Milena and Milan Panic, was a magnificent success. At the close of the opera, the audience asked for curtain call after curtain call. With the last bow to the audience the singers set the stage for the celebrity-studded party that was held in the plaza in front of the theater..

The plaza was transformed into an Italian port village for the post "Postino" party. At the plaza entrance were moored boats, fishing nets and floats which set the mood for a joyful evening ahead. The ambience was just right for a fun party where guests dined on eggplant parmigiani for a starter, wood-fried filet of John Dory from Italy with porcini risotto and broccolini. A coconut panna cotta was served for dessert.

The Henry Wine Group provided the 'Graham Beck Brut' champagne, the 2006 Laetitia 'La Colline' pinot noir and the 2009 Laetitia 'Estate' chardonnay for sipping.

Carol and Henry Warner underwrote the production of "The Marriage of Figaro." Carol is president of the opera board and Henry is vice chair.

Alicia Garcia and Ed Clark, founders of Hispanics for Los Angeles Opera, were in attendance on opening night. They were thanked in the opera program for their special commissioning support of Daniel Catan in the writing of "Il Postino."

Even though I didn't see them in crowd that evening, I'm sure La Cañadans Mindy and Gene Stein would not miss this opera, which runs through Oct. 16. Gene is a managing director of the opera board of directors.

An especially notable event at the party came when Eva and Marc Stern were called to the podium and it was announced that the Pavilion's second floor grand hall was going to be named in their honor. The Sterns, who recently made a significant gift to the Music Center, were also honored for their many contributions to the Music Center and Los Angeles Opera over the past decade. Marc is chairman and chief executive officer for the opera's board of directors.

After dining, guests gravitated towards the dance floor where the music played on into the early morning. The evening was bellisima!

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