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Press Release


Jean Oelrich
Director of Marketing & Communications
(714) 876-2380

Evening of socializing, gratitude and musical grandeur: Pacific Symphony's 2012-13 Opening Night Celebration, "Festa di Firenze," raises $180,000 for symphony programs

September 26, 2012

It truly was la dolce vita (the sweet life) for Pacific Symphony when more than 250 guests joined in for “Festa di Firenze” and celebrated Opening Night 2012 with all the passion and flavor of Italy! Taking place Thursday, Sept. 20, at the Westin South Coast Plaza, guests enjoyed an elaborate Italian dinner followed by a musical feast, intermission reception and after-party to kick off the 2012-13 Hal and Jeanette Segerstrom Family Foundation Classical series. At the center was reverred pianist André Watts, who gave a thrill-ride performance of Brahms’ Piano Concerto No. 2. Hosted by the Symphony’s board of directors and co-chaired by Ruth Ann and John Evans for the second year in a row, the Florence, Italy-themed event featured musical performances highlighting the season ahead, and guests enjoyed an ambience inspired by the Tuscan countryside—sunflowers, olive and terra cotta drapery and the aroma of fresh rosemary.

Thanks in part to presenting sponsor South Coast Plaza and retail partner Tourbillon and Omega, the event netted approximately $180,000 for the Symphony’s artistic and educational programs. For more information on the Symphony, please call (714) 755-5799 or visit

The festivities began at 5 p.m. at the Westin where guests were treated to a parade of Italian flavors including cocktails, a flat-bread pizza station, pistachio gorgonzola risotto cakes, and melon wrapped in prosciuttto. After an hour of socializing, everyone was ushered into the ballroom, where they were greeted by Symphony President John Forsyte, the event’s co-chairs and Music Director Carl St.Clair, who expressed deep thanks to the Hal and Jeanette Segerstrom Family Foundation for their ninth year supporting the Classical series. The Symphony’s principal cellist, Timothy Landauer, and pianist Hye-Young Kim performed Paganini’s Variations on One String on a Theme from “Moses” by Rossini. Then, opera-star Suzan Hanson, accompanied by Kim, sung Vissi d’arte from Puccini’s “Tosca” and Vilja from Lehar’s “The Merry Widow,” to everyone’s aural delight.

Guests enjoyed a scrumptious meal of butternut squash ravioli with brown butter sage sauce and Sole Florentine with lemon garlic vinaigrette, sauteed spinach, spaghetti squash with lemon and mint, risotto and rustic bread, topped off with a delicious tiramisu with whipped cream,vanilla sauce and berries. Buon appetito!

A fanfare of trumpeters led guests to the Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall, where they entered via a red carpet for the main event, the concert—“André Watts Plays Brahms”—beginning at 8 p.m. Maestro St.Clair and the orchestra opened the program with Johann Strauss, Jr.’s lively Overture to “Die Fledermaus,” which contrasted with the sophistication of Richard Strauss’ Suite from “Der Rosenkavalier,” packed with colorful operatic orchestration. For the finale, Watts took on the grand and Romantic Second Piano Concerto by Brahms, and was met by an exuberant standing ovation.

The party continued through intermisison in the upper level Box Circle lobby of the concert hall with a warm thank you to the evening’s artist sponsors Mike and Ellie Gordon, who spoke at the podium. After the concert, guests returned to the Westin’s Poolside Terrace Pavilion for a gelato bar of authentic Italian flavors: Panna Cotta, Gianduia, Amarena Cherry and Mango Sorbetto; as well as champagne, more dessert and dancing to the tunes of RamFunkshus, as well as a surprise visit by the star himself–André Watts.