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Press Release


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

Night in Florence and the decadent pleasures of an Italian feast, party and concert featuring André Watts highlight Pacific Symphony's 2012-13 Opening Night Celebration, "Festa di Firenze"

August 28, 2012

Pacific Symphony indulges guests in la dolce vita (the sweet life) at “Festa di Firenze,” a lavish Opening Night celebration of Italian delights and dazzling piano virtuosity, as the orchestra launches the 2012-13 Hal and Jeannette Segerstrom Family Foundation Classical series with “André Watts Plays Brahms.” Hosted by the Symphony’s board of directors and co-chaired by Ruth Ann and John Evans (the same couple who made last year’s Opening Night such a success), the black-tie affair takes place Thursday, Sept. 20, with proceeds benefiting the Symphony’s artistic and education programs. The festivities begin at 5 p.m. at The Westin South Coast Plaza, where guests enjoy cocktails and appetizers, followed by a savory Italian dinner and performances highlighting music of the upcoming season, including an opera selection from Puccini’s “Tosca.” The soiree continues through the concert to an exclusive intermission reception in the Box Circle lobby and after at a party featuring a decadent gelato bar, champagne and dancing.

It’s a night of endless enjoyment and at the center is one of classical music’s most revered pianists, André Watts, playing Brahms’ Romantic and intimately moving Piano Concerto No. 2, led by Music Director Carl St.Clair in the Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall, starting at 8 p.m.

The presenting sponsor for Opening Night is South Coast Plaza and Tourbillon is the retail partner. Single tickets for the event are $500, with tables available from $7,500 to $25,000. Concert tickets are sold separately ($25-$110). For more information, please contact the special events department at (714) 876-2364 or email at The last day to RSVP is Sept. 8. For more information about the concert or to purchase tickets for the concert only, call (714) 755-5799 or visit

“We love Pacific Symphony,” says co-chair Ruth Ann Evans. “We had so much fun last year and it was such a success, that we couldn’t say no to co-chairing again! The theme for the evening is ‘Festa di Firenze,’ a festival night in old Florence. Florence is a city with some of the greatest art and sculpture in the world and is a place so many of us have visited. We love the flavors, the colors and the history of a beautiful Italian city, so it seemed a great way to get away for an evening of fine Italian food, music, friendship and even some opera arias to whet our appetites for the music of Puccini’s ‘Tosca’!”

Guests begin arriving at The Westin at 5 p.m. to a parade of Italian flavor. An assortment of Italian appetizers includes a flat-bread pizza station, pistachio gorgonzola risotto cakes, bread soup and melon wrapped in prosciuttto. At 6 p.m., everyone is ushered into the ballroom decorated in elegant terra cotta and olive drapery, reminiscent of the olive orchards of Tuscany. As they are greeted by the Symphony’s president and music director, they enjoy a feast 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 declicious tiramisu with whipped cream and vanilla sauce. Buon appetito!

After dinner concludes, a procession of guests makes its way to the hall for the opening concert. The Symphony welcomes long—time friend—legendary piano virtuoso André Watts—performing Brahms’ tender, yet passionate and stormy second concerto. The program also includes the lightheartedness of Johann Strauss Jr.’s Overture to “Die Fledermaus,” which contrasts with the sophistication of Richard Strauss’ Suite from “Der Rosenkavalier,” packed with colorful operatic orchestration.

“André’s depth of knowledge and understanding of the works he performs reflect a level not often reached or experienced,” says Maestro St.Clair. “He’s an artist’s artist. This makes everyone around him a better musician and also a more discerning listener.”

“We are really looking forward to the opening concert with André Watts playing the gorgeous Brahms Piano Concerto!” says Evans. “We are also excited to hear the Symphony and the opera singers performing a selection from ‘Tosca,’ as well as the Mozart’s Requiem. This will be so perfect to start the season, which will be a glorious combination of symphony and chorus, with the much-honored Pacific Chorale.”

The party continues during intermission in the Box Circle lobby of the concert hall, as the Symphony honors artist sponsors Mike and Ellie Gordon and welcomes Tourbillon as the Box Circle sponsor. After the concert, guests are invited back to the Terrace Pavilion of The Westin, where the Symphony honors the Hal and Jeanette Segerstrom Family Foundation. Guests delight in a gelato bar of authentic Italian flavors: Panna Cotta, Gianduia, Amarena Cherry and Mango Sorbetto; as well as champagne, and they dance the night away to the tunes of RamFunkshus, playing dance music from the 1960s to today.