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Toi toi toi! Pacific Symphony’s grand opera opening night celebrated Puccini’s “Turandot” and the Chinese New Year, raising more than $60,000 for the symphony’s programs
Orange County, Calif. — February 22, 2016
An abundance of red and gold lanterns hanging from the domed ceiling of South Coast Plaza’s Jewel Court spiraled down into Pacific Symphony’s colorful Opera Opening Night dinner, a joyful celebration of the Chinese New Year. Chaired by Charlie and Ling Zhang and presented by South Coast Plaza, the affair preceded the Symphony’s fifth semi-staged opera production, Puccini’s “Turandot,” on Thursday, Feb. 18. The Lunar New Year Exhibit, an 18-foot tall money tree, stood in the center, adorned with glittering gold coins, three sculpted monkeys and blooming flowers, symbolizing prosperity, rebirth and new growth. More than 150 guests, many whom were dressed in festive colors of red, yellow and orange, were treated to a decadent three-course repast with wine and musical performances by award-winning pianist Rueibin Chen, a Pacific Symphony Youth Ensembles quartet, and a duet between violinist Navid Kandelousi and Chinese Yángqin player Lily Yuan. The sold-out event raised more than $60,000 for the Symphony’s artistic and education programs.
After dinner, guests made their way to the Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall, where Music Director Carl St.Clair led the orchestra, soloists, Pacific Chorale and Southern California Children’s Chorus in bringing Puccini’s opera to life. Set in China, the vivid fairy tale of a vengeful princess whose icy heart thaws as she comes to know true love starred soprano Tamara Mancini as Turandot and Marc Heller as Calàf. The masterpiece is famous for its sweeping score filled with some of Puccini’s most inventive harmonies and powerful melodies; among them, the signature aria, “Nessun Dorma.” Stage director Eric Einhorn had many surprises in store, including unique video elements and magical bursts of confetti that shot over the audience in the final scene.
Upon arriving at the Opening Night dinner at 5:30 p.m., guests received a red envelope filled with three $2 bills, a New Year custom and one of the many symbols of luck and prosperity that carried through the night. They walked up a red carpet into a draped room to find four talented young women from the Pacific Symphony Youth Ensembles—Danielle Lui, violin; Elaine Huang, violin; Christine Lin, viola; and Emma Lee, cello—performing a selection of music. LIULI crystal sculptures by artist Loretta H. Yang centered the tablescapes and were surrounded by votive candles and floral arrangements of red roses, pink peonies, red parrot tulips, yellow orchids and pink cherry blossoms. Delicate candles hung from gilded eucalyptus trees, and fresh orange and tangerine trees lined the room.
Charlie Zhang greeted the guests and Symphony President John Forsyte introduced pianist Rueibin Chen, who performed “Colorful Clouds Chasing Moon” by noted Chinese composer Ren Guang and Scriabin’s Nocturne for the Left Hand, Op. 9, No. 2. During dessert, another “East Meets West” performance was given by Lily Yuang, a dear friend of Charlie and Ling Zhang, and violinist Navid Kandelousi. Together they played “Fisherman’s Song at Dusk” for violin and Chinese yángqin (zither), which Yuang described as a horizontal harp that is 1500 years old. She then switched to the piano to perform Chopin’s Nocturne in C-sharp Minor.
Guests dined on a Chinese-inspired menu catered by AnQi. The first-course trio included a tiato roll, ahi tuna taco and Wagyu beef asparagus roll. The main course was a duet of Peking duck breast and Misoyaki butterfish, garlic noodles and sautéed seasonal vegetables. Dessert was a flourless chocolate dome cake, blackberry sauce, hazelnut brittle and port reduction. The wines were Charles Heidsieck Brut Reserve, Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars Karia Chardonnay 2013 and Migration Russian River Pinot Noir 2013.
Guests left with a commemorative crystal monkey by LIULI, and made their way to the concert hall for the opera!
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