Malibu Seen: Don Juan Dazzles the Music Center

Ramón Vargas in the title role of LA Opera’s 2018 production of “Don Carlo.”

Construction outside didn’t stop Malibu Opera lovers like Marc and Eva Stern from attending the Los Angeles Opera’s “On Stage Gala” evening. 

The Dorothy Chandler Pavilion was all dressed in gold brocade and miles of blood red roses and orchids underneath a canopy of the Pavilion’s vintage chandeliers. 

Servers made the rounds with bubbly and tasty Laetitia wines as well as canapés consisting of fresh fig and goat cheese tarts, lobster empanadas and fresh deep-fried shrimp. 

As for red carpet fashion, black is back. In honor of “Don Carlo” and its storyline of the inquisition, the gala was a sea of noir. In my colorful Moroccan-mirrored tunic, I apparently didn’t get the style memo—but with my deep red Fortuny wrap, at least I got the mood right. Some partners went all out in matching black and white tuxes—the only difference was, one was wearing to-die-for rhinestone dress flats while his companion wore black and white spats. There was plenty of Prada, Chanel and Missoni embellished with sequins, velvet and fur wraps, all in black. 

The “On Stage Gala” is a special evening that celebrates the opera’s new season. It’s a splashy spectacular; a treat for the eyes and all the senses. Instead of sitting in the audience, you get a special sneak peek at the “Don Carlo” stage where you will be seated for dinner. You feel like you’re in an environment that would make Count Dracula feel right at home. 

The setting was surreal, outfitted with dozens of blood red chandeliers, dramatic red and black lighting, and sky-high candelabras with four-foot garlands of deep red roses. A jazz combo played favorites like “The Way You Look Tonight.”

Chairman Marc Stern delivered the opening remarks and welcome. He had words of praise for Malibu’s Eli and Edythe Broad’s General Director Placido Domingo, saying, “He has sung in 150 roles. He is committed to making our great city the best it can be.”

Also gratefully acknowledged was resident conductor Grant Gershon, who has delivered so many memorable performances, as well as president and CEO Christopher Koelsch. Stern said this extraordinary team “makes the whole thing tick.”

He concluded by saying, “And now, I’m hungry. Let’s eat.”

And dig in they did, on butternut squash Agnolotti with asparagus tips and English peas and evening-appropriate Cape Grim Tenderloin of Beef. PD gave his blessing and thanks, marking a special professional anniversary for him. 

The evening hit a high note with a performance by Sondra Radvanovsky, followed by dessert and dancing and closing remarks by the CEO. 

After covering the LAO for 23 years, I have enjoyed watching it become a world-class company. 

The evening was perhaps best summed up by Malibu’s Marc Stern, saying, “It’s great to see you here on stage because without your love and support, we wouldn’t be here. I think of the major opera companies, we have the opportunity to make opera accessible to everybody.” The next day, the opera opened with a lavish and spectacular performance of “Don Carlo” and a wonderful new season to come.