Malibu Seen / By Kim Devore

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Steve Cohn Photography Opera Board Chairman Marc Stern and wife Eva join baritone Dalibor Jenis for an evening of memorable music.

RED HOT WHITE NIGHT

It was an opulent scene of old Russia as the Los Angeles Opera kicked off its 2011-12 season in grand style. L.A. Opera Board Chairman Mark Stern and his wife Eva were among the Malibu music lovers who took part in the grand “White Night” gala. Guests strolled the white carpet into the outdoor pavilion where they found a magical setting looking like a Russian winter wonderland. The space was filled with crystal chandeliers, white brocade, twinkling tree lights and elegant all-white arrangements of Casablanca lilies and orchids.

The festivities began with a Russian-themed cocktail party where guests sipped a bit of bubbly and imaginative vodka concoctions while servers made the rounds with shots of borscht, lamb meatballs and, of course, caviar.

Ladies dazzled on the fashion scene in sumptuous gowns of taffeta and silk accompanied by bold statement necklaces and even a few fur stoles to ward off the cold. The gents generally played it safe in classic tuxedos but there were a few fashion risk-takers who opted for colorful cummerbunds, eye-popping bow ties and ruffled shirts.

While the opera dinners usually start after the performance and can go on until the wee hours, this feast started before the production of Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin. The group got a bit of good-natured ribbing from General Director Placido Domingo. The famed tenor, like most Spaniards, is used to late-night dining. “I know you Angelenos are early birds,” he said. There were also words of thanks. “This is one of the highlights of my year. We celebrate this special day and ensure the future of the Los Angeles Opera.”

Marc Stern was also looking forward to a successful season. When asked about which opera might be his favorite, he responded, “I have five grandchildren and I love them all.”

The 300 gala guests tucked into “A taste of St. Petersburg” with salmon torte, roasted baby beets and a beef tenderloin of stroganoff.

For a little mood music, the band played everything from Russian favorites to American standards.

Next it was showtime and opera fans made their way into the Dorothy Chandler for an unforgettable performance of Tchaikovsky complete with lavish sets, angelic voices and impressive staging.

The fun didn’t end with the performance, though. The opera hosted a lavish after-party with hand passed hors d’oeuvres of Russian dark rye with grilled cheese bites and mini mugs of potato leek soup. Desserts, including sorbet-filled macaroons, were served atop a massive ice sculpture.

The guest list was as impressive as the food, with famous faces like Laurence Fishburne, Michael Eisner and Emmy Rossum in the crowd. All in all, it made for a starry night that no one would soon forget.