Photo by Lee Salem Photography Mel Gibson and Denyce Graves attend opening night of the Los Angeles Opera production of "Duke Bluebeard's Castle"/"Gianni Schicchi."


    Grab your chaps and round up yer little doggies cuz after a summer absence, that big honcho Placido Domingo is a ridin’ into town.

    No dainty “Madame Butterflies” or frilly “La Traviatas” for this season’s Los Angeles Opera. No, ma’am. The opera is kicking off its 2002-2003 season with a slice of the Wild, Wild West.

    “The Girl of the Golden West” (written by Puccini as the more Italian-sounding “La Fanciulla del West”) is the tale of a bible-packing, gun-slinging saloon proprietress and a Gold Rush bandit who is redeemed by her love.

    Domingo first stepped onto the L.A. Opera stage in 1986 starring in “Otello” and now serves as its artistic director. While the opera remains true to its standard repertoire, it has been branching out into new directions. The 2001-2002 season featured favorites like “The Merry Widow” and “The Magic Flute” as well as “Turandot” and “Duke Bluebeard’s Castle.” In the months ahead, opera lovers can look forward to new productions of Verdi’s “Nabucco,” Rossini’s “The Barber of Seville,” Wagner’s “The Fying Duchman,” Mozart’s “Don Giovanni” and Offenbach’s “The Tales of Hoffmann.”

    The new season begins on Sept. 4. In the much-anticipated production, Domingo assumes the lead role of Dick Johnson, while Catherine Malfitano makes her debut as Minnie.

    Puccini caused a sensation with “The Girl of the Golden West” when he broke with traditional opera fare and re-created an American West of cowboys, Indians, prospectors and cattle rustlers.

    The opening night gala celebration that follows is sure to be one fine fandango with gobs o’ grits and plenty of firewater. I reckon a mighty good time will be had by all.


    Malibu’s Dennis Weaver, who has played many a cowpoke in his day, would look right at home on the opera’s western range, but the gunsmoker was starring in a production of his own.

    Weaver, stand-up guy Edward James Olmos and movie-meister Daniel Melnick were lauded for their efforts on behalf of their female counterparts in assisting women in the industry. This year’s Highlight Award ceremony took place at the Four Seasons Hotel.

    In addition to a lot of friends and family, the event drew some pretty high-profile players. Paramount Chairwoman Sherry Lansing had words of praise for Melnick, whom she views as a mentor. Valerie Harper presented the award to Weaver, calling him one of the “greatest human beings in the world.”


    If you’ve been missing all your old “Baywatch” pals, take heart-plans are underway for a splashy two-hour reunion. Producer David Hasselhoff hopes to be back in action along with those lovely ladies in skimpy red spandex. Carmen Electra and Donna D’Errico have reportedly taken the plunge and, if the price is right, beach bombshell Pamela Anderson could also be on board.