Malibu Seen

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Oscar nominee Julie Christie is spotted at LAO's after party with lighting designer Simon Corder. Photo by Lee Salem Photography

MOOR TO LOVE

Opera lovers who like their productions big, bold and beautiful got their fill as they hit the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion for opening night performance of Verdi’s “Othello.” Celebrity culture vultures like Michael and Pat York joined the black tie crowd as the orchestra was tuning up. “We’ve been doing a lot of traveling,” Pat told Malibu Seen, “but we wouldn’t miss this.”

Basic black was the primary fashion statement for the evening with lots of sparkly sequined frocks, soft velvet jackets and elaborately beaded gowns. It was a perfect backdrop for Mrs. Gene Kelly who arrived in a show-stopping cranberry chiffon number festooned with ostrich feathers.

Before taking the stage Music Director James Conlon instructed everyone to “enjoy the evening and have a good cry.” For opera lovers, the bard’s tragic tale remains an all time favorite. “It’s not easy to transform Shakespeare into opera,” Conlon explained. “The stronger the text and poetry, the more it resists being put into music form, but that’s Verdi. He’s the greatest genius of Italian music and this is his greatest work. It has appeal for people who don’t even like Italian opera.”

Among the evening’s many pleasant surprises was the last minute addition of Elena Evseeva. The Metropolitan Opera soprano made an unscheduled LAO debut as Desdemona. Elena agreed to step in when Cristina Gallardo-Domas came down with a severe case of strep throat. She sang beautifully after dashing in from New York and going on cold that very day. Ian Story delivered a powerful performance as Othello while Mark Delvan played the villainous Iago. Following the lavish production, opera fans settled in for a late night supper of Greek treats and Napa Valley wines.

The season wraps up in May with a double dose of Puccini. Two favorites are on tap as Tosca and La Rondine return to the stage, but that’s just a taste of what’s to come. Music Director Conlon, General Director Placido Domingo and Malibu’s Marc Stern recently announced one of the most ambitious seasons in the company’s 21-year history.

LAO will feature seven new productions, the US premiere of a new work commissioned by the company as well as the much-anticipated launch of the Ring Cycle. Expect a big buzz when some famous faces step into the director’s chair including filmmakers William Friedkin, David Cronenberg and even “Annie Hall’s” comic genius Woody Allen. La-di-da, la-di-da, la la!

The 2008-2009 season kicks off Sept. 6.