L.A. Opera bows with terrif ‘Carmen’

GOOD MORNING: L.A. put on its finest look Tuesday night at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion for the record-breaking ($962,000) bow of the opera season with Bizet’s “Carmen,” starring Jennifer Larmore in the title role and Placido Domingo as Don Jose. The elite Los Angelenos came to applaud and approve — and that they did, with prolonged cheers at the finale. Then followed two celebrations: One party was held in the main hall, while a gala, for the hefty contributors, was on the plaza, where dining and dancing went on into the ayem despite the cool night (and no heaters!). The ever-gracious Domingo joined others in the cast as they exited the theater and into the parties, where L.A. Opera general director Peter Hemmings announced each one’s arrival to the again-applauding opera lovers. Domingo told me he loves singing here in L.A.; though there have been movie offers, he smilingly reminded how much time his operatic career requires, even though he limits his perfs to “Otello,” “La Traviata” and “Carmen.” As for future dates for the Three Tenors, (Domingo, Luciano Pavarotti and Jose Carreras) who sang at Dodger Stadium in 1994, he said there are plans for Japan and Greece. Their last, in Paris July 10, had a followup international TV audience of over 1.3 billion and PBS has aired it repeatedly in the U.S. … Hollywood opera lovers on hand for the preem included Candice Bergen and mother Frances, the Lalo Schifrins, Fran Drescher, Suzanne de Passe, the John Lithgows, Olivia Newton-John, David Schwimmer, Joe Mantegna, Yasmine Bleeth and Richard Grieco, Debbie Mazar, John Schlesinger, Patrick Stewart, Shirley and Jay Livingston. The Oscars’ fashion coordinator, Fred Hayman, and wife Betty hosted a table at the gala with guests including the music world’s Jack Elliott and wife Bobbi, Ginny Mancini with Jerry Oppenheimer, Neiman-Marcus’ John Martens and wife Bridget, the Peninsula Hotel’s Ali Kasikci and wife Donanne. As ladies departed the Grand Hall, they were given red roses or carnations and, at the entrance to the gala, Spanish fans. The hall itself was swathed in black mantilla lace and red satin. The night’s theme continued with Spanish music and a supper menu to match, from Sangria and gazpacho to flan. Rite Aid sponsored the opening celebration and gala; Jude & Leonard Green funded the “Carmen” production and Jude chaired the “Studio ‘Seville’ 54” Gala. Ole!

“WHAT — AM I HARD TO REACH?” asked Jay Leno when I informed him of the “Humpty Dumpty”-signed ad in Wednesday’s Daily Variety, pleading, “I need to be on your show.” The ad was from “American History X” director Tony Kaye. P.S. Kaye has not been booked on Leno’s show. Leno’s got enough material, he said, from what’s going on daily (hourly?) in Washington … “I haven’t done anything like this since Whoopi Goldberg,” says Raymond Katz. Back in April 1984, Katz says he and then partner Sandy Gallin intro’d Whoopi Goldberg to Hollywood via an invited showbiz audience. The results were immediate and exciting and Lucy Fisher asked if Katz-Gallin would have Whoopi repeat the act at Steven Spielberg’s projection room. After that performance, Spielberg invited Whoopi to be in “The Color Purple.” And, notes Katz, “That was the beginning of a star being born.” Now, Katz has the same feelings about April Winchell. His enthusiasm is shared by Lily Tomlin and Jane Wagner, and the trio will present Winchell’s one-woman show, “Sheila Sands, Live at the Roxy,” Oct. 13-15. “Sheila Sands” is the alter ego of Winchell, who’s the daughter of Paul Winchell … Add second generation: the Bill Habers’ son Mark directs his third pic, “Hyper Sleep,” a two-hour UPN-Wilshire Court pic shooting in Sydney with Jason London and Missy Crier costarring … Ernie Borgnine undergoes surgery on both knees next week. Before the surgery, Borgnine taped a commercial for BATT at BAP Studios, having wound three pix, “Abilene,” “Last Great Ride,” and “Mel” while postponing the surgery!

THE SHOWS MUST GO ON: When power failed Tuesday in Milburn, N.J., Deborah Gibson, Betty Buckley and the rest of the cast of “Gypsy” at the Paper Mill Playhouse continued to perform the show acoustically … Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast,” Wednesday, welcomed Toni Braxton in her B’way bow as “Belle,” in which she sings “A Change in Me,” written especially for her by Alan Menken and Tim Rice. Also joining the show is Meshach Taylor as “Lumiere,” making his B’way bow as well in the show now in its fifth year … Today at N.Y.’s Planet Hollywood, Martin Scorsese hosts a dinner/auction for the Film (Preservation) Foundation. Items include a walk-on in Scorsese’s next, “Bringing Out the Dead” starring Nicolas Cage … Candice Bergen presents the AFI Associates’ Platinum Circle Award to Debbie Reynolds, daughter Carrie Fisher and son Todd Sept. 17 at the BevWilshire … TV Guide’s 45th anni is toasted Sept. 15 at the Museum of TV & Radio (BevHills) with an exhibit of its most memorable covers — with their subjects also on hand: Bea Arthur, Ed Asner, Pat Boone, Sid Caesar, Barbara Eden, Dennis Franz, Shirley Jones, Angela Lansbury, Jerry Mathers, Donny Osmond, Suzanne Pleshette, Marlo Thomas, Adam West and Betty White.

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