‘Samson’ opens opera season, Rosh Hashanah

GOOD MORNING and happy Jewish New Year, 5760. As the holiday of Rosh Hashanah begins tonight, “Samson et Dalila” began the L.A. Opera season Wednesday night. It is, of course, the story of the leader of the Hebrews, Samson (as played by Placido Domingo) and Gaza’s anti-Semitic Philistine temptress, Dalila (played by Denyce Graves), in Camille Saint-Saens’ operatic version of the biblical tale. Gaza, of course, remains in the news today … During opera intermission, first nighter Irwin Winkler told me he is taking his entire family to Sunday’s Rosh Hashanah services of the Temple Shalom for the Arts, which have been moved by Rabbi David Baron to the North Valley Jewish Center, the site of last month’s anti-Semitic attack, wounding five … The opera gala, chaired by Wendy Stark (Mrs. John) Morrissey, was a huge success, raising $920,000 for the Opera. The audience gave the cast one of the longest, loudest ovations after the final, temple-crumbling scene … Domingo, who will be artistic director starting next summer, told me he is looking forward to the job; as a starter he thinks he’ll direct another opera spectacle, “Aida.” At Domingo’s table at the post-performance party were his wife Martha and son Alvaro, the John Morrisseys, Faye Dunaway (who played Maria Callas in “Master Class”) and Angie Dickinson. Wendy Stark’s attempt to bring a greater Hollywood turnout to the Opera paid off: other attendees included Jack Nicholson and Lara Flynn Boyle, Kathy Bates, Harry Hamlin and Lisa Rinna, the Sidney Poitiers, Angela Bassett, Courtney Vance. Also Jacqueline Bisset, who will be seen as Mary, mother of Jesus in the CBS vidpic “Jesus” costarring Jeroen Krabbe, Armin Mueller-Stahl, David Ohara and Gary Oldman. Also there, hosting a table, Fred Hayman and wife Endo. He’s a new member of the L.A. Opera’s board of directors and is fashion coordinator of the Beverly Hills Millennium Block Party, Dec. 31 from noon to 5 p.m. in the BevHills “triangle” (Rodeo, Brighton, Canon and Beverly Dr.), with something for everyone (including food and drink) and in time to go home — or go out into the millennium night. Merv Griffin Prods. creates the BevHills bash.

BACK ON AUG. 5, YOU READ it here first that the Desert Inn’s “Rat Pack” was in legal hot water, even though Tina Sinatra admitted to me, “The guys are really good — but fair is fair.” The legal suit, filed by the Sinatra family’s Sheffield Enterprises in Las Vegas Federal Court (No. 99-11837), does not ask to shut down the show, nor is there any injunction. However, they are demanding “an accounting of profits for wrongful use of Frank Sinatra’s name, identity and persona.” Damages to be determined, of course. Attorney Mort Galane filed for the Sinatras’ Sheffield … $90,000 was raised for Hillary Clinton’s N.Y. Senatorial campaign at a party hosted by Marlo Thomas and Kathie Berlin at the penthouse apartment of Marlo and husband Phil Donahue Wednesday. Noting the Donahues’ fabulous penthouse apartment, Hillary said, “You may have heard I just bought a little house myself.” Guests included Sean Penn, expectant Molly Ringwald, Michael Bolton, Harry Belafonte, Blythe Danner, Al Franken, Tina Brown, ABC’s Pat Philly, etc. The cake was in the shape of New York state … Meanwhile in D.C., Bill Clinton announced his intent to nominate Sim Farar to be U.S. representative to the General Assembly of the U.N. L.A.’s Farar has been a staunch Clinton supporter and serves on the President’s Advisory Committee on the Arts to the Kennedy Center since 1994 … Wyclef Jean got the U.N.’s total general assembly to sing along with him at the NetAid launch party Wednesday. The charismatic Jean even had the international group waving their arms in unison with him!

NEIL SIMON AND ELAINE JOYCE will wed Saturday, after sundown, at a friend’s house. The wedding party will consist only of the bride’s and groom’s children. Sept. 21, Simon heads out on tour with his latest book, “The Play Goes On.” His new play “The Dinner Party” bows at the Mark Taper Dec. 12 … A record $3,081,272 was raised for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society at Thursday night’s “Dinner of Champions” at the Century Plaza Hotel, where 20th’s Bill Mechanic was honored and David Lander (Squiggy of “Laverne and Shirley”), who has MS, received a special salute. Steven Spielberg made the presentation to Mechanic, Penny Marshall to Lander. A comedy video on the life of Mechanic had Jason Alexander playing him in a “Let’s Make a Deal” scene with Monty Hall. The surprise entertainment starred Jon Bon Jovi and Mariah Carey; Byron Allen emceed. Tom Sherak chaired the event, promising to have everyone out of the hall by 10 p.m. … Regis Philbin makes his first Emmy appearance Sunday; he wings in just in time to be whisked backstage for a rehearsal before going on to kid cohost David Hyde Pierce with “Is that your final answer?” … Pierre Cossette’s exec producing the “Central Park in Blue” Sept. 14 rock concert, well as the grand reopening of Radio City Music Hall Oct. 4 for NBC with Sting and Rosie O’Donnell among the many stars; on Oct. 7, Cossette does Celine Dion’s CBS spec from RCMH with guestars Gloria Estefan, ‘N Sync, etc. Pierre’s also busy on the legit scene prepping “Sweet Deliverance” with Alexander Cohen as a B’way starrer with Fran Drescher, and readying the national tour of “The Civil War” for Jan.