Anyone with qualms about the future of great operatic vocalism couldn’t have been at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion on Tuesday. Yes, the music was mostly old-hat, a gathering of well-worn operatic arias — show-stoppers in their day, of course — from well-known masters. The performances were anything but; delivered by a gathering of world stars ranging in age from the astonishing sexagenarian Placido Domingo to the barely 30 Juan Diego Florez, the current supertenor heartthrob.
These annual “galas” — the painless mix of operatic chestnuts, a pop number or two, a nod to Domingo’s Hispanic heritage and, for the well-heeled, a lavish sitdown dinner in an adjacent tent — have become a valued adjunct to the L.A. Opera’s more “serious” ventures. Into this year’s mix: dazzling virtuosity from the fresh-voiced Florez, including a Donizetti bit with nine — count ’em! — high Cs; Renee Fleming producing, in a Dvorak aria, arguably the most beautiful sound in all operadom; a bit from rockdom’s Sting plus combo; and a final, everyone-on-stage, mass attack on “Carousel’s” classic weeper “You’ll Never Walk Alone.”
In among the singers some have been L.A. Opera “regulars” over the years: lustrous mezzo-soprano Denyce Graves, dramatic soprano Maria Guleghina, baritone Vladimir Chernov. Others — the aforementioned Fleming and Florez — are overdue.
A second distinguished roster of participants served to introduce the evening’s music — among them filmmakers William Friedkin and Garry Marshall and actors Salma Hayek and Sidney Poitier — dealing with variable success the matter of polyglot names and titles. Filmdom’s John Williams and Domingo shared the conducting chores, both manifesting reasonable sympathies toward the modest demands of the evening’s fare.
On Lisa Hashimoto’s simple set, nothing more than a series of low platforms overhung with movable small screens, Stanley M. Gardner’s action plan moved performers on and offstage with a refreshing lack of clutter. Most remarkable: over an intermissionless span of two hours-plus, nary a dull moment could be discerned.