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South Coast Plaza turns palatial for Pacific Symphony Chinese New Year dinner

It was a fairy-tale feast fit for Princess Turandot herself – succulent Peking duck breast and Misoyaki butterfish, all washed down with Heidsieck brut reserve Champagne.

Staged under the glittering stained-glass dome of South Coast Plaza, the formal dinner for 150 guests celebrating the Chinese New Year was followed by the Pacific Symphony’s opening night semi-staged production of Puccini’s lush masterpiece “Turandot” – an epic tale of a bloodthirsty ice princess who ultimately finds love – at the Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall.

Arriving guests swept into a palatial area cocooned in pale gold drapery, hung with Chinese red lanterns and centered with an 18-foot-tall money tree glittering with gold coins, symbolizing prosperity. Tables skirted in gold were crowned by colorful art-glass sculptures from Liuli, each flanked with eye-popping florals featuring cherry blossoms, scarlet roses, pink peonies, yellow orchids and red parrot tulips. And lest anyone forget it was the Year of the Monkey, bigger-than-life monkey sculptures kept watch over the elegantly dressed crowd as they dined, then enjoyed a concert by pianist Rueibin Chen, dulcimer artist Lily Yuan and violinist Navid Kandelousi.

Welcoming guests was Pick Up Stix founder Charlie Zhang, co-chair of the gala, with his wife, Ling Zhang. “Happy new year!” proclaimed Charlie Zhang in English, then Chinese. “I am so proud and humble to be on the board of the Pacific Symphony. I strongly believe in bringing our cultures together – from East to West to oneness!”

Observed symphony music director Carl St.Clair: “What an amazing transformation has taken place in this space. I want to thank South Coast Plaza and Charlie and Ling for making this happen for us. We are all joining hands and hearts in celebration of the Chinese New Year and the wonders of the music we all enjoy. Music and the arts have been the signature of civilizations through the ages.”

Proceeds of $60,000 will be used for symphony education and artistic programs.


Arts Backstory
The Pacific Symphony’s semi-staged presentation of Puccini’s “Turandot” marks the fifth anniversary of its Symphonic Voices opera-vocal initiative, founded to return opera to Orange County after Opera Pacific failed in 2009. The symphony’s music director, Carl St.Clair, was the mastermind of the project, which launched during the 2011-12 season with Puccini’s “La Boheme.” The performance brings the orchestra out of the pit and onto the stage, making the composer’s scores center stage. Creative video design, world-class soloists and community partners such as Pacific Chorale combine to create an operatic weekend that has become central to OC’s performing arts culture. Planned for the 2016-17 season: Verdi’s “Aida.”

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