- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 23, 2002

Even a snowstorm couldn't keep Washington's opera lovers from Placido Domingo's ninth annual Operalia concert Saturday afternoon. More than 2,200 fans, a few in furry snow boots, packed the Kennedy Center's Concert Hall to hear the supertenor sing with six young winners of an international vocal competition held here in October.
It was a special treat for Washington, said event chairwoman Grace Bender, who pointed out that it is "usually impossible to get tickets to a Placido Domingo concert" no matter where he may be performing.
When the opera great took his bow, fans who had paid $35 to $150 for tickets erupted in "bravos." Because the event happened to fall on the maestro's 61st birthday, he also received a highly accomplished rendition of "Happy Birthday" from his fellow singers and the full orchestra behind him.
"That was the most beautiful afternoon I've ever spent in my life," opera lover Betsy Rae gushed at the post-concert cocktail reception. "After Placido sang, I said, 'Be still my beating heart.'"
Mr. Domingo, artistic director of both the Washington and Los Angeles operas, created Operalia (which is held in a different city each year) to showcase new talent, and he was gracious in pulling his proteges into the spotlight. All 30 years old or younger, the singers had won Operalia's finals competition three months earlier, and their prizes included a generous monetary award and the chance to perform onstage with their mentor.
Soprano Maya Dashuk from Russia was a glamorous presence in a bright-red strapless gown and with her blond hair piled high. She sang a solo from "I Pagliacci" and a passionate "Gia Nella Notte Densa" from "Otello" with Mr. Domingo.
American mezzo-soprano Jossie Perez said she was most nervous singing her solo, "De Espana Vengo" from "El Nino Judio" (which, like all the music in the concert, was chosen by Mr. Domingo). "It's very long," she said with a sigh, "and I didn't know the duet with Placido. I learned it two days ago."
The post-performance dinner was held on the Kennedy Center's Roof Terrace and underwritten by Rolex and General Dynamics. The tables were dressed in deep red cloths with massive centerpieces of red roses and orchids.
Among the 350 supporters dining on a delicate veal in morel sauce with roasted-tomato risotto were ambassadors from such opera-loving countries as France (Francois Bujon de l'Estang) and Spain (Javier Ruperez). Other opera lovers included philanthropist Alberto Vilar, Lucky Roosevelt, Ann Jordan, Ina Ginsburg, Alma Gildenhorn, Evelyn Nef, Nina and Philip Pillsbury, Jonathan Ledecky, Kay Kendall and Huda and Samia Farouki.
Christina Ianzito

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