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Photographer Credits: Nicholas Koon

More than 250 guests came out to celebrate la dolce vita (the sweet life) at the Pacific Symphony’s “Festa di Firenze,” the Opening Night celebration which was filled with Italian delights and dazzling piano virtuosity. The lavish evening featured a breathtaking performance of Brahms’ Piano Concerto No. 2 by piano virtuoso Andre Watts and was a fitting tribute to the beginning of the 2012-13 Hal and Jeannette Segerstrom Family Foundation Classical series.

The black-tie affair was hosted by the Symphony’s board of directors and co-chaired for the second year by Ruth Ann and John Evans at The Westin South Coast Plaza. Thanks to the generous support of presenting sponsor South Coast Plaza and retail partner Tourbillon and Omega, the event netted approximately $180,000 in support of the Symphony’s artistic and education programs.

“We love Pacific Symphony,” says co-chair Ruth Ann Evans. “We had so much fun last year and it was such a success, that we couldn’t say no to co-chairing again! The theme for the evening is ‘Festa di Firenze,’ a festival night in old Florence. Florence is a city with some of the greatest art and sculpture in the world and is a place so many of us have visited. We love the flavors, the colors and the history of a beautiful Italian city, so it seemed a great way to get away for an evening of fine Italian food, music, friendship and even some opera arias to whet our appetites for the music of Puccini’s ‘Tosca’!”

The festivities begin with guests enjoying cocktails and appetizers, followed by a savory Italian dinner and performances highlighting music of the upcoming season including a rousing performance of Paganini’s Variations on One String on a Theme from “Moses” by Rossini played by Pacific Symphony Principal Cellist Timothy Landauer and pianist Hye-Young Kim.  To everyone’s delight, opera star Suzan Hanson, accompanied by Kim, then sang Vissi d’arte from Puccini’s “Tosca” and Vilja from Lehar’s “The Merry Widow.”

Pacific Symphony President John Forsyte greeted guests and Music Director Carl St. Clair expressed deep thanks to the Hal and Jeanette Segerstrom Family Foundation for their ninth year in supporting the Classical series.

The soiree continued as a fanfare of trumpeters led guests to the Renee and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall for the concert. An exclusive intermission reception was held in the Box Circle lobby where the evening’s artist sponsors, Ellie and Mike Gordon were warmly thanked by all.  After the concert, a post-performance party was held back at the Westin featuring a decadent gelato bar, champagne, dancing and even an appearance by Andre Watts himself.  The evening’s conclusion had guests agreeing that it was yet another memorable Opening Night for the Pacific Symphony.