At a gala celebration of South Coast Plaza’s 50th anniversary, Ralph Fiennes stepped up to the microphone to address the 150 invitation-only guests. Having just enjoyed a concert by the renowned Mariinsky Theatre Orchestra under the direction of Maestro Valery Gergiev, all were now seated for a four-course gourmet dinner.
“Perhaps of all arts, music is the one that can sidestep language,” said the two-time Academy Award nominee . “Music reaches straight to the soul, putting borders and political and national differences out of focus. Music, I believe, is the great healer. It’s the great unifier.”
Fiennes then spoke of the night’s theme, “Art, Excellence and Friendship,” which he said epitomized the life and work of the late Henry Segerstrom, the visionary behind the Costa Mesa shopping center, the Segerstrom Center for the Arts and the surrounding complex of art, hospitality and real estate.
A part of South Coast Plaza’s 50th anniversary year, the black-tie affair paid tribute to the many decades of support for the arts by the Segerstrom family. Both the concert, presented by the Philharmonic Society of Orange County, and dinner took place at the Renee & Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall at the Segerstrom Center for the Arts.
More than merely foie gras, a mélange of baby beets, loup de mer and a dessert trio, the dinner also featured a performance by classical pianist Denis Matsuev and the Pacific Chorale’s rendition of “Hallelujah” and “Let the River Run.”
South Coast Plaza and its co-managing partner Elizabeth Segerstrom couldn’t have brought together a much more diverse and impressive group, which included arts icons, business leaders and what Fiennes called a “legit Brit royal,” Princess Michael of Kent. Also in the mix were Oscar-winning actress Helen Mirren, director Taylor Hackford, opera legend Plácido Domingo, video artist Bill Viola, architects Thom Mayne and Frank Gehry, fashion designer Mary McFadden, publishers Martine and Prosper Assouline, Los Angeles County Museum of Art Director Michael Govan, Pacific Symphony Music Director Carl St. Clair, LVMH Chairman and Chief Executive Anish Melwani, Richemont North America President and Chief Executive Daniel Mawicke, Macy’s Executive Chair Terry Lundgren, Jennifer and Anton Segerstrom, and more.
“I was blessed with the fantastic opportunity to become a friend of Henry Segerstrom,” Gergiev said onstage at the program’s conclusion. “This concert was devoted to his life, a celebration of his life.” The maestro called the program choice, “Ein Heldenleben, Op. 4,” or “A Hero’s Life,” by Richard Strauss, “a total coincidence,” but added, that Segerstrom will be remembered as “a hero who lived here for many, many decades and did so much for Californians…”
In an earlier conversation, Elizabeth Segerstrom said of her late husband, “The first day we met, I saw he was a visionary, He was exceptional… and for him, the arts had to be at the heart of whatever he touched — in retail, in real estate, in everything, it was always the arts.”