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Orange County Performing Arts Center
POrange County Performing Arts Center

Orange County Performing Arts Center

The Orange County Performing Arts Center is a performing arts complex located in Costa Mesa, California, United States. The Center offers the world’s leading dance companies, Broadway shows, award-winning classical, jazz and cabaret artists, family entertainment, special events and year-round educational programs. It is also the artistic home to three resident companies: Pacific Symphony, the Philharmonic Society of Orange County and Pacific Chorale.

The Center encompasses the 3,000-seat opera house style Segerstrom Hall, the 2,000-seat Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall, the 500-seat multi-functional Samueli Theater, 250-seat Founders Hall and 46,000-square-foot (4,300 m2) community plaza. Its Lawrence and Kristina Dodge Education Center includes the studio performance space and Boeing Education Lab. Other amenities include two private donor rooms, the elegant Leatherby’s Cafe Rouge and two informal cafes. The performance venues all feature artist amenities, including dressing rooms, artist lounges, practice suites and rehearsal studios.



In the late 1960s, a number of Orange County community leaders decided it was time for their community to have a world-class performing arts venue. The region’s population had grown, businesses were headquartering here and major educational institutions were being established. Two of the county’s existing artistic organizations - Philharmonic Society of Orange County and Pacific Symphony - needed a concert hall with seating and acoustics appropriate to their needs.

In 1979, the local Segerstrom family donated a 5-acre (20,000 m2) site for the original facility. It was also determined that the new performing arts complex would be built entirely through private funding. Government funding would be neither solicited nor accepted. The Center held the distinction of being the first such organization of its scope in the country to hold this distinction. Charles Lawrence served as lead architect. An international team of Dr. A. Harold Marshall, Dennis Paoletti and Jerald R. Hyde designed the acoustics.

The vision of the Center's founders became reality on September 29, 1986, when Segerstrom Hall – one of the nation’s most innovative and technically advanced homes for the performing arts – opened its doors to the public for the first time. Soprano Leontyne Price inaugurated the venue by singing the "Star Spangled Banner" with Zubin Mehta conducting the Los Angeles Philharmonic. In 1998, the Segerstrom family made another commitment to the Center. An additional parcel of land was deeded to the Center for the purpose of constructing a concert hall, a multi-use theater, an education center, public restaurant and community plaza. The creative team of architect Cesar Pelli, acousticians Russell Johnson and Damian Doria of Artec Consultants, Inc. and landscape architect Peter Walker and Partners were engaged for this new project.

Another major step towards the completion of the original dream of the Center’s founders came when, in August 2000, Henry Segerstrom provided the lead gift of $40 million to the Center’s $200 million capital campaign. This was the largest charitable cash gift in the history of Orange County. In recognition of this cornerstone gift, the new concert hall was named the Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall after the Center’s founding chairman and his late wife. The 500-seat theater was designated Samueli Theater in recognition of the $10 million gift from the Henry Samueli family.

Groundbreaking for the expanded Center took place on February 6, 2003 with a concert by the Pacific Symphony in Segerstrom Hall followed by three backhoes synchronized in making the first official digs on the construction site and a fireworks display. The year 2006 was a watermark year for the Orange County Performing Arts Center and the community. In April, the Center announced Terrence W. Dwyer as its new president. Dwyer had previously served as managing director of two of the nation’s preeminent theaters - the La Jolla Playhouse and Houston’s Alley Theatre. That same month, Connector, a towering steel sculpture created by renowned artist Richard Serra, was installed on the new community plaza that unites the Center’s original structure with the newer venues. It was commissioned by Elizabeth and Henry Segerstrom. On September 14, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and a host of other state and local government dignitaries participated in a community dedication ceremony in the concert hall.

The highlight of the year occurred on September 15, 2006 when the Center inaugurated its new Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall with a spectacular concert by Pacific Symphony led by its music director, Carl St. Clair. Featuring Plácido Domingo singing the world premiere of Canciones de Lorca by composer William Bolcom, the evening also included performances by Pacific Chorale. On September 16, St.Clair, Pacific Symphony and Pacific Chorale performed the world premiere of Philip Glass’ The Passion of Ramakrishna. Violin virtuoso Midori performed the Beethoven Violin Concerto.

The first six weeks celebrating the opening of the new concert hall featured gala celebrations, recitals and concerts offered by the Center and its Artistic Partners, a community day enjoyed by 10,000 people and an unprecedented residency by Russia's Kirov Orchestra, Opera and Ballet of the Mariinsky Theatre of St. Petersburg. The Mariinsky companies were led by their artistic director Valery Gergiev. Performances included the North American premiere of the Opera’s production of Wagner’s Ring, Mussorgsky’s Boris Godunov, the ballets Romeo and Juliet and Swan Lake, and concerts that included an evening of epic proportions featuring the combined powers of the Kirov Orchestra and Pacific Symphony. Maestros Gergiev and St. Clair shared the podium. Samueli Theater, opened with a concert by Grammy Award-winner Sheryl Crow followed by a performance by Camp Freddy and a recital by young artists of the Mariinsky Theatre Conservatory. During this same period, the Center also celebrated its 20th anniversary. A festive evening was marked by a sold-out concert in Segerstrom Hall by legendary vocalist Tony Bennett.

In addition to offering a broad spectrum of quality regional, national and international programming, the Center has one of the nation’s most respected departments of education and community programs. Each year, nearly 500,000 elementary, middle and high school, college students and educators have their lives enhanced by attending a Center arts-in-education program such as the Center’s Arts Teach, Summer at the Center, Masters at the Center and others. Founders Plus, one of the Center's many support groups, helps to distribute thousands of free tickets to students and the underserved each year. Support groups and service organizations help to raise funds and community awareness for the Center. Participation and membership provide members with opportunities to enjoy many events and to share and enhance their love for the arts. The Guilds of the Center, Angels of the Arts, Center Stars, Founders Plus, Center 500, BRAVO! and Center Docents offer important financial and ambassadorial support for the Center through their activities, dues structures and fundraisers.

To the great credit of the generosity of donors and patrons, the Center has operated in the black for each fiscal year. To this day, the Center is completely funded through corporate and private donations.


The Orange County Performing Arts Center's Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall, which is part of Segerstrom Center for the Arts, has a concert organ - the William J. Gillespie Concert Organ (C.B.Fisk Opus 130. It has 4,322 pipes and 75 stops, including 57 individual voices, 4 manual keyboards with 61 notes each, 1 pedal keyboard with 32 notes. It weighs nearly 30 tons and took approximately 42,000 hours to assemble and install.

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