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‘Lunar New Year Gala’ Saturday, With Concert And Imperial Dinner, Benefits The Wallis

Pianist Rueibin Chen—Photo by Vince Bucci

Posted Friday, January 30 – 10:22 PM

Linda May and John Bendheim, co-chairs of the “Lunar New Year—The Year Of The Sheep” gala to benefit the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts are eagerly anticipating tomorrow’s festivities.

The black-tie immersive extravaganza Saturday, Jan. 31 will take place in the Bram Goldsmith Theater, the Jim and Eleanor Randall Grand Hall and the Promenade Terrace.

“It is truly an honor to launch a new tradition with this Lunar New Year Celebration, which brings the cultures of East and West together in one fabulous soirée,” said May. “The event will give people an opportunity to travel to a faraway place through the experience of music and be transported to another culture and yet never leave your city,” said May, also a center board member along with Bendheim.

A concert, the centerpiece of this first gala for The Wallis, will feature International artists, performing a Chinese classical and traditional folk program including Madame Sun Ping, the reigning Grand Dame of the Peking Opera.

Renowned pianist Rueibin Chen, who was the inaugural soloist at The Wallis in sold-out performance, will play, among other pieces, an excerpt from the Yellow River Concerto, the most well-known classical Chinese piece, and one of his specialties. “He’s incredible,” says May who saw him at the Hollywood Bowl.

He will join Chinese ensemble L’Ensemble du Ciel—with instrumentalists performing on the pipa, gaohu, erhu and Chinese bamboo flute—for tmusic from various Chinese regions, featuring the premiere of several new musical arrangements.

“We feel so fortunate to welcome these musicians to Beverly Hills,” adds May. “We’re thrilled to transport our audience to Imperial China … but without the jet lag.”

As long-time residents and community-involved businesspeople, “we see this as an opportunity to show how much we love The Wallis and what it has meant to the community,” says Bendheim. “We get calls daily from people who say they love walking to Cañon, going to dinner and then to world-class performances.”

For both May and Bendheim, the event is a chance to illustrate and combine two of the center’s essential missions. First is to present “world class theater, opera and dance, including performers from other cultures and from around the world (DanceBrazil will be there Feb. 6-7),” May said.

Second is to “present programming that educates and stimulates the mind, not just for the community, but for children,” May adds. The program was presented today for 500 students from underserved schools in the greater L.A. area as part of The Wallis’ community and educational outreach initiative.

Bendheim and May are also “thrilled with the community’s commitment of support,” he said. Sponsored by Van Cleef & Arpels, the event will have models dressed by haute couture honoree Eva Hsieh, founder and designer of Eve by Eve’s, who just opened her flagship store on Camden Drive. “She could have opened anywhere; but she choose Beverly Hills,” May said. She is the wife of inventor, entrepreneur, philanthropist and USC Trustee Ming Hsieh who also serves on the Board of Directors for Committee of 100.

Wallis Annenberg is honorary chair; “and it’s so meaningful to John and me that she’s excited and supportive of the program,” May added.

Produced by celebrated event planner Ben Bourgeois, the evening will begin with pre-concert cocktails under Chinese lanterns. The post-concert “Imperial Dinner and Chinese Feast” will be catered by Wolfgang Puck.

For information on remaining tickets, visit or call 310-746-4000.

—Steve Simmons

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