We have very sad news to report. Paul Musco, one of the most beloved members of the LA Opera family, passed away peacefully on September 18. It was especially poignant that Paul left us on the very day our company returned to a full season at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion. This new beginning for the company is framed by the loss of someone who made it possible for us to return with continuing strength and vitality.
Paul grew up listening to opera. When he and his brothers gathered around the radio to hear Tommy Dorsey, his mother insisted that they listen to “real music” and would change the station to the Metropolitan Opera broadcasts. He used to say, “I guess it was osmosis, because I came to love opera and it has stayed with me personally ever since.”
Paul and his wife Marybelle are two of the most generous supporters in the history of the company. Paul was elected to the LA Opera board in 2004 and served as vice chairman of the company. Over the years, Paul and Marybelle’s support extended to nearly every part of the company, including their underwriting support for Carmen (2004), Rigoletto (2010 and 2018) and Thais (2014); their annual matching gift tradition during the holiday season and their support of the 20th, 25th and 30th Anniversary Angels leadership giving groups. In December 2017, their extraordinary leadership and inspiring generosity to LA Opera was honored with the naming of Christopher Koelsch’s position as the Sebastian Paul and Marybelle Musco President and CEO.
Paul and Marybelle’s generosity extended far beyond LA Opera. In Orange County, where Paul founded Gemini Industries, they have been leading philanthropists, including as principal benefactors of Opera Pacific, the Pacific Symphony, and many others. Paul led the $120 million effort to create a new St. Michael’s Abbey in Silverton for the Norbertine priests and seminarians and their extraordinary and far-reaching support of Chapman University led to the 2016 creation of the Marybelle and Paul Musco Center for the Arts.
One of LA Opera’s final performances before the pandemic was a concert performance of Roberto Devereux with Plácido Domingo at the Musco Center for the Arts. Paul was especially close to Plácido and underwrote other concert performances featuring him at the Musco Center, including Nabucco (2017) and Don Carlo (2018). Those annual performances brought the full force of the musical talents of the company to the acoustic marvel of the hall Paul had funded.
In his remarks after the opening night performance of Il Trovatore, Marc Stern related that Paul had called him one day earlier to discuss a special project he was doing for LA Opera. He had just had his weekly haircut and was ready to take on the next week—which would inevitably be full of other projects for the institutions he faithfully supported. So, as Marc movingly pointed out, on his last day with us, Paul was once again thinking about what he might do for us, his LA Opera family. What an amazing testament to the life and legacy of this incredible man.
With the loss of Paul Musco and, earlier, Warner Henry in the last year—two of LA Opera’s greatest titans—we will be dedicating this entire season to their memory. LA Opera will forever be a living legacy to both their vision, passion, generosity and magnanimity.