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Opera takes the field

One might call it the Woodstock of opera: 53 internationally known singers offering solo arias and duets outdoors over three nights in the 50,000-seat Prater stadium in Vienna. The event, Universe of Opera, July 3-5, will celebrate the 400th anniversary of the first Western opera, Jacopo Peri's Dafne, produced in Florence in 1598.

Some of the best-known participants are sopranos Hildegard Behrens, Grace Bumbry, Ghena Dimitrova, Edita Gruberova, Maria Guleghina, Gwyneth Jones, Eva Marton, Katia Ricciarelli and Mara Zampieri; mezzo-sopranos Agnes Baltsa, Vesselina Kasarova and Stefania Toczyska; tenors Giacomo Aragall, Nicolai Gedda, Giuseppe Giacomini, Siegfried Jerusalem, James King, Rene Kollo, Alfredo Kraus, Luis Lima, Neil Shicoff and Ramon Vargas; baritones Renato Bruson, Thomas Hampson, Sherrill Milnes and Giuseppe Taddei; and basses Simon Estes, Nicola Ghiuselev, Kurt Moll and Jan-Hendrik Rootering.

Three-night passes cost about $163 to $960. Single-night tickets cost about $190 to $422. Tickets: (800) 223-6108.

STROLLING SAN FRANCISCO: The Barbary Coast Trail, a new self-guided walking tour of San Francisco, will be inaugurated with a celebration Saturday at Union Square downtown. The two-hour festivities begin at 11 a.m. and include Chinese lion dancers and a Gold Rush musical revue.

A project of the San Francisco Historical Society, the Barbary Coast Trail meanders 3.8 miles, all of them flat or gently sloping, through the heart of the city. The trail focuses on the early boom years between the Gold Rush and the 1906 earthquake and fire, but it also highlights more recent San Francisco history, like the 1950s beatnik movement in North Beach.

Beginning at the Old Mint at Fifth and Mission streets _ which was built in 1874 to handle gold and silver from the Comstock Lode _ and ending near the historic sailing ships at Hyde Street Pier, the trail includes Tin Hau, the oldest Asian temple in North America; a mansion built for silver king James C. Flood; the western terminus of the Pony Express; and the sites of bordellos and saloons in the notorious 19th-century Barbary Coast district. At the end of the trail, walkers can hop a cable car back to the intersection of Powell and Market streets.

The trail's route is to be marked by 150 plaques embedded in the sidewalk. Two guidebooks are available. For information, call the San Francisco Historical Society, (415) 775-1111.

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