Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Sarasota Opera's Winter Gala

Elegant, seemingly effortless, and perfectly beautiful was last Saturday's Sarasota Opera's Winter Gala - Welcome to the Forbidden City.  Chair Rachael Worthington, along with Vice-Chairs Jonathan Coleman and Richard Ferrell did a lovely job of turning the Ritz Carlton ballroom into an enchanting space in which to celebrate the beginning of the opera season.

Upon arrival, guests were met with a gracious receiving line (I love that!) and were offered charming Chinese fans which were placed in a circle around one of the Ritz's gorgeous orchids in a Chinoiserie planter.  It is a glamorous crowd that attends the opera and it was a joy to see everyone's diamonds, furs, and chic gowns.  I think that may be the best part for me!  It is one of the few galas where you are encouraged to pull out all the stops, fashion-wise.

The ballroom had a soft red glow all around it, which made everyone look so marvelous.  Exquisite silk lanterns hung merrily in each of the four corners and a stunning pagoda facade was a perfect atmosphere piece behind the band.  The pagoda was made by the Manatee Player's Artistic Director, Rick Kerby and his production staff.  It was designed by Richard Ferrell.  The centerpieces were dramatic, with their gold fans and bright orchids commanding attention on each table.

This event always has a luxurious four course meal and it did not disappoint.  The Ritz has a new chef and I believe it shows.  Each course was quite good and interesting, though I did scrape the green tea layer off my dessert, but that was just a personal taste thing!  I must commend the Ritz staff.  I have noticed such a high level of service and attention this year.  I think they have all stepped up their game dramatically!

The coup de grace of the evening though was the brief opera performance of three pieces from soprano Asako Tamura and tenor Heath Huberg.  They were more than fabulous.  After one aria by Asako, my dinner companion said it had given her chills and I agreed.  It was magical!  I am so glad they added this component to the evening.

Dancing, dancing, dancing, that was what was going on most of the evening.  I don't believe I have seen dancing throughout the entire evening since the old Mistletoe Ball days.  The 42nd Street Big Band played all types of music and played them well.  A friend of mine said her shoulders actually hurt the next day from all the dancing she did!

As for me, it was one of the most enjoyable evenings I have had in a long time and I think I owe that to my very fun table.  Other guests commented on how much laughter was coming from us!  So, thank you to my table mates - Marsha Panuce, Dan and Jennifer Vigne, Tom and Marjie Peter, Dennis Stover and Phil King, and Jane Wellard and Elena Azuola - you were just terrific!

I think the opera really made a statement that they were back as one of the most beautiful and elegant galas in town.  Do not miss this event next year.  I know I won't!

Others seen in the crowd were Mary Lou Loughlin, Bill and Annette Lloyd, Marcia Frankel, Bert Fivelson, Carol and Les Brualdi, Erik and Sandra Lindqvist, Carol and Larry English, Anna Nekoranec and Bengt Niebuhr, John Nigh and Claudia McCorkle, Judy and Jack Bloch, Natalie and Gerry Radford, Joel Fedder, Edward Alley and June LaBell, Harold and Wanda Rayle Libby, and so many more.

Richard Ferrell, Rachael Worthington, and Jonathan Coleman

Sarasota Opera Executive Director Richard Russell

Sarasota Opera Artistic Director Maestro Victor DeRenzi and friend

Anne Chauvet and Marsha Panuce

Scott Anderson and me

Lydia and Patrick McKenzie with Isabelle Wright

Beathe Elden and Elissa Soyka

Elizabeth Gonye and Mary Lee Richey

Jerry and Wendy Feinstein

Molly Schechter and Harold Ronson

Salena Wilhoit and Rachelle Belanger

Elizabeth Wery and Irene Bagby

Monte and Bill Davis

Doug Crossan and Marilyn Bezner

Eleanor and Bruce Ballard

Teri Hansen, Steve Wilberding and Veronica Brady

Jacqueline and David Morton

John Annis, Jocelyn Stevens, and Harry Leopold 

Phil King and Dennis Stover

Marjorie and Tom Peter

Sarah and George Pappas

Hank and Suzanne Foster

Dan and Jennifer Vigne

Jane and Ed Barvaria

Linda Carson, Steve Sabato, and Marsha Panuce

Moi and Salena Wilhoit

The pretty ballroom aglow in red

The dramatic centerpiece

The place setting

Silk lanterns in all four corners of the ballroom

42nd Street Band with the pagoda backdrop

Another view of the backdrop

White chocolate covered toffee party favors from PNC

The first course- vegetable chow chow

The salad course - spinach salad

The main course - Filet Mignon and pomme puree

Dessert - Green Tea Panna Cotta Chocolate Mousse

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