Elegant gala for opera

April 26, 2001|By Mary Johnson | Mary Johnson,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

The 28th annual Annapolis Opera Gala took fund raising to new heights, featuring dancing to a big band, a three-course dinner with wine, silent and live auctions, and a concert of operatic arias and Neapolitan songs by tenor Israel Lozano, accompanied by the opera's music director, Ronald Gretz.

The partygoers - some in opera costume, others in formal attire - lent their own elegance to the affair in the ballroom of the Naval Academy Officers' Club. They were, by and large, high-spirited, fun-loving opera fans.

Arriving guests were greeted by opera officials including the vice president, Victoria Waidner, costumed as Costanza from Mozart's "Abduction from the Seraglio" in a purple sequin Moroccan gown with delicate lace collar, and opera trustee Felix Rosario, wearing a sheik's headdress as Iago in Verdi's "Otello."

Wearing denim gaucho pants and vest and a curly blond wig, M. A. Cashman was Puccini's "Girl of the Golden West" as she chatted about the classes she is teaching in French opera and her future classes on Wagner and Richard Strauss.

Opera benefactors James and Sylvia Earl were handsome - he in a tuxedo, she in a pale green knit with a random rib pattern. Mrs. Earl, who serves as membership chair, enthused: "It's phenomenal that we were able to present two operas for the first time ever, and had the second performance three-quarters full. Our audience is growing, but we need to fill the house for each performance next season, and we need supporters to become opera members for only $35 a person or $60 a couple."

Costumed as Musetta from "La Boheme," the outgoing opera president, Anna Marie Darlington-Gilmour, announced that the gala had attracted the largest number of auction donors and guests. "Right now," she said, "the Annapolis Opera is definitely in the black."

Much of this success and rapport with the business community must be attributed to Darlington-Gilmour, who will now concentrate on development and outreach. She acknowledged board member Melanie Teems, looking chic in a black and silver gown as she chaired her second fund-raiser. The honorary chair was Annapolis Mayor Dean L. Johnson.

Darlington-Gilmour is being succeeded by Jean Jackson, who arrived from a week out of town in time to greet arriving guests.

Others attending included George and Madelyn Hughes - she the evening's only Madame Butterfly, with a purple flower tucked in her dark hair and wearing a cream gown with metallic embroidery and mandarin collar.

Table-mate Jack Steere confided that he was bidding on an auction item - two tickets for next season's "La Boheme," including a cameo role he hoped to win for his wife, Nancy. (He did - for $410.)

Arts notables Ed and Anna Greenberg party-hopped from an Annapolis Symphony function to dine at the opera gala before attending yet a third event. Smashing in a sparkling black-and-white jacket over a black outfit, Anna Greenberg noted: "Ed and I believe in supporting all performing arts as well as visual arts. I'm glad to see that the opera has such a huge success; it's beautiful and very exciting."

After dinner, Gretz accompanied tenor Lozano on piano in selections that included Verdi's "Questa o quella" and the Neapolitan favorite "O Sole Mio."

Melanie Teems summed up his appeal: "As Israel Lozano moved around the room singing so beautifully, he made many new friends for opera."

Both Lozano's performance and the Zim Zemarel Orchestra were paid for by contributions from LMC Properties Inc./Lockheed Martin Corp. LMC President Thomas Quinn was on hand enjoying the evening with wife Marianne, who wore bronze silk.

Mills Wine and Spirits contributed generously to the auction, and owner Hillard Donner attended with his wife, Karolyn, who was elegant in a burgundy calf-length gown with matching satin shoes. Other corporate leaders in attendance included Chris Comer of Comcast and John Belcher, president of ARINC.

According to Darlington-Gilmour, the gala earned $12,000 to defray some of the costs of producing "La Boheme" and "Don Giovanni," the two operas slated for the coming season.

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