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4.6.07

Ionarts at the Opera Ball


Betty Knight Scripps, Chairman of the Opera Ball (photo from 2006 Opera Ball)
Opera is a serious musical genre, the summa of high dramatic art. For some serious thoughts about the season just concluded by Washington National Opera, you could read my WNO Season in Review from last week. In a less exalted but equally important way, opera is about ostentation, and in that vein, there is one more glittering event that always makes the end of the opera season final in Washington, and that is the annual Opera Ball. On Friday night, the city's well-heeled opera fans shelled out $1,000 for a ticket to the exclusive event. Twenty-one ambassadors hosted intimate black-tie dinners, after which the 500-some guests converged on the luxurious residence of Peruvian Ambassador Felipe Ortiz de Zevallos, at the edge of Rock Creek Park.

Having cleaned up nicely, formal attire and all, Dr. and Mrs. Ionarts started the evening as guests in the residence of the Ambassador of Argentina, José Octavio Bordón, and his charming wife, Mónica. Over hors d'oeuvres and a delicious Argentine cocktail called Gancia con limón, a type of vermouth stirred with a citrus mixer and served with a lemon slice, six couples met one another and chatted. When we were seated together at the elegant table for dinner, the Ambassador explained that in Argentina, a dinner like this one would normally not begin before 9 or 9:30 (instead of 7:30) with only one exception, if it were a night for opera. His Excellency spoke eloquently of the place of opera in the cultural life of Buenos Aires, mentioning with pride that the famous Teatro Colón would reopen on May 25, 2008, Argentina's Independence Day and the 100th anniversary of the theater's original opening. As on that first opening night, in 1908, the opera will be Verdi's Aida.

Other Articles:

Amy Argetsinger and Roxanne Roberts, Reliable Source (Washington Post, June 3)

Ann Geracimos and Kevin Chaffee, Opera Ball scores with amity, largess (Washington Times, June 4)
Leaving their cars at the entrance to the Peruvian Ambassador's residence after dinners around the city, we and the other guests were carried in a trolley down the long driveway of Battery Terrill, illumined gently by candlelight. The Chairman of the Opera Ball, Mrs. Betty Knight Scripps, was not able to attend, the only time that has happened of the eight years she has been the event's organizer. Plácido Domingo, who only the night before had conducted a concert performance of WNO's singers at Strathmore, was also not present, due to a scheduling conflict. The list of attendees did include Justices of the Supreme Court (Breyer, Ginsburg), Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, Mayor Adrian M. Fenty, astronaut Buzz Aldrin, and NPR's Nina Totenberg.

After having our picture taken with the Ambassador of Peru, we were free to discover a wonderland of delights in the historic mansion, now filled with a stunning collection of Peruvian art from many periods of history. Tables beckoned with endless desserts of every kind, and the champagne and other drinks flowed freely. Under a canopy behind the residence, with large photographs meant to make it look like downtown Lima, a swing band played to a dance floor that was filled all night. In a separate room, guests were invited to listen to zarzuela and opera arias and duets performed by a group of young singers and a pianist. All of this conspicuous consumption would have been merely grotesque excess, except that the Opera Ball raised $3 million for the Washington National Opera. That is money well spent for music lovers.

1 comment:

Mark said...

So cool, your a star.