Florida Grand Opera Celebrates

Its 75th Anniversary Gala

Arlene & Laurans Mendelson
Florida Grand Opera (FGO) celebrated the opening of the 2016-2017 season at its 75th Anniversary Gala on Saturday, November 12 at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts’s Ziff Ballet Opera House. Nearly 200 of Miami’s philanthropic, social, civic and business influencers arrived in their finest to celebrate the evening’s distinguished honorees and the Opera’s accomplishments over the past 75 years.

“We are very proud to be a part of this historic organization, and we want to ensure that it will continue to provide artistic and community impact for the South Florida community,” said Olga Figueras. “This gala celebrates the company’s long history while looking toward the company’s important future.”

The evening began with Bernard Uzan’s brilliant re-interpretation of the opera classic, Carmen. Mezzo soprano María José Montiel dazzled audiences in the title role with her incomparable dramatic and vocal interpretation, while tenor Rafael Davila’s illustrious voice soared through the theatre and into audiences’ hearts. Their onstage chemistry and gradual connection built up to a fiery explosion at the opera’s finale, perfect for this dramatic story.

Following the performance, guests were invited to the Peacock Foundation Studio for cocktails and delicious hors d’oeuvres, courtesy of Brava! celebrity chef Brad Kilgore and his talented staff. The room was filled with music from Steinway & Sons’ beautiful new Spirio piano, provided by Steinway Piano Gallery Miami General Manager Doug Thiel. After their post-performance routines, principal artists María José Montiel (Carmen), Rafael Davila (Don José), and Hailey Clark (Micaëla) joined the guests as well.

Attendees were then led back to the theatre by three FGO Opera Teens, Charles Vega, Mica Einhorn and Juliette Valle, transformed into handsome matadors for the evening’s festivities. The stage had been set for a luxurious dining experience accented by red and black with roses abounding. Patrons dined on an exquisite meal of glazed short rib, piquillo polenta with grilled prawns, roasted garlic romesco and pea sprouts followed by a decadent crema catalana, apple spiced cream and dessert “crouton.”

The night’s entertainment began with a taste of flamenco, choreographed by Rosa Mercedes, and featuring Carmen dancers Betzy Belen Almaguer, Liliana Gagoaga, Edwin Suarez and Carolina Torres. Gala committee co-chairs Olga Figueras’s and Kristin Podack’s warm welcome was followed by a performance by exquisite guitarist Marco Sartor of Uruguay, performing a selection entitled “Reflections on Spain.” After dinner, guests danced the night away to the lively music of Street Lights, a Steve Chase band, in the subtle ambiance created by Deco Productions in conjunction with FGO’s lighting department.

The highlight of the evening was an awards presentation to honor four of Florida Grand Opera’s most distinguished patrons. The award for Marvin and Isa Leibowitz was presented by Charles Vega of the New World School for the Arts. Noelia Lee Luna of Robert Morgan Educational Center presented the award to David and Olga Melin, and Laurans and Arlene Mendelson received their award from Mica Einhorn of Gulliver Preparatory School. Juliette Valle of St. Thomas Aquinas High School presented the award Dr. Morton J. and Jane Robinson, who were unable to attend.

“This gala has been an overall success. Reports from board members and attendees alike have proven very positive, and we look forward to keeping this excitement going throughout our 75th anniversary season,” stated Susan T. Danis, General Director and CEO of Florida Grand Opera.

Table sponsors and attendees included AXA Private Client Group, Greenberg Traurig and MBAF Certified Public Accountants. Food and beverage sponsors included Dall’Armellina Vineyards, Fernando Cellars and Brava! by Brad Kilgore. Special contributions were also made by Steinway & Sons and the Young Patronesses of the Opera.

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