Society / Featured Parties

Belly Dancers, a Camel and a Mayor Tenor Keep the Surprises Coming in a Lavish Houston Grand Opera Ball

A Remarkable Evening Five Years in the Making

BY // 04.13.22

The lavish Houston Grand Opera white-tie-and-tails gala was a night filled with surprises. In a nod to “Le Voyage à Marrakech” theme, there was a camel for photo ops, swirling belly dancers and ball chair Jennifer Fink‘s arrival on a glittering amariya (a Moroccan wedding carriage) hoisted by costumed supernumeraries. The magical serenade by soprano Ana María Martínez of “La Vie En Rose” that filled the Grand Foyer of Wortham Theater Center was not the end of the unexpected.

When introduced to Lithuanian tenor Kristian Benedikt, staring in Houston Grand Opera’s production of Turandot, Mayor Sylvester Turner replied, “I’m a tenor too.” A surprise to all.

Yes, the mayor, while admitting he is no opera star, sings tenor when performing with a local men’s chorus.

While Benedikt was seated at philanthropist Margaret Alkek William‘s table, Turner was seated with Lynn Wyatt and HGO music and artistic director Patrick Summers. Over the bountiful rack of lamb dinner from City Kitchen that Benedikt photographed to send to his wife and children in Lithuania, the tenor asked to meet the mayor. He wanted to compliment Mayor Turner on the beauty of Houston and its cleanliness. And their conversation went on for quite some time as they discussed the city and music. It was one of the rare evenings when the mayor attends the entire evening.

Houston Grand Opera Ball
Mayor Sylvester Turner, Lynn Wyatt (Photo by Michelle Watson)

This remarkable evening was the first HGO ball in five years, the Wortham being closed beginning in 2017 due to the flood waters of Hurricane Harvey and then the gala itself axed due to the pandemic. All the more for the spectacular evening.

Working with Richard Flowers and The Events Company, ball chairs Jennifer and Benjamin Fink orchestrated a stellar event that featured arrival on a red carpet via Fish Plaza where guests were greeted by the camel and costumed wait staff serving glasses of fragrant Moroccan hot tea as well as cocktails.

The Wortham Grand Foyer was dressed in massive Moroccan-themed lanterns overhead, the dance floor patterned like a splendid oriental carpet with a massive kaleidoscope projection of intricate Moroccan-inspired patterns.

This was HGO CEO and general director Khori Dastoor‘s first opera ball and she starred welcoming the 470 guests in a beautifully short program that introduced the chairs, thanked donors and quickly advanced to a glamorous good time.

The themed accents included North African music by Moodafaruka, Morocco-inspired cocktails and hors d’oeuvres, fortune tellers, henna artists and a luxe silent auction chaired by Teresa and José Ivo. One of the most enticing auction items was a vacation package to Marrakesh presented by Royal Air Maroc and the Moroccan Tourism Office.

A final surprise was the City Kitchen dessert that topped off the Middle Eastern inspired dinner. The gilded chocolate genie lantern filled with dark chocolate mousse was edible, an unexpected treat for many of the diners.

The Celebrity All Stars band kicked off the dancing with DJ Little Martin firing up the Encore party chaired by the uber-glamorous attorney Lauren Randle.

PC Seen: Dian and Harlan Stai, Sarah and Aaron Stai, Susan Sarofim, Betty and Jess Tutor, Drs. Rachel and Warren Ellsworth, Molly and Jim Crownover, Kristina and Paul Somerville, Myrtle Jones, Brandon McClendon, Sallie Sargent, Ann and Albert Chao, Franci Neely, Isabel and Danny David, Sarah and Bill Morgan, Glen Rosenbaum, Sarahbeth and Pierce Bush, Dr. Yvonne and Rufus Cormier, Julia and Jason Wang, Chinhui Juhn and Eddie Allen, Beth Madison, and Claire Liu and Joe Greenberg.

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