Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Jill Krementz covers the Opera Guild's luncheon

Richard Miller, Mercedes Bass, and Win Rutherfurd. Richard Miller is the President of the Metropolitan Opera Guild, Mercedes Bass is Vice Chairman of the Metropolitan Opera, and Mr. Rutherfurd is the Chairman of the Metropolitan Opera Guild as well as an Advisory Director of the Met.
Metropolitan Opera Guild's Luncheon
December 7th, 2010

This is the favorite day of the year for many opera lovers. It's the Metropolitan Opera Guild's luncheon when the stars and the fans of opera gather in the Grand Ballroom of the Waldorf Astoria.

This year's event celebrated the Guild's 75th anniversary and was hosted by the Guild's new President, Richard Miller. The Guild's pioneering founder, Eleanor Robson Belmont, who lived to be 100, was honored with an excellent video clip.

The Met's General Manager Peter Gelb, who has transformed the company since taking the helm in 2007, was seated on the dais with Winthrop Rutherfurd, Mercedes Bass, Ann Ziff, Bruce Crawford, and Susan Braddock along with other members of the Met's board. Also seated on the dais were legendary opera stars Susan Graham and Deborah Voigt.

Following lunch, guests were treated to arias sung on stage by Met performers Brandon Jovanovich, Nathan Gunn, Susanna Phillips, and Marcello Giordani.

And as is the custom, the culmination of the Guild benefit came when a large array of Met stars, past and present, rose from their tables and ascended the stage for recognition and a bow. This time they joined together singing a rousing rendition of Happy Anniversary to You in celebration of the Guild's birthday.
Invitation to the Metropolitan Opera Guild's annual luncheon. Sign at coat check. Glad we're getting those Bush tax cuts. Talk about inflation!
Every year there is a special reception for high end donors and it's always fun looking at the chairs with large name tags lined in a row. This is so dais members can sit down and then file into the Grand Ballroom of the Waldorf in proper order.
Winthrop Rutherfurd, Jr. is always on hand to greet guests as they arrive for the special reception at 11:15. Mr. Rutherfurd is Chairman of the Metropolitan Opera Guild and an Advisory Director of the Metropolitan Opera. Tenor George Shirley was the first black male tenor at the Met, making his met debut in 1961 (singing Ferrando in Così Fan Tutte). Mr. Rutherfurd described Mr. Shirley to me as "the Jackie Robinson of opera." Shirley, now retired as a tenor, is on the faculty of the University of Michigan.
Win Rutherfurd and George Shirley.
Richard Miller, President of the Opera Guild, with Win Rutherfurd. Joe Wemple, President of Maysles' Center for Documentary Film.
Win Rutherfurd goes over program with Paul Gruber described by Rutherfurd as "the impresario of the luncheon. If we didn't have him, we couldn't have a show." Jesse Cohen, Director of Development for the Met Opera Guild, with Susan Graham. Ms. Graham is a mezzo with the Met.
Neal Goren, Louis Miano, and David Bennett. Mr. Goren is Artistic Director of the Gotham Chamber Opera, Mr. Bennett is its Executive Director, and Mr. Miano sits on its board.
Stewart Pearce, Managing Director of the Opera Guild, Paul Montrone, and Bruce Crawford. Mr. Montrone and Mr. Crawford are both Met board members.
Judy Auchincloss, board member of the Met Opera Guild. Lewis Rutherfurd and Dallas Pell, who live in Hong Kong. Mr. Rutherfurd (Win's brother) is a venture capitalist dealing with Mongolia, China, and India.
Marc Scorca, head of OPERA America, is welcomed by Rich Miller. Marc Scorca.
Marina French, member of Met's board, gets a big hug from Win Rutherfurd. Marina French.
Tenor George Shirley. Jesse Cohen.
Eugenia Zuckerman with her brand new husband, Richard Novic. "We got married two months ago and so far it's working."

They got hitched on Mr. Novic's farm in upstate New York. Ms. Zuckerman, I don't need to tell you, plays the flute wondrously and will be performing the Brandenburg Concerto on Thursday, December 9th at 8 pm with the Symphony Space all-stars, as she describes them.
Met's artistic manager Sarah Billinghurst. Ms. Billinghurst is one of the wonders of the world. Wilma and Marcello Giordani. Mr. Giordani, a great tenor, recently sang in Met's production of Puccini's La fanciulla del West.
Tenor Marcello Giordani and mezzo Susan Graham.

Mr. Giordani sang his first Dick Johnson in Puccini's La fanciulla del West at the Met two nights ago. He began his career with the Met in four parks concerts in the summer of 1993, making his official debut on stage two years later as Rodolfo in La bohème. In 2006 he was a magnificent Pinkerton in the late Anthony Mingella's new Madama Butterfly.

Susan Graham's first Met role was the Second Lady in Die Zauberflöte in 1991. Almost half of her seventeen Met roles have been the young men of Mozart --Cherubino, Idamante, and Sesto -- as well as many other swains. Ms. Graham is also adept at portraying elegant and sometimes exceedingly glamorous women.
Susan Graham and Mercedes Bass. Paul Montrone and James Marcus. Mr. Marcus is Chairman of the Met's board.
World renowned soprano Deborah Voigt and Ann Ziff were seatmates on the dais. Ms. Ziff is co-chairman of the Met Opera and she recently underwrote the Met's opening night production of Wagner's Das Rheingold. Patrice Munsel, who is an American coloratura soprano and the youngest singer to ever star at the Metropolitan. She first sang at the met when she was 17 and made her official debut a year later singing Philine in Mignon. She's probably best known for her role of Adele in Die Fledermaus, which she performed 225 times.
Fun on the dais: Richard Miller, Win Rutherfurd, Doris Meister (Regional President of BNY Mellon Wealth Management), and Susan Graham.
Richard Miller welcomes guests telling them he became interested in opera when he was in the seventh grade. That's a photo of the 7th grade opera lover projected above him on the screen.
There was a wonderful video presentation honoring Eleanor Robson Belmont who, in the midst of The Great Depression, suggested the formation of the Guild in 1935. Today the Guild has nearly 45,000 members who live in 58 different countries and a budget of nearly $7.5 million.
Eleanor Robson was an internationally renowned actress and had plays written for her, including George Bernard Shaw's Major Barbara.
In 1910, Eleanor Robson married August Belmont, who was one of the wealthiest men in America.
After Eleanor Robson married August Belmont she had to give up her career as an actress as she found herself at the center of a world of horse racing, yachts, and social obligations. Even though she had to manage the household arrangements for several estates, Mrs. Belmont worked tirelessly for Belgian relief making 45 speeches in thirty-eight cities on behalf of the American Red Cross. Portrait of Eleanor Robson Belmont on the cover of Opera News, founded as a newsletter in 1936 by the Guild. Today it is the world's most widely read opera magazine with a monthly circulation of more than 100,000.
Mercedes Bass and Peter Gelb, General Manager of the Met.
Photographer Dario Acosta with whom it was a real pleasure to meet and work alongside at this event. Mr. Acosta was covering for the Met itself. Tony-winning English director Anthony Page and writer Ivana Lowell. Mr. Page is hoping to revive Albee's Three Tall Women in the near future. "I'm presently doing a little casting he said." Ms. Lowell, the Guinness heiress, has just written a well-reviewed memoir about her mother: Why Not Say What Happened?
Domna Stanton and Christopher Mow. Fiammetta Ponti and sculptor Charles Simonds.
Susanna Phillips and Nathan Gunn sang a duet from The Magic Flute. Ms. Phillips is a Juilliard graduate who has performed many times with the Sante Fe Opera. She will be singing the role of Pamina in the Met's production of The Magic Flute later this month.

Mr. Gunn is presently appearing at the Met as Guglielmo in Così Fan Tutte which I recently saw and loved. I urge you to see his great performance in this role..

In 2006 Mr. Gunn was the recipient of the first annual Beverly Sills Artist award. Since then he's been in Romeo et Juliette, Carmen, Billy Budd, Manon, Ariadne auf Naxos, La bohème, A Midsummer Night's Dream, and many other Met productions. He also sang Papagano in Die Zauberflote.
Marcello Giordani also performed, singing an aria from the third act of Puccini's La fanciulla del West: "Ch'ella mi creda." Deborah Voigt, Susanna Phillips, and Nathan Gunn watch Marcello Giordani's performance.
Met's Brandon Jovanovich sang an aria from Carmen. Mr. Jovanovich made his Met debut last spring as Jose in this opera and has returned to the role this fall. He made his official debut with the Met in 2002, as Narraboth in Salome.
Peter Gelb, General Manager of the Met.
"Thanks for coming ... see you next year."
Thirty members of the Met join one another on stage to sing Happy Anniversary to the Guild on its
75th Birthday.
A view of the Grand Ballroom at the Waldorf.
After the luncheon: Rich Miller gives a warm hello to Rosalind Elias, one of the great mezzo-sopranos who met her Met debut in Die Walküre in 1954.
Still on stage, after Happy Anniversary finale, Harolyn Blackwell and Carol Vaness embrace one another. Carol Miller, proud wife of Guild's President Richard Miller. It was his first luncheon after being elected President of the Met Opera Guild in May of 2010.
Phil Alexander, from the Guild Education Department, keeps things running smoothly. Deborah Voigt bundled in fur on her way out of the Waldorf after a great luncheon.
Karen Lerner, Fiammetta Ponti, Louis Miano, and Anthony Page with their luncheon booty.
Party favors for guests who purchased tickets on the level of President's Circle included this CD as well as a coffee table book: Opera Lover's Cookbook: Menus for Elegant Entertaining by Francine Segan, Foreword by Renee Fleming, Photographs by Mark Thomas; in association with the Metropolitan Opera Guild.
Text and photographs © by Jill Krementz
all rights reserved.