On Monday night at Lincoln Center 200 friends joined Barbara Tober to celebrate the naming of The Metropolitan Opera’s seven lobby chandeliers in memory of her beloved husband, Donald Gibbs Tober.
At 6:15 promptly the Met’s General Manager, Peter Gelb made a toast:
“As you know, we are here to celebrate the memory of Donald Tober with tonight’s dedication, which is the result of a generous gift to The Met from Donald’s loving wife, Barbara. Besides being the genius behind Sweet’N Low, and according to Leonard Lauder, no less, the best fellow salesman he ever knew, Donald was a world traveler, sportsman, magnanimous, philanthropist to The Met and other causes, and an avid dancer.
“It was here on the Grand Tier that Donald and Barbara danced under the famous Met chandeliers above us, celebrating the New Year. Following the premieres of various Met productions over the years, it was inspiration that guided Donald’s success as the business magnet of Sugar Foods. And it was a serendipitous inspiration that was responsible for The Met’s chandeliers. Their design actually was an accident. The result of an ink spill on an architectural rendering of the new Met Lobby that was on a deadline to be presented to The Met board.
“Thinking fast, and was no time to lose, architect Wallace Harrison’s assistants drew spokes connecting the ink spots, [laughs]. Thus, the Sputnik design for the iconic Met chandeliers, under which Donald and Barbara danced was created. The plaque reads, in part, May these joyful lights shine forever in memory of Donald Gibbs Tober. Love, Barbara.”
Mrs. Tober also spoke:
“Opera is the singing of a story. That is why we come to experience that special drama. You Are the Sunshine of My Life and many other songs about light and the sun, and the glory of life. We’re playing many of them, during this party on the piano, Donald’s favorite instrument. Nothing is more apropos.
“Donald and I had a beautiful life together. A life of love, work, travel, and art, all of which enriched our relationship and helped us grow both individually and together. Something led to the spiritual moment that greets us today.
“We always were supporting the opera, but especially now. Donald’s light will shine, in such a glorious place in the city he loved and nurtured, forever. This is the way he, and everyone else who comes through the doors, will continue to enjoy the graceful lifting of the lights each night when ‘The House’ is in play. And Peter, if these lights ever start twinkling just wave back; he’s probably just taking a walk.”
In closing, she mentioned the magical element of “Donald Dust” which she hoped would endow this project with a potent magic.
Guest included Afsaneh Akhtari-Smith, Richard Armstrong, Carrie Barratt, Ariane Batterberry, Geoffrey Bradfield, Noreen Buckfire, Young Yang Chung, Cece Cord, Machine Dazzle (stopping by on his way to pick up an Obie), Jamie deRoy, Charles Fabius, Florence Fabricant, Helen Fioratti, Maria and Kenneth Fishel, Helen Fisher and John Tierney, Carole and John French, Mr. and Mrs. Ali Wambold, Mark Gilbertson, Archduchess Emmanuella Habsburg-Lothringen and Archduke Dominic Habsburg-Lothringen, Isabelle Harnoncourt-Feigen, Dr. and Mrs. William Haseltine, Sylvia Hemingway, Mary Hilliard, Cynthia Hornblower, Dr. Nizam Kettaneh, Michele Gerber Klein, Sheila C. Kotur, Judy Lauder, Linda Lindenbaum, Helen Little, William Ivey Long, Mr. and Mrs. Jeffrey Manocherian, Tinu Naija, Peter Olsen, Liane Pei, Maestro Martin J. Piecuch and Elizabeth Moxley Falk, Sana Sabbagh, Dr. Brian R. Saltzman, Mr. and Mrs. Bryant W. Seaman III, Mr. and Mrs. Thomas J. Shiah, Toni Sikes, Bradley Strauchen-Scherer, Elizabeth Stribling and Guy Robinson, Oscar Tang, Barbara Taylor Bradford OBE, Saundra Whitney, Barbara Winston, Ann Ziff and many many more.
The Metropolitan Opera Chandeliers is one of a number of recent memorials to Donald Tober; the Admissions Building at the Culinary Institute of America (where he served as Vice Chairman) and the board room at Citymeals-on-Wheels (where he was a founder) soon will also proudly bear his name.
Photographs by Sean Zanni/PMC