Monday, May 20, 2019. It was sunny and in the upper 70s yesterday in New York; a beautiful day all around with even warmer temperatures predicted for today. Suddenly we’re moving into late May and Memorial Day weekend begins Friday.
Last night I went down to the Grill and the Pool in the Seagram’s building where the Cancer Research Institute was hosting its annual “Through the Kitchen” dinner. This was started by Lauren Veronis 37 years ago to raise money for the Irvington Institute (which later merged with the CRI). It’s a Sunday night dinner, far more relaxed. Everybody knows they are there for a good cause that can make a difference in all our lives. And then there’s the camaraderie: many attending have been coming for years. Even in New York, there’s always a possibility of seeing your neighbors.
The cocktail hour is set in the Grill and then the aprons are handed out and guests line up to move into the kitchen where the magnificent buffet is laid out.
At the appointed hour (8 pm), Mrs. Veronis was there handing out aprons and moving the 260 dinner guests into The Kitchen (actual kitchen) where the staff had been laying out a fabulous buffet. It’s a beautiful kitchen, spacious and with everything immaculate and shining. Many of the kitchen staff were there in their whites, moving us along.
It’s a great way to see food. The silver/white light of the kitchen lights the presentation perfectly. You’re tempted to try to take a little of everything so that your plate becomes a mountain of various dishes, meats, fish, pastas, salads, veggies, sushi; all too delicious-looking to turn down.
By 8:20, most people were at their seats. Dining. Almost every plate at my table was swept clean within minutes. Lauren Veronis introduced Jill O’Donnell-Tormey, PhD, who is the CEO and Director of Scientific Affairs of the Cancer Research. Dr. O’Donnell-Tormey briefly reviewed the progress they have made in transforming cancer treatment and helping to save lives with immunotherapy.
Then Lauren introduced a man from Christie’s to conduct the auction. Auctions are now a given at any benefit any time any place. The point is to raise as much as possible on such a night. Last night they raised more than $1.2 million before the auction. The final tally for the auction wasn’t complete before this guest left the premises but it must have been several hundred thousand more.
Then came the dessert buffet. It seemed like more than half the room went up there and lined up for something or a lot of somethings. The theme of the evening (the table settings) was Comics and Cartoons. The Décor was by Cait and Jules. The guests lining up with their dessert plates were in the mood. The funds raised will benefit Cancer Research Institute for CRI Irvington Postdoctoral Fellowship Program.
Lauren Veronis’ Sunday night dinner over the years has raised more than $17 million. It was a good night for all.
From Comics and cartoons to the mythical stage. 350 years ago, a ballet dancer created the Paris Opera—he also happened to be one of the most powerful men of his era. On June 28th, 1669, the “Sun King” Louis XIV created in Paris an “Académie Royale de Musique” (Royal Academy of Music), which the Italians had already been developing for a few years. There, plays were performed with music. They were named “Operas.”
Fast forward to 2019, three and a half centuries later. People flew from all over the world—including New York, Mexico City, and Saint Petersburg—to laud the grandeur of an institution considered today as one of the leading opera houses in the world.
Celebrating the Paris Opera’s 350th Anniversary, actresses Meg Ryan, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Golshifteh Farahani, Clotilde Courau, Farida Khelfa, US Vogue Editor Hamish Bowles, stage director and French contemporary art gallery owner Emmanuel Perrotin and his wife Lorena Vergani, American philanthropists such as Judith-Ann Corrente, Jean-Marie and Elizabeth Eveillard and all the guests found themselves immersed in a dreamlike universe throughout the evening and eventually took over the mythical stage of the Palais Garnier turned into a magical nightclub! Breaking with tradition, the DJ and singer Kiddy Smile and his dancers led this festive and unique after party, surrounded by the sets of the Iolanta-The Nutcracker production.
Earlier in the night, superstar soprano Anna Netrebko and her husband tenor Yusif Eyvasov brought together the greatest arias of the repertoire, from La Forza del destino to Andrea Chenier, from Turandot to La Traviata. Together, they sang selections from Madame Butterfly, Tosca, and Pagliacci, all accompanied by the Paris Opera Orchestra directed by Maestro Lorenzo Viotti.
Reminiscent of the lavish dinners at Versailles under Louis XIV, a three-star supper imagined by restaurant Le Bristol Epicure’s chef Éric Frechon enchanted 700 guests gathered in the Grand Foyer and the Avant-Foyer of the Palais Garnier decorated for the occasion with a myriad of flowers.
Paris Opera General Director Stéphane Lissner hosted this gala, which was made possible with the generous support of Maison Schiaparelli & Rolex.
Numerous supporters of the American Friends of the Paris Opera & Ballet (AFPOB) participated in this preeminent celebration. Alongside Chairman Olivia Tournay Flatto were Philanthropist and Citigroup CEO Michael Corbat and his wife Donna, an AFPOB Trustee, as well as Trustees Bob Wilson, Marina Couloucoundis and Flavia Gale, Executive Director Mélite de Foucaud, as well as AFPOB Member, Kimberly V. Strauss.
Other prominent guests included Mexico’s Philanthropist and the Patrons of the National Institute of Pediatrics’s President in Mexico Celia Daniel de Mizrahi and her mother Vicky Daniel, Chairman of the School of Music and Dance in Monterrey, Mexico, Barbara Herrera de Garza, Veronica Kelly whose husband Ray is a former New York Police Commissioner, Entrepreneur and Founder of Kite Ventures Edward Shenderovich and Olga Kouraptseva.
As the celebrations continue throughout the year, the Paris Opera will once again be the scene of a “moveable feast” next September 20th with the gala opening of the 2019-2020 season, this time dedicated to ballet, the art that King Louis XIV himself excelled in.
Photographs by Dominique Maitre & Didier-Plowy (POB)