May 1 a full house gathered at the Dallas Country Club for the Dallas Opera‘s celebration luncheon of the 20th Annual Juanita and Henry S. Miller Jr. Founders Day Award. Co-chairs Lillie Young and Lori Bush not only arranged to have hunky tenor James Valenti to provide the “entertainment,” they also used the occasion to salute the past recipients of the award.
Ah, but what they hadn’t planned was a special, unplanned response by the audience, but more about that later. Gee, don’t you hate that tease?
About James, his voice was magnificent and his smile drop-dead gorgeous. Even those who didn’t know the difference between “Bye Bye Birdie” and “La Boheme” were on board with the hottie tenor. Then James went and did it. His fait de complet was dedicating one selection to his girlfriend Dallas gal Mina Chang sitting at a nearby table. Let’s face it. James and Mina are scary gorgeous. As he sang his heart out, she pulled out her iPhone and recorded the memory. Others smiled, teared up and enjoyed the beauty of the moment. Nice!
Behind the scenes, Nancy Torell had known that the twosome had been dating and used this hook to get James to extend his Dallas stay after his recent performance in “The Magic Flute.” It worked! James was happy. Mina was happy. The audience was happy.
Another especially happy person was DO Executive Director Keith Cerny. Not only is it nice to have James Valenti types drawing crowds to the opera, but Keith’s simulcast experiment at Cowboys Stadium the previous weekend had attracted 15,000. What was especially gratifying for Keith was many of those in the stadium were opera first timers.
Still another very happy person at the luncheon was Therese Rourk, who had just the day before co-chaired the Salvation Army Fashion Show & Luncheon. Not only was she thrilled about the feedback from the SA luncheon, she could hardly believe her good fortune when her raffle ticket was pulled for a two-night stay at the Encantado Resort in Santa Fe. Don’t you know all chairs would like to recover at the resort following a fundraiser?
Ah, but you want to know about that “special, unplanned response.” It came when Honorary Co-Chair Patsy Donosky (newcomers’ alert: Patsy is the daughter of the late Juanita and Henry) recognized the past awardees including Elsa von Seggern, Sis and Plack Carr, Martha and Frank Pitts, Bessylee Penland, Margot and Bill Winspear, Sally von Behren, Arlene and John Dayton, Betty Upton Hudson, Dorothy and Plato Karayanis, Joyce and Harvey Mitchell, Patty and Marty Weiland, Joyce and C.H. Moore, Linda and Bill Custard, Diane and Hal Brierley, Nancy Hamon, Patti and John Cody, Ruben Esquivel, Marnie and Kern Wildenthal and Sara and David Martineau.
The applause was unanimously resounding for all, but when the Wildenthals were named the clapping went on and on. No explanation was made. No explanation was needed. The reason was clearly understood by all in the room.