Nobody saw it coming. After all, the Dallas Opera is a very staid and proper operation. Wrong! First they did the simulcast a couple years ago on a big screen in front of the Winspear, and eventually moved it over to Klyde Warren Park. Then they had a red carpet opening night with designer gowns. And don’t forget that other gargantuan, free simulcast at AT&T Stadium. But those were all planned and promoted way far in advance.
Changes were in the air for the opening of the DO’s 2013-2014 season. Chair Lynn Mock decided that the fashion factor needed to be ramped up and stand on its own. So, she created First Sight on Thursday, October 24, to precede Friday’s First Night. In addition to presenting gowns by five local designers and an Escada fashion show with the Carmen scenery as a backdrop, there would a luncheon afterwards. To coordinate arrangements with the designers, Escada and all the fashionable activities on the Skokos stage, Lynn had opera-loving, event-producing brain trust Rhonda Sargent Chambers take over. If you’ll remember, Rhonda has been at the helm of all things fashionable since the first First Night back in 2011.
According to Lynn, “The overwhelming public interest in the fashion element of First Night prompted us to expand our vision to match the creativity of an iconic brand, Escada, as well as these five incredible designers. By giving them the spotlight, exclusively, in this very special event, we hope to excite and engage our patrons while giving art and fashion their due. It’s a perfect extension of the First Night celebrations.”
Smart move on the surface, but Lynn, the DO team and presenting sponsor JP Morgan had an ace up their silk sleeves. Lots of aces, in fact. Some might sniff that Tutu Chic had held its fashion show in a similar manner at the Winspear with ballerinas as models. And the St. Valentine’s Day Fashion Show and Luncheon had joined the movement to the Arts District with last year’s move to the Meyerson. So having the DO’s fashion show was not a big, huge surprise. But the designers’ (Nicolas Villalba, Abi Ferrin, Khanh Nguyen, Elizabeth Anyaa and Michael Faircloth) gowns were simply amazing and showstopping. And the Escada collection was especially tempting with the offer of a 10% discount at the Escada boutique in Highland Park Village.
No, everything was following the fashion show/luncheon format — reception in the lobby, fashion show in the hall and luncheon back in the C. Vincent Prothro Lobby.
Ah, but that lunch in the lobby was where the surprise raised eyebrows, as well as smiles of delight.
It started out so typically. Tables set up; guests taking their seats for a Wolfgang Puck lunch (Piedmont gazpacho with torn bread, olive oil and marinated cucumbers; grilled lemon-marinated airline chicken with white bean ragu, sofrito coulis and friend Tuscan kale; and warm apple empanadas with dulce de leche ice cream); servers presenting. . . no, wait, the servers started singing, appropriately, “Libiamo ne’leiti calici” (“Let’s Drink From the Joyful Cup”) from La Traviata; a couple of folks walking by sang; people above along the second-level terrace started singing, and even a gal with a broom started singing. It was an operatic flash mob presented by the SMU Meadows Chorale to the delight of the guests like Kelli Ford, Ellen and Don Winspear, Holly Mayer, Steve Stodghill and Mary Ann Cree.
Just more proof that the Dallas Opera is no longer your great granny’s long-hair music.
By the way, those fabulous designer gowns and original sketches are part of an online auction being conducted by Heritage Auctions. It concludes Monday, November 11, at 10 p.m.