More than one “first” was celebrated when The Dallas Opera presented its gala First Night event on Friday, October 12, at the Winspear Opera House. Not only was “The Flying Dutchman” presented to kick off the Opera’s 62nd season—the first time the renowned work by Richard Wagner had been staged by The Dallas Opera since 1994. But the performance also marked the debut of Ian Derrer as the Opera’s Kern Wildenthal General Director and CEO, following Keith Cerny‘s departure from that post late last year.
Following tradition, First Night began with a “red carpet arrival” and then a reception and dinner in the Sammons Park Tent. Around 215 guests gathered in the tent for the pre-opera festivities, including First Night Chairs Shelle and Michael Sills, Honorary Chairs Marnie and Kern Wildenthal, Advisory Chairs Dianne and Mark LaRoe., and season sponsors Nancy Nasher and David Haemisegger. Kern was resplendent in a red bow tie and matching cummerbund, which he wore for the first time since the Winspear opened back in 2009. (The cummerbund, he reported with a smile, even “had to be taken in.”) Kern’s ensemble matched Marnie’s striking scarlet gown, which also hadn’t been worn in years — and had to be “taken in” as well!
Additional guests spotted in the black-tie crowd included Debra Witter and Scott Chase (they’re both members of the Opera’s board of trustees), Andy Smith, Ann and Steve Stodghill (she’s president of the Opera’s Women’s Board), Lee Cullum, Diane and Hal Brierley, Agustin Arteaga, Carlos Gonzalez, Georgina Hartland, Rhonda and Fraser Marcus, Kara and Randall Goss, Rhonda Sargent Chambers, Roz Colombo, Linda and Mitch Hart, Lynn and Allen McBee (she’s the Opera Board chair), Selwyn Rayzor and Rich Moses, Kenny Goss and Joyce Goss. Joyce was fresh off chairing the Opera’s very successful First Sight Fashion Show and Luncheon on September 11 along with Marnie, the honorary co-chair.
During the Wolfgang Puck-prepared dinner, Michael Sills thanked the assembled for attending, Ian was toasted warmly, and Kern disclosed that season subscription sales for the Opera had increased by 8 percent. Lynn also announced that Ellen Winspear would be next year’s First Sight Luncheon chair, and Kim and Greg Hext had agreed to serve as next year’s First Sight/First Night co-chairs. The meal itself was outstanding, from its amuse (coconut shell tropical fruit) and salad (Dungeness crab fritter) to its entree (44 Farms New York steak with spinach, mushrooms and steamed rice cakes). The wines were from Ste. Michelle Wine Estates, and the “dessert” was a clever nod to “The Flying Dutchman” nautical theme: Miniature Life Preserver Donuts.
Soon enough all hied to the opera house, where they were joined by nearly 1,100 others for the much-anticipated “Dutchman” performance. The production by the Canadian Opera Company did not disappoint. With the Opera’s Music Director Emmanuel Villaume wielding the baton, the mythical, three-act tale of a man who’s condemned to wander the seas—his only, faint hope for salvation the love of a faithful woman—was a spectacle from start to closing curtain. It starred Greer Grimsley as the Dutchman, Anja Kampe as Senta (the woman who could save him), and Jay Hunter Morris as Erik, Senta’s jilted suitor.
To conclude the evening, Downtown Fever performed at an after-party with the cast. On the late-night menu there was yet another item with a nautical theme: Sea Salt Popcorn Shrimp. The Dutchman doubtless approved.
For more photos of the gowns, gals and guys, check out MySweetCharity Photo Gallery.