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R S V P / ORANGE COUNTY : Costumed Opera Supporters Have a Ball

November 01, 1994|KATHRYN BOLD

Powdered wigs, extravagant headdresses, capes and masks add to the elaborate fantasies.

If they sang as good as they looked, those masquerading as their favorite opera characters Saturday would all be superstars like Beverly Sills or Luciano Pavarotti.

In keeping with the Halloween season, many of the 450 guests attending Opera Pacific's Grand Costume Opera Ball donned powdered wigs, elaborate headdresses, capes and masks and played out their favorite opera fantasies in the Grand Ballroom of the Hyatt Regency Irvine. The $175-per-person gala raised about $100,000 in net proceeds for Opera Pacific.

Let Them Eat Cake

"The opera ball is one of those special events that every year has a special motif," said Laila Conlin, ball co-chairwoman, dressed like Cinderella in a blue gown and sparkling tiara with her own Prince Charming, husband Bill, in a white tuxedo at her side.

Opera buffs, some in $500-a-day rental costumes that they booked months in advance and others in costumes they found buried in their closets, mingled during a champagne reception and ogled each other's outfits. Marie Antoinette proved a popular character; a half-dozen or so Marie look-alikes wandered around in brocade gowns with tight bodices and towering pompadour wigs.

"There hasn't been an extravagant costume ball in Orange County, and people who support the opera tend to be extravagant," said Barbara Venezia, event co-chairwoman, one of the Antoinettes.

Nora Jorgenson Johnson, resplendent in a white gown with ostrich feathers and matching boa, played Muzette from "La Traviata" (the opera's winter season opener Jan. 21).

"Did you practice your opera?" asked Opera Pacific's general director David DiChiera. To his surprise, Johnson responded by singing a few notes from the piece in a lovely soprano.

The other cast of characters included Royal Radtke, dressed as Falstaff in a blue velvet tunic and passing out gold chocolate coins to passers-by; Meme Kasen, who balanced a tall gold headpiece on her head for her stint as a Thai dancer from "The King and I," and William Adler as Prince Igor ("actually it's a Captain Hook costume, but I left off the hook," Adler said).

Garden Party

Debra Wiggins of Casello and Cherrie Lightburn of the Green Effects helped turn the grand ballroom into an enchanted garden, with carved stone benches, columns, fountains and greenery. At the center of each table stood birdbaths filled with floating candles and gardenias.

On the dance floor, couples from the Fred Astaire Dance Studio twirled to synthesized versions of the Strauss Waltz and Beethoven's Fifth. After the performance, the co-chairwomen emerged from Cinderella's coach to welcome guests and kick off the dinner.

Dinner was a gourmet feast--crab and goat cheese wrapped in filo, filet mignon, roasted salmon and, for dessert, chocolate savarin with an almond cornucopia filled with brandied cherries.

Theater, television and recording star Gary Morris then took the stage with his guitar and sang selections from "Les Miserables," in which he starred on Broadway, and "La Boheme."

Other guests were Gloria Gellman, president of the guild alliance, George and Adrienne Brennan, Elaine Redfield, Matt and Tina Schafnitz, Mark Chapin Johnson, Jerry Harrington, Norm and Myril Kreuder, Tita Loza, George Schreyer, John Provine, Ed and Helen Shanbrom, Wally and Gerry Schroeder, Ellie Cortese, Ralph and Georgene Smith, Gayle Widyolar and David Scott, Lon and Mary Anne Wells, McKinley and Ester Malapas and George and Anne Schopick.

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