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R S V P / ORANGE COUNTY : Painting the Town Red : 'Carmen'-Inspired Bash Nets About $80,000 for Opera Pacific

November 21, 1995|KATHRYN BOLD

A dashing matador and a host of senoritas adorned in lace and red roses were among the 350 guests who attended Opera Pacific's "Spanish Serenade" ball Saturday.

Guests visited the romantic courtyards of old Seville--actually a cleverly disguised ballroom of the Hyatt Regency Irvine--where they were entertained by flamenco dancers, a Spanish guitarist and an Orange County opera singer. The $175-per-person dinner-dance netted about $80,000 for Opera Pacific.

Seeing Red

The fiery Carmen herself would have approved of guests' attire. In keeping with the "black tie with a Spanish flair" dress code, many wore red, the color of love and passion. Women sported lace mantillas and red roses with their ball gowns. Some men wore red cummerbunds and bow ties with their tuxedos, and a few adventurous souls donned fedoras.

"I'm just happy to be wearing a tux. Last year I came as Henry VIII," said event co-chairman Mark Johnson, who wore a burgundy-colored cummerbund-set in honor of the occasion.

Desiree McBride, a native of Spain, created a sexy Spanish gown with a skirt festooned with red roses. Asked what the significance of the red rose was to Spanish women, she replied: "Love."

"Spaniards are hotblooded," she said. It was easy for McBride to speak of love and passion: Her fiance, Chester Marcell, stood at her side wearing a matador costume with red satin cape that McBride made for him.

Suki McCardle came dressed as Carmen, complete with a mantilla of black lace and a red rose tucked in her hair.

"We went to Spain in the spring and went bike riding in Seville," she said. "This reminds me of southern Spain because the people are so friendly, and the women wear lots of veils."

Seville Setting

Party organizers chose the Spanish theme in honor of Opera Pacific's recent production of "Carmen."

"We wanted a theme that would take people into a Spanish village in an elegant way," said Barbara Venezia, production chairwoman.

Upon entering the hotel lobby, party-goers were greeted by a strolling violinist and fortunetellers in a makeshift Gypsy camp, where they bid on items such as a round-trip flight to Madrid in a silent auction.

As they moved into the ballroom, guests were serenaded by Michael Olson on flamenco guitar. To create their Spanish village, organizers covered the walls with massive backdrops used in actual operas depicting scenes of Spanish haciendas and courtyards.

"It looks like San Juan Capistrano," joked one wag.

Tables were lit with old-fashioned street lamps and decorated with fans, roses and sheet music from "Carmen" and "Barber of Seville." There guests dined on assorted tapas, a mixed greens salad with goat cheese, medallions of veal and apple mint crisp for dessert.

In between courses, they were entertained by Clarita and the Arte Flamenco Dance Theatre, and later Opera Pacific's own Robin Follman Otta of Tustin sang "Love Is Where You Find It" and "Canta Per Me," a Neapolitan tune.

"It's always such a thrill to see her sing," said Robin's mother, Carole Follman. The Follmans first discovered their daughter could sing when she was just 5 years old.

"We were on our way to a family dinner at Christmastime, and I heard this voice from the back seat. I thought it was the radio," she said.

The evening ended with guests waltzing on the dance floor to the Stonebridge Orchestra.

Among those attending were Laila Conlin, event co-chairwoman; Victor Ibanez-Martin, consul general of Spain; Irv and Gloria Gellman; Jerry and Maralou Harrington; Donn and Carole Lobdell; Catherine Thyen; Petrina Friede; Edward and Florence Schumacher; Elon and Mary Ann Wells; Zee Allred; Tita Loza; Douglas and Debra Wiggins; Victor and Karen Hardin; Scott and Mary Lou Hornsby; Don and Eugenia Thompson; David Scott and Gayle Widyolar, and Ruth Ding.

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