For just one night, the Civic Opera House became a Japanese garden, complete with Torii gate, kimonos, paper lanterns, and Taiko drummers (environmental design by Event Creative). This set the scene for “Petals and Pearls,” the 30th annual “Fantasy of the Opera Gala” benefit hosted by Lyric Opera of Chicago’s Guild Board of Directors on Jan. 31. The gala benefit raised $412,000 for the world-renowned opera company.
Some 550 guests enjoyed tastings by Limelight Catering, sushi provided by Arami and sake courtesy of Tenzing and Bonzai Beverage Corp. Diversions included ikebana demonstrations and an origami showcase, plus continuous screenings of anime films.
The Fantasy Cabaret performance in the Ardis Krainik Theatre featured stars of Lyric’s current season. Lyric’s music director Sir Andrew Davis sparkled as Master of Ceremonies. Christine Brewer (“The Sound of Music”), David Cangelosi (“Madama Butterfly”) and the Cangelinas (Lyric chorus members Cathleen Dunn, Desiree Hassler, Lynn Lundgren), Jill Grove (“Rusalka”), Brandon Jovanovich (“Rusalka”), Will Liverman (“The Barber of Seville”), Ana María Martínez (“Rusalka”), and Eric Owens (“Rusalka”), performed selections mostly from the great American songbook and Broadway classics. Pianist Craig Terry (music director of the Ryan Opera Center) accompanied the singers.
Following the cabaret, gala sponsors and VIP ticketholders enjoyed a seated dinner prepared by Limelight Catering, while other guests flocked to “The Japanese Garden” and danced till midnight to Rendezvous Music. Ryan Opera Center ensemble members J’nai Bridges and Will Liverman spontaneously joined the band for a rousing rendition of Outkast’s “Hey Ya,” followed by Bridges’ sultry interpretation of Gershwin’s “Summertime.”