Stepping Out in September

Dining with the Director

Black ties and cocktail attire were donned for prandial elegance when New Orleans Opera Association President James C. Gulotta Jr. and general and artistic director Robert Lyall invited a select group to the annual Director’s Dinner at the Windsor Court Hotel. The event honored the past three presidents, R. Ranney Mize, Ph.D., Meredith Hathorn Penick and Edward “Ted” F. Martin, who were accompanied by their spouses, Emel, Rawley and Louise. With President Gulotta, who answers to Jay, was his wife, Susan Talley.

The hotel’s Gallery Room was the site for the socializing that welcomed the cast of “Cavalleria Rusticana/Pagliaci,” the first production of the 75th season (with dates of Oct. 6 and 8) and a performance by soprano Gloria Consenza, granddaughter of the late Arthur (baritone) and Marietta Cosenza (mezzo-soprano), whose names are indelibly linked with the NOOA. Arthur was the general and artistic director from 1970-1998. Gloria, the 2018 Sal Panzeca Scholarship recipient, sang selections from Mozart and Johnny Mercer to accompaniment by Marcus St. Julien.

Further notables were 75th Anniversary Campaign Chaircouple Drs. Rand and Terry Voorhies, NOOA board Vice President Larry Pugh with Nina, J. Robert Pope, Maestro Circle Co-Chairman Dr. Nicolas Bazan, Mastersigners founder Joseph Young Jr. and spouse Aysen, Ph.D., Arthur A. Crais Jr., Price and Christine LeBlanc, NOOA Women’s Guild President Penny Baumer, Ashley Pradel, Louis and Diane Cosenza (Gloria’s parents), NOOA Vocal Competition founder Debby Hirsch Wood, Catherine Burns Tremaine, Elizabeth Landis, NOOA Executive Director Timothy Todd Simmons and spouse Kathleen Halm Simmons (soprano), Bart Folse, and others, who sat at tables set with soft gold table cloths with white overlays and centered with circles of twinkling votive lights. The first course was a Bibb lettuce salad, and the second and third ones, red fish and a delish chocolate mousse bombe.

Bright Nights and Lights

A fundraiser for Lighthouse Louisiana, “Light Up the Night” booked the Old Ursuline Convent on Chartres Street for the bash chaired by Amy Farnsworth, Blair Monroe (with David O’Brian), Julie Nosser (with spouse Jay) and Dr. Troy Scroggins. More Lighthouse luminaries in attendance were board Chairman Paul Masinter, President Renee Vidrine with Larry, Elder Gwin, Evie and Keith Katz, Lynn and David Parrish, and a Jim brace in Messrs. Perrier and Ashbee, whose handsome St. Charles Avenue home has housed “Night.” All supported the goal of the 2017 event: to raise more than $100,000 “to help empower persons with disabilities through services, employment and advocacy.”

Decorations of yellow carnations and roses arranged by Ambrose Garden were placed on tables in the old convent’s beautiful garden; Catering New Orleans, Rum House, Chez Nous and Joel Catering fed the flock; and DJ Swamp Boogie spun vinyl for the 300-plus attendees. Yet another aspect of excitement was the live auction, which produced Maureen Zimmerman as the “winner” of an impressive piece of jewelry from Friend & Company. Her delighted smile lit up the night.

A Blind Taste

“The only thing worse than being blind is having sight but no vision.” The quote by author Helen Keller was used by speaker Beth Arroyo Utterback (WWOZ), who spoke at the annual A Blind Taste dinner to benefit WRBH Reading Radio on the role the station played in the life of her late mother, Verna Arroyo, after she lost her sight. Verna’s days were enriched with stories and current events to keep her informed.

More mastheaders were WRBH Board President Daniel Meyer and wife Jennifer Barriere, executive director Natalia Gonzalez, and board members Charles Smith, Angela Hill, Don Banning, Lindsey Wands, and Dr. Jayne Weiss. To name a few.

As it has been for years, La Petite Grocery was the vital venue and chef Justin and Mia Devillier were present and duly thanked. The event was emceed by “Blind Taste” Chairman Charles Smith and Angela Hill.

At each table, pretty flowers were an immediate focal point. There were assorted autumn rose varieties, red hypericum berries and white and yellow asters. At each place setting, there was a Mason jar, an apron and a black blindfold, which guests put on while dining to experience blindness. Beef carpaccio, potato gnocchi, pan-roasted Gulf fish, roasted lamb loin and fig leaf panna cotta were the “Taste” treats. Every course was paired with an appropriate wine.

Certainly sight was a key aspect of the evening, along with tasting. However, the ear was regaled, as well, with music at the patron party by Greg Smith and Mark Welicky.

Building Blocks

“We’re not just building homes, we’re building a community. Such is the slogan of Jericho Road Episcopal Housing Initiative that has invested $11 million in the Central City community through the development of affordable housing opportunities. The achievements of Jericho Road and its plans for the future were celebrated by a gathering of dozens of supporters and partners at the home of Ellen, a JR founding board member, and Mac Ball. As guests milled about, they enjoyed seeing displays depicting the impact of Jericho Road over the past 11 years, including stories of families owning homes for the first time.

When it was time for speeches, the Very Rev. David Allard duPlantier (with Karla), dean of Christ Church Cathedral and JR board chairman, and executive director Nicole Barnes spoke, lauding the program’s benefactors and supporters.

Noted were the hosting Ellen and Mac; JR board members Ivens Robinson with wife Dodge Hobson, Jonathan Stewart (a JR homeowner), Ashley Harrison , Kathryn Washington, Charmaine Davis, and Lucas Diaz; Christ Church Cathedral vestry member John Sibal with Lisa; the newly installed rector of Trinity Episcopal Church the Rev. Andrew Thayer; and the Rev. Kit McLean and Bill. Also, Virginia Weinmann, John Eastman and Kathy, and Warner Williams.

Cocktails and summer wines, as well as delectable hors d’oeuvres and sweets catered by Karen Lowry, delighted the palate. For the music, the Nolan Tecklenburg Trio stepped up to the plate.