“Light Up the Night” marqueed merriment for Lighthouse Louisiana, shining a social spotlight on a garden party format; The Louisiana Center for Women in Government and Business gathered patrons on the eve of the Louisiana Women Leaders Business Conference, which took place at the Hilton Riverside and mastheaded Hoda Kotb, of NBC’s “Today Show,” Nancy Grace, of CNN Headline News, and Catherine Dent, Lifetime TV actress and producer; and, in recognition of one of opera’s most intriguing women, Carmen, the Junior Committee of the Women’s Guild of the New Orleans Opera Association presented “Masquerade: Running with the Bulls,” a costumed event in honor of “Carmen.” The three events unfolded within blocks of one another in the Garden District on the same Friday evening. Social buzzing abounded.

‘Light’ Levity

Catching the chairing spotlight were Jane Heidingsfelder, Jim Ashbee and Jim Perrier, who teamed at the Jims’ St. Charles Avenue home to raise funds for Lighthouse Louisiana, which espouses “Vision Beyond Sight.” Superior Energy Services was the presenter; dress was casual; pedicab rides at the end of the evening came courtesy of Need a Ride Pedicabs; Paul LaCour did the lighting; Ambrose Garden, the flowers; and DJ Ronnie Roux, the music. Ten fine eateries and drinkeries fed the flock, which, once fortified, was ready to participate in the excitement of the live auction conducted by Cooper Manning, Co-Chairwoman Heidingsfelder’s brother-in-law. Nine different auction items, including artwork, a private in-home dinner, two vacations and jewelry, produced bucks for top bids.

Among the bash’s notables were Lighthouse Louisiana President Renee Vidrine and board Chairman Curtis Eustis with Celeste, Ellen Manning with the above Cooper, Karen and Perry Eastman, Holt and Gordon Kolb, Vincent Saia and Glynn Stephens Jr., Will Erickson, Mark Carbon and Claus Grassel, Suzanne Alford, and Caroline and Murray Calhoun.

Many figured on the 70-person Host Committee, as did Erica and James Reiss, Holly and Guy Perrier, cousins Lamar Villere and Sandy Villere with Michelle and Anne, Lori and Kevin Frischhertz, Courtney Stumm, Ryan Cole and Tracy Caldwell, Rhett Majoria, and Jenny and John Charpentier, neighbors of hosts Jim Ashbee and Jim Perrier.

Make Mine Masquerade

The historic Opera Guild Home in the Garden District was the site of the “Carmen”-inspired night and its nod to España. Attendees, who donned either Spanish-themed costumes or cocktail attire, sipped sangria while they enjoyed the likes of paella from Salu Restaurant, tapas selections and flan. Of course, music was a top ingredient of the fun and The Treblemakers made their mark.

Visual excitement occurred during the band’s first intermission when a cape-costumed dance was performed. It was a prelude to the fashion show that ensued, put on by Fashion Week NOLA and featuring a Spanish cape and matador-inspired collection by designer Jose Luis Rodriguez.

Leading the luminaries was event Chairwoman Ashley Pradel, who built on the success of the Junior Committee’s 2013 costume fundraiser for this year’s “Masquerade: Running with the Bulls.” More reveling in the toro tout were Junior Chairwoman Autumn Snyder Harrell with husband Justin Harrell, Women’s Guild President Betsy Dowling with Patrick, Rachel Johnson, Sarah Abrusley, Cordelia Tullous, Penny Baumer, Virginia Blanque, Dr. Erin O’Sullivan, Fashion Week NOLA coordinator Tracee Dundas, Judge Laurie White and Angel Varnado.

All will be clicking figurative castanets this weekend, when the opera “Carmen,” the first of the season, opens on Friday evening, Oct. 10, with a second performance in the afternoon on Sunday, Oct. 12. Busy with Bizet will be Geraldine Chauvet as the eponymous Carmen and, in the role of Don Jose, native New Orleanian Bryan Hymel. He has just sung the role of Rodolfo in “La Boheme” at the Metropolitan Opera in New York. According to the New Yorker magazine, Hymel, “a breakout star in the Met’s most recent revival of ‘Les Troyens,’” brought “ringing tone and exuberant phrasing to the part” of Rodolfo.

Now he’s on for Don Jose in “Carmen” and his fans will be out in full force.

Louisiana Center for Women in Government and Business

About 125 people assembled at the home of Heidi and James Dugan for the patron party on the eve of the start of the LCWGB business conference featuring the above-mentioned Kotb, Grace and Dent. Catering d’Orleans did the patron-party food, purveying such goodies as pok pok chicken skewers and yellowfin tuna cones, and Federico’s Florist, the flowers. All eyes turned to the arrangements of roses, hydrangeas, curly willow, ginger, birds of paradise, orchids and lilies.

Catching up conversationally were Orleans Parish District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro, Jefferson Parish President John Young, Tamica Lee, Russ and Sandra Herman, James Williams, Angela Hill and Dr. Irwin Marcus, Eric and Bethany Paulsen, Jeff and Reagan Charleston, and, with husband Chip, Dr. Laura Badeaux, director of the LCWGB at Nicholls State University.

Also, Bart and Kaitlin Kelly, Jeff and Simone Bruni Crouere, Kathleen Mix, Carol Short, Diane Hollis, Barry and Dianne Breaux, Faith and Bill Peperone, Leo and Leslie Marsh, Nadia Alhashimi, Demetric Mercadel, Nicole Ferriere, and dozens more, who made business most pleasurable.

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