Toledo Opera's Men In Black gala an ‘homage to the men’

Courtesy of Toledo Blade, 2015

- Published Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Most affairs are of the heart, but Toledo Opera’s annual Men In Black gala is a poetic affair of food, mixed with the beauty, emotion, and sound of opera.

This year’s gala is truly a feast of the senses.

The palate is being pleased along with the senses of sound and sight — you have good-looking men, who are impeccably dressed in black tie attire (as well as the guests) — explained Suzanne Rorick, Toledo Opera executive director, and gala co-chairman Susan Allan Block.

“That’s opera. It’s about lots of different stimuli. You’re singing in a foreign language. You have visuals. Opera is very multimedia,” Mrs. Rorick said.

This year’s gala will also be an intimate affair, taking place at 7 p.m. May 9 at the Toledo Club, downtown. It features some of the local opera company’s most admired leading men: Michael Chioldi, bass-baritone; Kristopher Irmiter, bass; Jamie Offenbach, bass-baritone; Mark Rucker, baritone; and Hyung Yun, baritone. The men will be accompanied by pianist and the opera’s head of music preparation, Kevin Bylsma.

Two hundred guests will be given front-row access to the opera stars and their performances. Those seeking a one-on-one experience can invite an artist to dine at their table.

If you go:

When: 7 p.m. May 9.

Where: The Toledo Club, 235 14th St.

Cost: $250 per person, $2,500 for tables of 10 guests; $1,000 to have an opera artist join you at dinner.

Attire: Black tie.

Highlights: Performances by five of Toledo Opera's leading men; Cocktail hour with open bar and specialty drink; dinner; dancing; cigar tent. Raised proceeds benefit the Toledo Opera. For more information or reservations contact Suzanne Rorick or 419-255-7464.

The menu is our "homage to the men," said Mrs. Block, who selected the dishes along with Mrs. Rorick, and gala co-chairmen Kim Kearns and Karen McMurray.

The cocktail reception hosted in the Red Room offers guest a balance of spring vegetables, salty-and-sweet combinations, as well as a taste of the sea. Wrapping dates stuffed with almonds in an in-house cured and smoked lamb bacon, instead of pork bacon, brings a sharp saltiness to the sweeter side of the delectable dates.

"It has a much different flavor [compared to pork bacon]. We cure it just like bacon and smoke it in-house in hickory," executive chef Michael Rosendaul said.

Freshwater prawns perched on shooter glasses and fresh spring pea soup will also be served during the hour, accompanied by cocktail classic bourbon sour, crafted with small batch Woodford Reserve Bourbon.

The main event takes place in the Toledo Club's grand main dining room, located on its third floor.

Keeping with the manly theme, guests will be served filet mignon, perfectly seared on the outside and evenly cooked on the inside because of the club's new infrared broiler. Balanced atop the buttery and tender steak is a donut-sized beer-battered onion ring. The two are accompanied by a poised potato skin cup, the receptacle of the twice-baked potato filling. After dinner guests will be entertained by the five men and their solo performances. Mrs. Rorick said they plan to sing a very rarely performed quintet of all low voices.

Dessert, a French apricot cheesecake donated by Mrs. Block's Vendome Pastry, and dancing finish the evening.

Entertaining guests is just one goal of the night. It also raises funds to support the Toledo Opera, while shining a light on one of the area's performing arts gems.

"It is so important to support the opera and arts in Toledo. This is what elevates the city," Mrs. Block said. "If we ever lose any of the jewels, like the opera, the symphony, the art museum, our library, our zoo ... these cultural institutions are what make Toledo what I think is one of the best cities in the country."

She added that the Toledo Opera's world-class performances are easily accessible to all, with tickets starting as low as $30.

Contact Natalie Trusso Cafarello at:419-206-0356,, or on Twitter @natalietrusso.

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