Toledo Opera fund-raising gala hits several high notes

- Published Sunday, November 3, 2019

LADIES and gents were all gussied up for the Jennifer Rowley Toledo Opera Gala: A Night at the Met at the Valentine Theatre presented by the Joseph and Judith Conda Family and Owens Corning in partnership with the BGSU College of Musical Arts.

Pianist Kevin Bylsma told what was happening before each selection, but not before exclaiming, “Today is World Opera Day!”

There was complete silence as voices filled the air while telling stories through songs. No decor or props were needed, just the grand piano and the performers: soprano Jennifer Rowley with husband and fellow opera singer baritone Raymond Diaz, and Toledo Resident Artists mezzo soprano Mary Cloud, baritone Rahim Mandal, tenor Jaewook Lee, and soprano Caroline Miller.

Tears, frowns, smiles, looks of seduction, jealousy, heartache, and more said it all even though it was in Italian and German. Rogers and Hammerstein’s “If I Love You” in English ended the performance sealed with a kiss, which brought applause, bravos, cheers, whistles, and a standing ovation.

But wait; there was more! The Toledo Opera Company will produce Aida next fall with Jennifer Rowley in the title role, and guests were privy to a preview.

Champagne and canapés were prior to the performance for about 200 guests including Pat Nowak, opera guild president and Shirley Joseph, a longtime opera supporter. An outstanding gourmet dinner followed for about 155 supporters.

Suzanne Rorick, executive director, welcomed everyone and recognized past board chairmen, Ann SanfordSandy SauderAlex Herd, and Maureen Brown. Event chairmen Ms. Sanford and Kim Kearns were thanked.

Dr. Allen Markowicz, board chairman, said the Toledo Opera is a great regional opera which is a friendly company whose guest artists enjoy returning to Toledo.

Jim Norman of the Toledo Opera spoke about the Opera on Wheels, which serves 22,000 children. He headed the live auction for dinner with the resident artists to sing at your party. Five $1,500 dinners were sold followed by donation bids for the Opera Educational Programs.

Kevin Eikum and Chris Buzzelli played jazz tunes as guests sat at black-covered tables centered with red roses, opera sheet music and twinkle lights by Angel 101 of Perrysburg.

The menu was inspired by the 1940s Metropolitan Opera cookbook with a modern twist by the Registry Bistro: a pumpkin aioli-based tarte, veal osso buco with risotto, and a trio of petite desserts, all with delightful wines, some of which were from Ms. Sanford’s wine cellar. About $40,000 was raised.

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