Yes, in the end, Mimi died in Rodolfo's arms. Musetta, Marcello and friends clutched their aching hearts — as did many in the audience at Wortham Theater Center. But by the time the standing ovation for Houston Grand Opera's production of La Bohème had subsided, a lighter mood prevailed, particularly among the black-tie crowd headed for the party tent on Fish Plaza.
No doubt, the HGO season opener and gala post-performance dinner celebration stands as one of the premier evenings of the fall social season. Just check the all-star cast of Friday's opening night gala — glam chairs Jana and Scotty Arnoldy (fresh from IAH after a pheasant shoot in France) and honorees the much-admired Molly and Jim Crownover. Add HGO board chair Beth Madison, on the arm of the dashing Ralph Burch, as well as the charming Perryn Leech, HGO managing director, and Patrick Summers, director of international acclaim and HGO artistic and music director.
The beautifully-decorated party tent easily evoked the splendor of Paris' Café Momus as white-jacketed waiters swirled through offering flutes of champagne on silver trays. The divinely turned-out crowd of 400 celebrated the season launch including the recently-engaged Kristina Hornberger and Paul Somerville and tuxedo-attired Brenda Harvey, the HGO board member selected as guest conductor (an HGO tradition) for The Star Spangled Banner.
Had there been a standing ovation in the party tent, it would have gone to Tony Vallone for the three-course dinner that had guests raving about the truffle-scented duck confit salad, the seared snapper entree and the light-as-air chocolate dessert.
The roster of beautiful people in the crowd included Lynn Wyatt on the arm of La Bohème director John Caird, Donna and Bob Bruni, Michelle and Frank Hevrdejs, Cynthia and Tony Peterello, April and Tom Lykos, Phoebe and Bobby Tudor, Pat and Dan Breen, Jeanie Kilroy, Linda and Dr. Walter McReynolds, Franci Crane and Museum of Fine Arts Houston director Gary Tinterow and Christopher Gardner.