Oscar Winner Takes Jones Hall

Even Sir Ben Kingsley can't steal the show at Houston Symphony opening night gala

Even Sir Ben Kingsley can't steal the show at Houston Symphony opening

Houston Symphony Opener, 9/16, Valerie Dieterich, Tracy Dieterich
Valerie Dieterich, Tracy Dieterich. Photo by Wilson Parish
Houston Symphony Opening Night, 9/16, Andres Orozco-Estrada, Sir Ben Kingsley, Ralph Burch
Andrés Orozco-Estrada, Sir Ben Kingsley, Ralph Burch. Check back later for more photos. Photo by Anthony Rathbun
Houston Symphony Opener, 9/16, Steve Mach, Joella mach
Steve Mach, Joella Mach. Photo by Jenny Antill
Houston Symphony Opener, 9/16, Kevin Kushner, Brittany Sakowitz Kushner
Kevin Kushner, Brittany Sakowitz Kushner. Photo by Jenny Antill
Houston Symphony Opener, 9/16,  Mary Ann McKeithan, David McKeithan
Mary Ann McKeithan, David McKeithan. Photo by Wilson Parish
Houston Symphony Opener, 9/16,  Robin Angly, Miles Smith
Robin Angly, Miles Smith. Photo by Wilson Parish
Houston Symphony Opener, 9/16, Diane Lokey Farb
Diane Lokey Farb. Photo by Jenny Antill
Houston Symphony Opener, 9/16,  Phoebe Tudor, Bobby Tudor
Phoebe Tudor, Bobby Tudor. Photo by Jenny Antill
Houston Symphony Opener, 9/16,  Stephanie von Stein, Carrie Brandsberg-Dahl
Stephanie von Stein, Carrie Brandsberg-Dahl. Photo by Jenny Antill
Houston Symphony Opener, 9/16, Cody Patel, Betty Tutor, Kusum Patel, Jesse Tutor
Cody Patel, Betty Tutor, Kusum Patel, Jesse Tutor. Photo by Wilson Parish
Houston Symphony Opener, 9/16, Richard Carranza, Monique Garcia, Janet Moore, Harvin Moore
Richard Carranza, Monique Garcia, Janet Moore, Harvin Moore. Photo by Wilson Parish
Houston Symphony Opener, 9/16, Christina Hanson, Mark Hanson
Christina Hanson, Mark Hanson. Photo by Jenny Antill
Houston Symphony Opener, 9/16, April Lykos, Frank Hood
 April Lykos, Frank Hood. Photo by Jenny Antill
Houston Symphony Opener, 9/16,  Dore Meyers, Kevin Meyers
Dore Myers, Kevin Meyers. Photo by Jenny Antill
Houston Symphony Opener, 9/16, Gabriel Salinas, Christian Garcia, Daniela Sanchez, Manolo Sanchez
Cristina Gracia, Gabriel Salinas, Daniela Sanchez, Manolo Sanchez. Photo by Jenny Antill
Houston Symphony Opener, 9/16, Valerie Dieterich, Tracy Dieterich
Houston Symphony Opening Night, 9/16, Andres Orozco-Estrada, Sir Ben Kingsley, Ralph Burch
Houston Symphony Opener, 9/16, Steve Mach, Joella mach
Houston Symphony Opener, 9/16, Kevin Kushner, Brittany Sakowitz Kushner
Houston Symphony Opener, 9/16,  Mary Ann McKeithan, David McKeithan
Houston Symphony Opener, 9/16,  Robin Angly, Miles Smith
Houston Symphony Opener, 9/16, Diane Lokey Farb
Houston Symphony Opener, 9/16,  Phoebe Tudor, Bobby Tudor
Houston Symphony Opener, 9/16,  Stephanie von Stein, Carrie Brandsberg-Dahl
Houston Symphony Opener, 9/16, Cody Patel, Betty Tutor, Kusum Patel, Jesse Tutor
Houston Symphony Opener, 9/16, Richard Carranza, Monique Garcia, Janet Moore, Harvin Moore
Houston Symphony Opener, 9/16, Christina Hanson, Mark Hanson
Houston Symphony Opener, 9/16, April Lykos, Frank Hood
Houston Symphony Opener, 9/16,  Dore Meyers, Kevin Meyers
Houston Symphony Opener, 9/16, Gabriel Salinas, Christian Garcia, Daniela Sanchez, Manolo Sanchez

Despite the downpour that threatened the Houston Symphony opening night performance and gala on Saturday, there was an early-evening rainbow shining across the Houston skyline, a portent of the dazzling evening that was ahead. 

The rain broke just as guests climbed into luxury motor coaches for transport from the cocktail hour at the Corinthian to the concert at Jones Hall. Only a few satin evening pumps and dainty hemlines were any worse for the wear.

The evening was a celebration of ConocoPhillips' 30th consecutive year of supporting the opening night concert and gala, with a nod given to the energy firm's 45 years supporting the orchestra. ConocoPhillips deputy general counsel Ralph Burch chaired the evening, joining CEO Ryan Lance and Houston Symphony Society board president Steve Mach on stage to thank supporters. Lisa and Ryan Lance served as honorary chairs while Robin Angly and Miles Smith served as underwriting chairs.

Those supporters, many in black-tie for the post-concert dinner back at the Corinthian, ponied up more than $730,000 for the symphony's education and community programming. Despite the oil industry downturn, this evening ranked as the second most successful Opening Night Concert and Gala in the history of the event.

Adding to the spectacular sound of the symphony under direction of Andrés Orozco-Estrada was Academy Award winner Sir Ben Kingsley, who enchanted the Jones Hall crowd with his narration of Prokofiev's whimsical Peter and the Wolf.

The concert finale, Richard Strauss' stirring suite from Der Rosenkavalier, sent the crowd out into the night in remarkably high spirits despite the hellish heat and humidity.

For the after-party dinner, Kingsley joined the head ConocoPhillips table after spending a few moments in an intimate VIP gathering for major table buyers. Then it was show time for Houston Symphony CEO Mark Hanson who welcomed the merry late-night throng.

Far from an ordinary opening night dinner, Jackson and Company provided an elegant three course feast — poached salmon, herb-crusted medallion of beef, and a trio of desserts garnished with a chocolate oil derrick in honor of ConocoPhillips. And then there were the wines — Taft Street Chardonnay and the spectacular Caymus Cabernet Sauvignon. 

Those who know their wines were amazed at the selection. Those who know Ralph Burch were not surprised that the wine connoisseur insisted that guests paying as much as $50,000 and $25,000, and everyone else among the 600 guests, were rewarded for their support. No Oak Leaf Chardonnay, thank you.

Among the stunning gents in tuxes and ladies in smashing gowns were Phoebe and Bobby Tudor, Betty and Jess Tutor, Gina and Dr. Devinder Bhatia, Beth Madison, Jan Barrow, Cora Sue and Harry Mach, Francis Marzio, Kelli Cohen-Fein and Martin Fein, Carmen and Butch Mach, Joella Mach, Sue and Chris Conway, Daniela and Manolo Sanchez, and Marian and Gary Beauchamp.

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