We didn't get to say goodbye to Rudy Avelar, director of Houston Grand Opera patron services for 40 years, as he died unexpectedly in his sleep in May. But that did not stop his numerous well-heeled friends from throwing a swell party in his honor. And he would have loved it.
More than 700 guests dressed to the nines on a Monday night for the ¡Viva Rudy! celebration of life that was held in Wortham Center's Cullen Theater.
The tribute soirée included performances by past HGO Studio members mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato, bass-baritone Patrick Carfizzi, and baritone Reginald Smith, Jr.; current HGO Studio artists soprano Mane Galoyan, tenor Yongzhao Yu, and baritone Sol Jin; and mezzo-soprano Vanessa Alonzo.
HGO artistic and music director Patrick Summers was among the pianists who accompanied the singers as were Richard Bado, Patrick Harvey, and Peter Walsh.
Avelar's praises were also sung, so to speak, by former HGO general director David Gockley, HGO managing director Perryn Leech, Bobbie Vee and Jerry Cooney and Joshua Avelar.
It was all to pay tribute to the man, loved by all who knew him, who for four decades served HGO with dedication, excellence and class. When the season begins next month, arriving at Wortham Theater Center, where Avelar, ever smart his suit and signature bow tie, regularly welcomed patrons, will not be the same.
Avelar so loved the opera that in 2011, he chaired the opera ball, dedicating it to all past ball chairs.
As HGO begins fundraising to establish the Rudy Avelar Chair, an intimate group of leadership donors in the campaign were treated to dinner, hosted by the Cooney's, in the Founder's Salon. Tony's, Avelar's favorite restaurant, catered the evening providing some of the late, great Rudy's favorite dishes.
Among the hundreds of notables saluting Avelar were HGO board chair Jim Crownover and Molly Crownover, Bob Bruni, Louisa Stude Sarofim, Ann and Albert Chao, Glen Rosenbaum, Terrylin Neale, Dian and Harlan Stai, Beth Madison, Margaret Alkek Williams and Jim Daniel, Birgitt van Wijk, Frances Marzio, Mariquita Masterson, Cynthia and Tony Petrello, Jane and Bob Cizik, Joanne King Herring, Robin Angly and Miles Smith, Denise and Philip Bahr, Olga Bush, Tony Bradfield, Kevin Black, and so many more.