Shelby's Social Diary

Deluge and flooded party tent can't dampen exuberant Houston Grand Opera opening night gala

Heavy rains can't dampen exuberant HGO opening night Aida gala

Jerry Fischer, from left, Frances Marzio, Beth Madison and John Turner at the Houston Grand Opera Opening Night celebration October 2013
Jerry Fischer, from left, Frances Marzio, Beth Madison and John Turner at the Houston Grand Opera Opening Night celebration. Photo by © Priscilla Dickson
Margaret Alkek Williams and Jim Daniel at the Houston Grand Opera Opening Night celebration October 2013
Margaret Alkek Williams and Jim Daniel at the Houston Grand Opera Opening Night celebration. Photo by © Wilson Parish
David and Estella Cockrell at the Houston Grand Opera Opening Night celebration October 2013
David and Estela Cockrell at the Houston Grand Opera Opening Night celebration. Photo by © Priscilla Dickson
Cynthia Petrello, left, and Pat Breen at the Houston Grand Opera Opening Night celebration October 2013
Cynthia Petrello, left, and Pat Breen at the Houston Grand Opera Opening Night celebration. Photo by © Priscilla Dickson
Diane and Harlan Stai, from left, with Zandra Rhodes at the Houston Grand Opera Opening Night celebration October 2013
Diane and Harlan Stai, from left, with Zandra Rhodes at the Houston Grand Opera Opening Night celebration. Photo by © Wilson Parish
Susan and Jimmy Olguin at the Houston Grand Opera Opening Night celebration October 2013
Susan and Jimmy Olguin at the Houston Grand Opera Opening Night celebration. Photo by © Priscilla Dickson
Robin Angly and Miles Smith at the Houston Grand Opera Opening Night celebration October 2013
Robin Angly and Miles Smith at the Houston Grand Opera Opening Night celebration. Photo by © Wilson Parish
Perryn and Caroline Leech at the Houston Grand Opera Opening Night celebration October 2013
Perryn and Caroline Leech at the Houston Grand Opera Opening Night celebration. Photo by © Wilson Parish
Kristine and Christopher Williams at the Houston Grand Opera Opening Night celebration October 2013
Kristine and Christopher Williams at the Houston Grand Opera Opening Night celebration. Photo by © Wilson Parish
Zandra Rhodes, left, and Danielle Ellis at the Houston Grand Opera Opening Night celebration October 2013
Zandra Rhodes, left, and Danielle Ellis in Zandra Rhodes at the Houston Grand Opera Opening Night celebration. Photo by © Priscilla Dickson
Donna Bruni conducts the National Anthem at the Houston Grand Opera Opening Night celebration October 2013
Donna Bruni conducts the National Anthem at the Houston Grand Opera Opening Night performance. Photo by © Priscilla Dickson
Gina and Mark Metts at the Houston Grand Opera Opening Night celebration October 2013
Gina and Mark Metts at the Houston Grand Opera Opening Night celebration. Photo by © Wilson Parish
Bobbie-Vee and Jerry Cooney at the Houston Grand Opera Opening Night celebration October 2013
Bobbie-Vee and Jerry Cooney at the Houston Grand Opera Opening Night celebration. Photo by © Priscilla Dickson
Bill and Sara Morgan at the Houston Grand Opera Opening Night celebration October 2013
Bill and Sara Morgan at the Houston Grand Opera Opening Night celebration. Photo by © Wilson Parish
Alex and Astley Blair at the Houston Grand Opera Opening Night celebration October 2013
Alex and Astley Blair at the Houston Grand Opera Opening Night celebration. Photo by © Wilson Parish
Alfredo and Marcia Vilas at the Houston Grand Opera Opening Night celebration October 2013
Alfredo and Marcia Vilas at the Houston Grand Opera Opening Night celebration. Photo by © Wilson Parish
Beth Madison with Aida guards at the Houston Grand Opera Opening Night celebration October 2013
Beth Madison at the Houston Grand Opera Opening Night celebration. Photo by © Wilson Parish
Aida decor sphinx at the Houston Grand Opera Opening Night celebration October 2013
Aida decor at the Houston Grand Opera Opening Night celebration. Photo by © Wilson Parish
Jerry Fischer, from left, Frances Marzio, Beth Madison and John Turner at the Houston Grand Opera Opening Night celebration October 2013
Margaret Alkek Williams and Jim Daniel at the Houston Grand Opera Opening Night celebration October 2013
David and Estella Cockrell at the Houston Grand Opera Opening Night celebration October 2013
Cynthia Petrello, left, and Pat Breen at the Houston Grand Opera Opening Night celebration October 2013
Diane and Harlan Stai, from left, with Zandra Rhodes at the Houston Grand Opera Opening Night celebration October 2013
Susan and Jimmy Olguin at the Houston Grand Opera Opening Night celebration October 2013
Robin Angly and Miles Smith at the Houston Grand Opera Opening Night celebration October 2013
Perryn and Caroline Leech at the Houston Grand Opera Opening Night celebration October 2013
Kristine and Christopher Williams at the Houston Grand Opera Opening Night celebration October 2013
Zandra Rhodes, left, and Danielle Ellis at the Houston Grand Opera Opening Night celebration October 2013
Donna Bruni conducts the National Anthem at the Houston Grand Opera Opening Night celebration October 2013
Gina and Mark Metts at the Houston Grand Opera Opening Night celebration October 2013
Bobbie-Vee and Jerry Cooney at the Houston Grand Opera Opening Night celebration October 2013
Bill and Sara Morgan at the Houston Grand Opera Opening Night celebration October 2013
Alex and Astley Blair at the Houston Grand Opera Opening Night celebration October 2013
Alfredo and Marcia Vilas at the Houston Grand Opera Opening Night celebration October 2013
Beth Madison with Aida guards at the Houston Grand Opera Opening Night celebration October 2013
Aida decor sphinx at the Houston Grand Opera Opening Night celebration October 2013

Even as the black-tie attired guests stepped gingerly through inches of water, ladies genteelly hiking their designer gowns, Houston Grand Opera's opening night gala dinner showed no signs of surrendering to Mother Nature's soggy mood. In fact, the late-night soirée went on in the party tent on Fish Plaza with an exuberance inspired by the enormously colorful performance of Aida.

While it poured outside, the party tent interior shimmered in a cloak of gilded fabric, a forest of palm trees created by soaring centerpieces on each table. The palms were cleverly supported by golden pyramids dressed in orchids and, at each end of the tent, a massive mural of a reclining Cleopatra added to the ambiance. (Houston Ballet's Lauren Anderson in Cleopatra costuming was the subject of one.)

As the champagne corks popped, crews with mops battled the relentless flow of water seeping under the edges of the tent, prompting one guest to quip, "It seems that the Nile has flooded its banks."

All's well that ends well, as the evening raised $450,000,  a record for HGO opening night galas. 

Few seemed perturbed by the watery setting as most laughed off the rain, including opening night chair Frances Marzio. As planned herald trumpeters called the gathering to attention for Perryn Leech's introduction of the Aida cast and presentation of honors to outgoing HGO board chair Beth Madison. "She is a true Houston treasure," Dr. John Mendelsohn noted as Madison resided on a throne, escorted there by hunky "guards" in costumes from the production. The evening marked Mendelsohn's ascension to board chair.

Among the ladies lifting their hemlines was Donna Bruni, who prior to the opera conducted the orchestra in the national anthem, an honor she had earned via auction at  last spring's Opera Ball. For her conducting debut, she wore a tuxedo. By intermission, she was in her striking ball gown.

Of course, all eyes were on fashion designer Zandra Rhodes, who designed the sets and costumes for the HGO Aida production. And, yes, that pink coif is her real hair, not a wig. Only those who got close to her could tell for sure.

Sitting down for the late-night dinner by City Kitchen were Margaret Alkek Williams and Jim Daniel, Phoebe and Bobby Tudor, Christopher Gardner and Gary Tinterow, Carol and Mike Linn, Lynn Wyatt, Eileen and George Hricik, Sara and Bill Morgan, Francoise and Ed Djerejian and Pat and Dan Breen.

At night's end, it was time once again to walk on water and, at this point, the covered red carpet connecting the party tent to Wortham Theater Center was as sloshy as Memorial Drive after a hard rain. All's well that ends well, as the evening raised $450,000, a record for HGO opening night fundraisers.