The woman behind some of Houston Grand Opera's most spectacular productions in the fundraising arena succumbed to brain cancer Wednesday afternoon.
Guyla Pircher, HGO director of special events, had been with the company for almost seven years, orchestrating a host of memorable balls, opening night galas and scores of other successful fundraising events. As HGO chief advancement officer Greg Robertson said, "Guyla was an incredibly creative person, who could think very strategically."
Indeed, she was the congenial diva behind the opera's highly successful balls that in recent history have consistently raised more than $1 million. Last April's white-tie-and-tails gala brought in $2 million. In 2011, the event raised $4 million. Last fall, she presided, albeit behind the scenes, over HGO's delightful "Singing With the Houston Idols" fundraiser.
HGO managing director Perryn Leech, who is in England, wrote in an email to the HGO board of directors, "A consummate professional, Guyla believed that the quality of your work reflected your values . . . She believed that through work we could make the world a better place."
Even in the latter throes of her illness, Pircher continued to work on behalf of HGO. She lined up chairs for next fall's opening night gala, for the Concert of Arias and for next spring's opera ball.
"Guyla knew how to walk that line between kissing and kicking. And she knew when kissing would work and when kicking was required."
Robertson appointed Pircher to her position shortly after her arrival at the company, recognizing in her "the unique quality of being able to work with such a broad cross section of folks" ranging from patrons to suppliers. "Guyla knew how to walk that line between kissing and kicking. And she knew when kissing would work and when kicking was required."
Pircher was known for her high sense of style (thanks in part to a fashion background), a dry wit and consumate professionalism that allowed her to flourish in the highly-challenging world of non-profit special events. She was on the scene on weekends, holidays and many long nights insuring that her events came off flawlessly.
HGO board member Donna Bruni is one of many Pircher fans. As opera ball chair, she worked closely with Guyla and they ultimately became close personal friends. "What a talent she was," Bruni said. "How gracious she was. How dedicated she was to what she did and she always did an excellent job."
As Leech closed his remarks, "We will miss her tremendously and keep her in our hearts forever."
She is survived by her husband, Boyd Harris. At her request, there will be no funeral service nor public memorial.