Even before entering Wortham Theater Center's Grand Foyer, guests arriving on Fish Plaza Saturday night for Houston Grand Opera's ''Yellow Rose Ball" could see that this white-tie-and-tails evening was going to be out of the ordinary. Consider the country-western music, the longhorn steer and the calf that meandered around the plaza, and the mini-oil derricks that spewed water like gushers.
Certainly, it was a gusher of a night for Houston Grand Opera. Even before it was announced that oilman Oscar Wyatt was donating $1 million to HGO in honor of his wife, ball honoree Lynn Wyatt, the coffers were overflowing.
Expectations were that the extraordinary evening, chaired by Denise Bush Bahr and Philip Bahr, would net $1 million — in addition to Oscar's gift. While the money poured in before the ball, both the silent auction and the wine auction, chaired by Ellie Francisco and Jerry Lasco, respectively, belied any economic hardships locally.
A change of pace
In the Grand Foyer, the ambience quickly shifted from the plaza's country mood to Continental splendor. Richard Flowers and his Events Co. team employed 16,000 yellow roses, scores of elaborate crystal candelabrum and urns, and hundreds of silver vases — all in a floral embrace of the ball theme. Myriad swaths of broad yellow ribbons, suspended from a grid work high above the dance floor, held bouquets of yellow roses in crystal vases.
The elaborate setting, framed in vine-strewn white lattice, provided a lavish stage upon which the creme-de-la-creme of Houston society played. Social stalwarts Pat and Dan Breen; Houston Texans owner Bob McNair and wife Janice; Rich Kinder, 249th on Forbes' list of the world's richest people, and wife Nancy; Museum of Fine Arts, Houston director Peter Marzio and wife Frances; Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst and wife Tricia; philanthropist Margaret Williams on the arm of Jim Daniel; and Sterling Group co-founder Frank Hevrdejs and wife Michelle.
And there was royalty in the house — Prince Talal of Jordan, a personal friend of Lynn Wyatt, who flew in from Middle East just for the gala.
Oh what a night
Not since Lynn Wyatt chaired HGO's Golden Jubilee gala in 2005 has the city seen an evening as spectacular as this. Entertainment included opera world great Susan Graham, a guest of the gala chairs, singing in honor of Lynn Wyatt. Even the Texas A&M singing cadets joined the party later in the evening, entertaining with "San Antone Rose" and "There Is Nothin' Like a Dame," (Graham quietly singing along from her seat at the chairs' table).
A stunning (and surprise) tableau of indoor fireworks erupted throughout the latter part of the evening, fire marshals observing from corner posts. On an equally festive note, uniformed stewards from Geo. H. Lewis & Sons (where Bradford Wyatt is a major-domo) served the Pommery bubbly to key guests.
The stellar turnout
And then there was the drop-dead gorgeous contingent of ball patrons including John and Becca Cason Thrash, Franci and Jim Crane, Sue and Lester Smith, Gracie and Bob Cavnar, Diane Lokey Farb with Cerón, Jana and Scotty Arnoldy, Ann and Don Short, Isabel and Danny David, Tara and David Wuthrich and so many more that I could go on all day. In addition to Bradford Wyatt, the family table was filled with sons Steve Wyatt, in from Washington D.C., and Trey Wyatt, in from home base in Aruba, and their families.
On a fashion note, Lynn Wyatt wore a billowy, yellow gown designed especially for her for the ball by close friend Oscar de la Renta. Gala chair Denise Bush Bahr wore a couture creation in golden yellow by New York designer Norman Ambrose, who designed matching shoes for the bejeweled gown. Bobbie Vee Cooney enlisted Ambrose to create her yellow rose gown that was covered in three-deminsional roses. Joanne King Herring wore a Cesar Galindo gown that he designed especially for her for the evening.
What will HGO have up its sleeve for the 2011 ball? With 2010 a tough act to follow, HGO special events director Guyla Pircher said, "Wait 'til you see what we do next year . . . as Rudy Avelar chairs the ball to be themed 'My Fair Ladies.' We have big plans."