Only following a Houston Grand Opera production could dinner conversation so giddly turn to throat slashing, stabbings and suicide. And that was just the delicious subject matter that resonated through the party tent on Wortham Theater Center's Fish Plaza after the curtain fell on Tosca, the company's season opener.
The marvelous production, with voices that soared and music that bedazzled, sent the black-tie crowd on to dinner in high spirits. The swank tent, decorated with hints of Roman grandeur, was draped in crimson velvet, a palette that continued with centerpieces of deep red roses from which sheathed daggers sprouted. The knife a nod to the lead character's wont for using the blade — even in slitting her own throat before jumping to her death.
(A clever touch from The Events Co., which did the party decor.)
The opera tragedy did nothing to dampen spirits as champagne flowed and Tony's catering insured that dinner was as divine as the powerful Baron Scarpia might have demanded.
Opening night dinner chairs Susan and Ward Pennebaker took their bows as did family of the honoree, the late Roy H. Cullen. Representing the philanthropist and arts patron were his wife, Mary Cullen, and son, Meredith Cullen, and his wife, Danielle.
None among the 400 guests seemed to have been more joyful on this evening than HGO artistic and music director Patrick Summers, who introduced the cast, lavishing the entire production with high praise. The $400,000 proceeds only added to exuberance for the night.
After welcoming guests, HGO managing director Perryn Leech sheepishly donned a Kansas City Royals T-Shirt, the loser of a baseball bet with friends at the Lyric Opera of Kansas City. (The Royals defeated the Astros in the playoffs.)
The swell black-tie assembly included Cynthia Petrello, Lynn Wyatt, Molly and Jim Crownover, Frances Marzio, Kristina and Paul Somerville, Beth Madison, Diane Lokey Farb, Kelli Cohen Fein and Martin Fein, Anne and Dr. John Mendelsohn, Birgitt van Wijk and Eileen and George Hricik.
Heading their special table were Tenenbaum Classic Jewelers owners Tony Bradfield and Kevin Black with Christina Stith, beautifully adorned in house jewels. Tenenbaum provided the diamond dinner ring and cuff links for the prix-fixe auction. That yummy prize going to Denise and Philip Bahr.