Opera Tampa Masked Ball Gala
Conductor Daniel Lipton's staging of Verdi's A Masked Ball (Un Ballo in Maschera) at the Straz Center came with a ready-made theme for Opera Tampa's annual gala. And like the production, Saturday night's Masked Ball Gala had its share of intrigue. Would acclaimed soprano Martina Arroyo make it to Tampa? Would retired maestro Anton Coppola arrive? Or would a blizzard ground their flights in New York and postpone the annual Coppola Excellence in the Arts award presentation?
Alas, the winter storm caused Straz director Judy Lisi to move the award ceremony to March 9, opening night of La Boheme. But the 150 guests still celebrated: bison filet dinner on the Morsani Hall stage, accompanied by a dozen richly costumed Opera Tampa singers and a special performance by soprano Elizabeth de Trejo. Auctioneer Aaron Fodiman raised such bids as $1,600 from Cesar Lara for a wine package and $3,750 from Lea Davis for the New York opera and Broadway trip, all helping the $350-ticket gala net $50,000. Opera festival events spanned two months, including a Saks Fifth Avenue fashion show, open rehearsals and a food truck concert.
Composer, clarinetist, pianist and guest conductor Teddy Abrams put down the baton for a private concert for the Florida Orchestra's Amadeus Society, including a lively improvisation and two pieces with his friend, French horn player Robert Rearden. The Feb. 6 performance followed dinner at A La Carte Event Pavilion where a dozen musicians were seated with Amadeus members (annual orchestra donors of $2,500 and up). Abrams, assistant conductor of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra at age 25, might have spoken of Budapest, where he is resident conductor of the MAV Symphony Orchestra. Rearden likely chatted about his recent trip performing in Cuba.
Spotted in the crowd: VIVO trio Barb Izzi, Renate Armitage and Shirley Dibley, all Vitally Involved Volunteers for the Florida Orchestra.
Heart Gallery's "Be Mine, Diamonds & Cigars"
Children in foster care will feel the love from "Be Mine, Diamonds and Cigars," a first-time fundraiser for the traveling Heart Gallery of Tampa Bay, a photography exhibit of children hoping to be adopted. More faces smile on a website that has attracted a million viewers.
The Children's Board displayed the photos Feb. 7 as several adopted children and their new families mingled at the Tampa Bay History Center with 450 guests enjoying rum cocktails, paella, cigar rollers and the Eddy Lugo & Co. flamenco dancers. Junior Leaguers dominated the guest list and auction bids, many involved through service projects.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers general manager Mark Dominik made the evening personal, sharing that he and his wife adopted their two children. "Kids pictured in the gallery are more than three times likely to be adopted," he said, noting that 40 percent matched with families (68 percent teenagers) last year.
Nationally, thousands of photographers volunteer to take pictures of foster children. Locally, 150 photographers help capture potential families, including Amy Pezzicara, honored that night as photographer of the year.
Florida State Fair Governor's Day Luncheon
Attorney General Pam Bondi led the Pledge of Allegiance, Jenny Steinbrenner Swindal ate a Krispy Kreme cheeseburger and Gov. Rick Scott previewed a new tourism commercial — all on opening day of the Florida State Fair, where 800 city, county and state officials and civic boosters turned up for the Governor's Day Luncheon. Networking stopped long enough for Dottie Berger MacKinnon to announce the Metro Civitan Club's 2012 Citizen of the Year.
Philanthropist John Sykes, retired CEO of Sykes Enterprises, was shocked, delighted and emotional as MacKinnon described his commitment to urban schoolchildren, law enforcement and fire personnel, food banks, medical advances and people in crisis.
"That's John … humble, inspirational," said Fan No. 1, University of Tampa president Ron Vaughn, who helped Susan Sykes' covert operation to lure her husband to the state fair.