Opera donors honored at al fresco feast

Swanky Soiree chairman John William Barger III and mistress of ceremonies Kate Wentzel keep the event going. Carol Walker/Thomas Bruce Studio
Swanky Soiree chairman John William Barger III and mistress of ceremonies Kate Wentzel keep the event going.Carol Walker/Thomas Bruce Studio
Published September 30 2015


Major donors to the St. Petersburg Opera Company dined under an outdoor tent set up near the water at Redington Beach outside Claudia McCorkle's home, Seaside, with Michael's on East of Sarasota catering the meal for members of the Bel Canto and Maestro circles (contributors of $5,000 and more).

McCorkle is sponsoring Carmen, scheduled Oct. 18-20 at the Palladium Theatre, and entertainment for the evening included performances from Jennifer Feinstein (Carmen) and Michael Morrow (Don Jose), guitarist Bob Webb and pianist Mun Tzung Wong.

The company, led by Mark Sforzini, is in its 10th year.

Food, wine and fun

St. Pete Wine & Food Festival founders Dawna Stone and Matt Dieter seemed to be everywhere during the festivities over several days last week.

At the launch party held Sept. 23 at the Museum of Fine Arts, they welcomed guests, who filled the conservatory and enjoyed food and drink while learning about the itinerary for the weekend, which included beer and wine tastings and many additional food options.

The next evening, they oversaw a wine-pairings dinner held in the ballroom at the Birchwood on Beach Drive, where executive chef Jason Cline explained every detail of the six-course feast, from the Asiago-crusted Pacific coast oysters to the Gouda ice cream profiteroles. Wines were from the Browne Family Vineyards in Washington State.

Beneficiaries of the festival are the St. Petersburg Arts Alliance and the St. Petersburg Waterfront Parks Foundation.


More than 200 guests saw a runway show featuring fashions from Saks Fifth Avenue Sarasota at Swanky Soiree VI, held during Tampa Bay Fashion week in St. Petersburg's Mahaffey Theater. As if that weren't excitement enough, there was also a Saks pop-up shop for the evening, and numerous live and silent auction offerings.

The event featured signature food from a dozen Tampa Bay area restaurants and raised nearly $90,000 for Brookwood Florida, a residential program for abused, neglected and at-risk girls ages 13 to 21.

John William Barger III was chairman for the benefit, leading a committee that included Roseanna Costa, Sue Cramer, Leah Dohrman, Phyllis Eig, Kelly Francisco, Miriam Gillespie, Dawn Greenidge, Sparky Ierna, Marie Izzo, Kathy Jones, Karen Julien, Mona Kelly, Joyce and Walter Larson, Angela Myers and Cheryl Small.

Major sponsors were entertained the next evening at a private dinner with food from Michael's on East in Sarasota, plus signature wine pairings.