It was 2 a.m. when the band finally quit playing, signaling the end of The Lyric Opera of Chicago’s opening night performance and gala ball, which raised $625,000 for the company.On Saturday, Sept. 21, about 3,500 people crowded the Civic Opera House for champagne, hors d’oeuvres and a first look at Mascagni’s "Cavalleria Rusticana" and Leoncavallo’s "Pagliacci," the so-called "heavenly twins" of opera repertoire. After the performance, 780 opera buffs were carted to the Chicago Hilton Grand Ballroom for dinner and dancing. Dress ranged from drop-dead glamorous to costumey and fun; necklaces with serious wattage seemed to be the dominant fashion note.All the better to complement the ballroom, a frescoed, carved, chandeliered slice of 1920s Chicagoana filled with sky-high arrangements of roses and wildflowers from by Kehoe Designs.Before dinner, Lyric general director William Mason introduced the stars of the night, among them mezzo Dolora Zajick, tenor Vincenzo La Scola, baritone Jean-Philippe Lafont and soprano Svetla Vassileva. The Julius Frankel Foundation, Aon Corp., Northern Trust, ITW, P.E. MacAllister and Kraft Foods were the event’s major sponsors.

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