OPERATIC EXTREMES
A DRESSED-TO-THE-NINES CROWD TURNS OUT FOR A GILDED EVENING IN HONOR OF CHICAGO’S LYRIC OPERA

Byline: Lisa Bertagnoli

The crowd at Chicago’s Lyric Opera is always well dressed, but on Friday, Jan. 19, at the organization’s annual benefit, partygoers scaled new sartorial heights. Perhaps they were just trying to stay in keeping with the setting. This year’s Fantasy Night at the Opera re-created a scene from Puccini’s “Tosca” set in Farnese Palace, the Roman dwelling. The already opulent opera house was made more so with gold brocade and candles covering most available surfaces. Guests matched the splendor: men in black tie and women in rainbow-hued (and of course black) evening gowns.
Tenor David Cangelosi, who has played the part of Spoletta in “Tosca,” served as master of ceremonies for the cabaret. Soprano Catherine Malfitano, in a strappy red dress, toyed with a gold shawl as big as a tablecloth as she sang a selection of Harold Arlen and George Gershwin tunes. Mezzo-soprano Jennifer Dudley, most recently seen in the Lyric’s production of “The Great Gatsby,” sang the Kurt Weill tune “That’s Him.”
“They don’t make opera singers like they used to,” one female partygoer said of Dudley, who was resplendent in a black velvet Ellen Tracy gown — to which her husband responded, “Thank God.”
After the cabaret, guests dined on buffet-style bites prepared at the event by various Chicago restaurants, among them Coco Pazzo, RL, Nick’s Fishmarket and The Pump Room. Dessert was a chocolate extravaganza assembled by pastry shops around town.
All in all, the event garnered a crowd of about 850 and raised $350,000, from ticket sales, a raffle and silent auction. The Lyric Opera concludes its 2000-2001 season with productions of Rossini’s “The Barber of Seville” and Wagner’s “The Flying Dutchman.” For ticket information, call 312-332-2244.