Applause, y'all

Fort Worth gala-goers savor supper and singing at elegant Southern soiree

Fort Worth gala-goers savor supper and singing at Southern soiree

Cassie Dunn, Mike Martinez, Nicole Duvall, Brian Smith
Cassie Dunn, Mike Martinez, Nicole Duvall, Brian Smith Photo by Rebecca Dale
Kate Tombaugh, Cassandra Zoe Velasco, Abigail Santos Villalobos
Kate Tombaugh, Cassandra Zoe Velasco, Abigail Santos Villalobos Photo by Rebecca Dale
Amanda Malone
Amanda Malone (center) and her guests Photo by Rebecca Dale
Daniel Montenegro, Maren Weinberger
Daniel Montenegro and Maren Weinberger perform during the cocktail hour. Photo by Rebecca Dale
Jennifer Rowley, Fort Worth opera gala
Soprano Jennifer Rowley performs, and Joe Illick accompanies. Photo by Rebecca Dale
Cassandra Zoe Velasco, Vanessa Alonzo, Abigail Santos Villalobos
Cassandra Zoe Velasco, Vanessa Alonzo, Abigail Santos Villalobos  Photo by Rebecca Dale
Barbara Jordan
Gala chair Barbara Jordan Photo by Rebecca Dale
Matt Wilkinson, Joey Wilkinson
Matt Wilkinson, Joey Wilkinson Photo by Rebecca Dale
Mary Pencis, Jill Fischer and Rita O'Farrell
Mary Pencis, Jill Fischer and Rita O'Farrell  Photo by Rebecca Dale
Cassie Dunn, Mike Martinez
Cassie Dunn, Mike Martinez Photo by Rebecca Dale
Hilary Ginther, Joe Illick, Gina Browning
Hilary Ginther, Joe Illick, Gina Browning Photo by Rebecca Dale
Jonathan Walker Van-Kuren, Maren Weinberger Maddry, Janani Sridhar, Erik Earl Larson
Jonathan Walker Van-Kuren, Maren Weinberger Maddry, Janani Sridhar, Erik Earl Larson Photo by Rebecca Dale
Chef Juan Rodriguez
Chef Juan Rodriguez created the menu for the evening. Photo by Rebecca Dale
Moet mini champagne bottles
Mini bottles of Moet Champange were set at each place on the dinner tables. Photo by Rebecca Dale
Fort Worth Opera gala 2019, Stonegate Mansion
The event took place at Stonegate Mansion. Photo by Rebecca Dale
Paulina Magdaleno, Jennifer Rowley
Paulina Magdaleno, Jennifer Rowley Photo by Rebecca Dale
Ryan Lathan, Paulina Magdaleno
Ryan Lathan, Paulina Magdaleno Photo by Rebecca Dale
Megan Bowdon Wilkinson, Joey Wilkinson
Megan Bowdon Wilkinson and Joey Wilkinson (center) and guests. Photo by Rebecca Dale
Damon Clyde, Tuomas Hiltunen, Barbara Jordan, Kyle Jordan
Damon Clyde, Tuomas Hiltunen, Barbara Jordan, Kyle Jordan Photo by Rebecca Dale
Cassie Dunn, Mike Martinez, Nicole Duvall, Brian Smith
Kate Tombaugh, Cassandra Zoe Velasco, Abigail Santos Villalobos
Amanda Malone
Daniel Montenegro, Maren Weinberger
Jennifer Rowley, Fort Worth opera gala
Cassandra Zoe Velasco, Vanessa Alonzo, Abigail Santos Villalobos
Barbara Jordan
Matt Wilkinson, Joey Wilkinson
Mary Pencis, Jill Fischer and Rita O'Farrell
Cassie Dunn, Mike Martinez
Hilary Ginther, Joe Illick, Gina Browning
Jonathan Walker Van-Kuren, Maren Weinberger Maddry, Janani Sridhar, Erik Earl Larson
Chef Juan Rodriguez
Moet mini champagne bottles
Fort Worth Opera gala 2019, Stonegate Mansion
Paulina Magdaleno, Jennifer Rowley
Ryan Lathan, Paulina Magdaleno
Megan Bowdon Wilkinson, Joey Wilkinson
Damon Clyde, Tuomas Hiltunen, Barbara Jordan, Kyle Jordan

Proving that a fun and fabulous gala doesn't have to be big affair, the Fort Worth Opera welcomed 140 guests to its intimate Southern Soiree on May 4.

This year's benefit took place in a new locale, Stonegate Mansion, which had been outfitted for the occasion with towering floral arrangements by TCU Florist, twinkling candles, and mini bottles of Moet & Chandon Champagne at each place setting.

Even before guests sat down to dinner, though, they were in for more than a few treats masterminded by FWO special events coordinator Paulina Magdaleno, gala chair Barbara Jordan, and their event committee.

As they sipped craft cocktails and nibbled passed hors d'oeuvres, FWO patrons, supporters, and singers — including Megan Bowdon Wilkinson, Joey WilkinsonMatt WilkinsonMary Pencis, Jill Fischer, Rita O'FarrellAmanda MaloneKate Tombaugh, Cassandra Zoe Velasco, and Abigail Santos Villalobos — enjoyed a cocktail-hour opera recital. Notably, soprano Maren Weinberger and tenor Daniel Montenegro performed a new piece called "Steve" by composer-librettist Rachel J. Peters, who was in attendance.

Inside the dining room, before the first course was served, guests got to enjoy the evening's featured performance by renowned Met soprano Jennifer Rowley (who'd just flown in from South Korea). FWO artistic director Joe Illick accompanied on piano.

Between pieces —  selections from Tosca, Hamilton, and more — eager guests couldn't contain themselves. They simply had to open those mini bottles of Champagne placed before them. "Pop!" "Pop!" "Pop!"

Rowley and Illick were joined by three singers who are part of the FWO-TCU Lesley apprentice program — Janani Sridhar, Jonathan Walker-VanKuren, and Erik Earl Larson — for a stirring performance from La Boheme. (It was a tease, of sorts, as the famous Puccini opera will be part of the 2020 Fort Worth Opera Festival.)

Like any good Southern-style gathering, the cuisine got a starring role. Well-known Fort Worth chef Juan Rodriguez of Magdalena's created a dinner menu with wine pairings especially for the event. Rodriguez was fresh off his win as Fort Worth Chef of the Year in CultureMap's prestigious Tastemaker Awards.

The chef told the crowd that his Southern-cuisine menu was inspired by a babymoon that he and wife Paige took to Charleston, South Carolina before their son was born. Each course was exquisitely prepared and artfully presented by polished servers.

Courses included She-crab soup and salad (paired with Man Family Wines Chenin Blanc from South Africa); roasted quail pie with Creole mustard sauce (paired with Mohua Pinot Noir from New Zealand); orange brined pork loin with roasted poblano grits and Benton's ham green beans (paired with Honoro Vera Red Blend from Spain); and for dessert, sweet potato empanadas with vanilla whipped cream and sorghum glaze (paired with Charles Roux Rosé Demi-Sec from France).

Remarks and acknowledgments were kept short and sweet by Jordan, FWO general director Tuomas Hiltunen, board of trustees chairman Mike Martinez, and board president Nelson Claytor.

And just one item went up for grabs in what auctioneer Illick promised would be "the shortest live auction known to man." It was for a trip to New York City to attend the Met Opera and have all kinds of other fun. Bidding got so competitive that two trips were sold in the end, each for $3,000.

Spotted in the crowd, having a great time throughout the night, were FWO supporters and staff including Cassie Dunn, Nicole Duvall, Brian Smith, Hilary Ginther, Gina Browning, Damon Clyde, Ryan Lathan, Kyle Jordan, and many more.

After one last trip to the bar for a nightcap and some cheek-kisses goodbye, guests went home happy and full — the hallmarks of great Southern hospitality.