On Saturday night, American soprano Deborah Voigt jumped from a balcony onstage at the Civic Opera House; by midnight, she was at the Hilton Chicago, dancing to “Billie Jean.” It was all part of the Lyric Opera of Chicago’s opening night gala benefit and Opera Ball, a two-part event that celebrated the opening of the opera’s 55th season and had music buffs occupied from 5 p.m. to almost 1 a.m.
Beginning at the Civic Opera House, the event’s first part drew approximately 3,500 guests and included a cocktail reception and a performance of Puccini’s Tosca, in which Voigt played the title role of the—spoiler alert—ultimately suicidal heroine. In keeping with the theme of the opera, which is set in Rome, buffet stations staggered throughout the opera house offered Italian snacks from Jewell Events Catering, and Heffernan Morgan designed an orange, pink, and golden decor scheme that was meant to evoke the colors of an Italian landscape.
One opera and two intermissions later, at 9:30 p.m., about 600 guests—including the stars of Tosca—kept the evening going by hopping on a shuttle bus and heading to the Hilton for the Opera Ball. There, a cocktail reception preceded a three-course dinner and dancing to the Stu Hirsh Orchestra, which broke from the evening’s operatic theme by performing dance classics from artists such as Michael Jackson and Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons.
Stephanie Fisher, the opening night chairman, worked with Ellen Stirling, the Opera Ball chairman, and women’s board president Clement Durkes to plan the evening. The women agreed that this year’s event shouldn’t stray too far from previous iterations, and stuck closely to a planning process that event chairs have used in the past. “This 55-year-old evening is a well-established tradition,” Durkes said. “Our women’s board members and staff are very well versed in the steps needed to make a beautiful event. Not to say that there are no surprises, but we’re able to keep those to a minimum.”