An actual opera singer at the Opera Ball! How about that? Mezzo-soprano Catherine Daniel made a grand entrance into the Ann and Steve Bailey Hall at the Knoxville Museum of Art.
So, what’s the secret to having a sellout black tie fundraiser? The folks at Knoxville Opera know the answer to that. Here are some things they did right to make the annual Opera Ball — dubbed the Ruby Ball this year — a hot ticket:
- Great location. The stunning Knoxville Museum of Art is just a lot more festive than a traditional country club ballroom that’s too small to hold all the attendees and the entertainment in one room.
- Celebrity chef. When you know the food will be by one of Knoxville’s culinary stars like Matt Gallaher, it’s easy to whip out the checkbook.
- Appropriate — and fun — entertainment. I always have been baffled when I go to a fundraiser for an entertainment organization and the entertainment does not include the performers for whom you are raising the money! At the Opera Ball, they had opera singers! And a great local dance band — The Streamliners.
- Great committee co-chairs. Kudos to whomever selected Jacque Hawks and Melinda Grimac to co-chair the 2017 ball. These ladies just were not going to stop until they sold the thing out — and they did!
- Marquee sponsors. Knoxville Opera had that with Pilot Flying J as presenting sponsor and Denark Construction and Jupiter Entertainment as major supporters, as well. Charlie and Nancy Wagner, well-known arts lovers, were honorary co-chairs, adding oomph to the effort.
Matt Gallaher is the chef owner of popular downtown eateries Emilia on Market Square and Knox Mason on Gay Street. We caught him in the catering kitchen getting desserts ready. He was a huge part of the evening’s draw.
Raw oysters with horseradish “pearls” were one of the passed appetizers. (Chef Gallaher likes to fool around with molecular gastronomy, which always makes things interesting!)
Brian Salesky, Knoxville Opera’s executive director and conductor, with mezzo-soprano Catherine Daniel.
Townes Osborn and Bob Marquis during the cocktail hour.
Janan Dakak and Dr. Sharon Lord.
Cathy and Mark Hill.
Marshall and Natalie Stair.
Jerrold and Susan Becker.
Ellen Robinson and Peter Acly.
Doug McKamey, left, and Brooks Clark.
Another passed appetizer: watermelon with feta, sherry vinegar and baby basil leaves.
I took a peek in the silent auction room and really liked this pretty green bowl from Nest, but we’re about to move and we don’t need to acquire more stuff!
Cute frog lamp. But, no!
Back at the cocktail party, John Winemiller, left, with Mickey Mallonee and R.J. Hinde.
Robin Smith, left, and Debbie Emery.
Diana Salesky, left, and Teresa Berger.
David Butler, left, executive director of the Knoxville Museum of Art, and Michael Torano, director of development, marketing and public relations for Knoxville Opera.
Brooks Clark, left, with Kim Henry and Alan Carmichael.
Barbara and Bernie Bernstein.
The delicious first course was Maine lobster salad atop Thai coconut ‘gazpacho’ with avocado, hearts of palm, crispy shallots, cashews, mint and cilantro. Wow.
Susan and Bill Morris seated for dinner.
Melinda and Kevin Grimac. She was one of the outstanding co-chairs of the event.
Cliff and Jacque Hawks. She was the other co-chair. (Great job.)
Honorary co-chairs Nancy and Charlie Wagner.
Frank Rosamond, the new president of the Knoxville News Sentinel, with his son, Jack.
Eric Barton and Annie Pentecost.
Michael and Judith Foltz.
Main course was dry-aged duck breast, parsnip and black truffle puree, greens, pomegranate and parsnip chips. (My favorite part was that fabulous puree.)
Dan McGehee and Jackie Wilson.
Natalie and Jared Dowling.
Sheila and Ron Fuchs.
Amy and Bob Cross.
Charlie Brakebill and Alice Torbett.
Some of the handsome men at our table! From left, John Winemiller, Peter Acly and R.J. Hinde.
Dessert was served: cherry semifreddo, dark chocolate Genoise, Luxardo cherries, and cocoa whipped cream. What’s not to love?
Maestro Brian Salesky, back, goofing off with David Butler.
Time for some singing! Here’s Catherine Daniel wowing them!
Kay Clayton, left, and Diana Salesky enjoying the show.
Tenor Aaron Short performed excellently, as well.
After a brief (wisely!) live auction, The Streamliners took the floor.
And everyone took home cute musical wine stoppers as lovely parting gifts.
Just love this picture of Chef Gallaher and his girlfriend, Caroline Farris, a jewelry maker and manager at Emilia.