On November 17, Benvunto will be the site of the inaugural Microgala for Opera Delaware. The event, which begins with a cocktail party at 6:30 PM, will also include a five-course catered dinner with operettic and holiday musical pairings. The event follows a successful pop-up opera held in St. John the Apostle’s fellowship hall on Saturday, October 14.
“In opera, typically we do these big galas, we do big like blowout galas once a year. And with my team we were talking about the fact that these galas are often so big and so expensive, that they’re super formal and impractical. We don’t get to spend time with our people. We don’t really get to interact. And they end up being kind of generic. And so, we came up with this concept of micro galas,” Kerriann Otano, Vice-President of Entertainment with Opera Delaware, said. “A micro gala is an opportunity for us to partner with another organization and do these shorter events throughout the year. So that way we can hit the whole state. We can really represent Delaware and not just be Opera Wilmington, but really be Opera Delaware and be all over. And we can highlight the amazing things going on in our state. So with the event that we’re doing in Milford on November 17, that is kind of what we’re looking at it being an Andrea Bocelli Italian Christmas vibe.”
Otano explained that Opera Delaware hopes to make the gala an annual event in Milford. They chose Benvenuto as the restaurant is decorated beautifully for Christmas and Chef Jesus “Zeus” Gordiany is well known throughout the region as a culinary king. Performing at the event will be mezzo-soprano Anastasia Sidorova, tenor, Dane Suarez, soprano, Emily Margevich and pianist Aurelien Eulert.
“What they are doing is preparing a five course dinner for us that is paired with musical selections created by our artists,” Otano said. “So, the artists are doing everything from the top hit arias. We’re talking like Nessun Dorma. We’re talking La Donna e Mobile, arias that the people recognize, but then they’re also doing things like I’ll be Home for Christmas and Oh, Holy Night, and that so that’s sort of like Andrea Bocelli, Josh Groban, Christmas kind of event where you get a mix of holiday classics and standards. And so it’s really just like a celebration of the season. And the talent that we have in this area.”
Milford was chosen as the location for the microgala after Otano worked with Sara Bluhm, Economic Development and Community Engagement Administrator for the City of Milford as part of Leadership Delaware.
“Sara advocates for Milford the same way that I advocate for opera and throughout the year, it just kept coming up. We were motivating and inspiring each other and encouraging each other. And so, this whole idea of micro galas and Opera Delaware really being statewide, that’s come to fruition because of conversations with my Leadership Delaware cohort with people that I’ve met through Leadership Delaware, and from people who’ve been longtime upper Delaware supporters,” Otano said. “And those supporters have been bringing us to Maple Dale Country Club. We’ve had some good engagement in Dover.”
Otano explained that connections throughout the state were helping Opera Delaware grow.
“But this relationship with Sarah and her mother Nina [Pletcher], really opened the door. Because we need an advocate on the ground,” Otano said. “It’s one thing for me to reach out and say that people all over the state, hey, I want to bring opera to you, and I want to collaborate but without someone to advocate and say Kerriann is really going to come through for us and we’re gonna come through for Kerriann like that’s the connection point. That only happens when people develop a connection and that’s what’s so special about Delaware and why I think micro galas are gonna be so successful.”
Lisa Johnson of Benvenuto also credits Bluhm with bringing the microgala to Milford.
“Sara brought them in and introduced us to them. It was something that she really wanted to promote in Milford,” Johnson said. “She’s the one that brought them to us. And the reason why we wanted to do it as it is, we think a wonderful addition to the Milford community and it is also wonderful for Benvenuto to highlight it with them.It will also be our kickoff to Christmas. That week is when we decorate for the holiday’s, so it will be Benvenuto’s Kicking off Christmas with Opera Delaware.”
The event will include a red carpet with professional photographers who will capture the event for attendees. Otano explained that one of the most common questions she gets from those who have never been to the opera is “what am I supposed to wear?”
“Our rules for dress at this event are very simple. One of the main reasons that people will tell me they’re hesitant to come to an opera is that they don’t know what they are supposed to wear. I hear “I don’t have anything fancy enough.” And my rule is this, when you go to the opera, you dress to be seen. You want to wear something that makes you feel proud,” Otano said. “We have a red carpet runway. We have professional photographers, we have a step and repeat. We do this also for our micro galas because you are the star of this night as well. I want you to shine. I want you to feel confident so for me it’s maybe a polka dot ballgown with Converse sneakers.”
Otano told a story about her own father who was attending an opera event for the first time.
“My dad is a referee in New York, and he called me before coming to the opera and said, “What am I supposed to wear?” I said wear what makes you feel great. He said “what makes me feel great is my referee outfit,” and I said “go ahead, buddy. wear it. Wear it. Wear what makes you feel good.” Whatever you wear, it has to be something that you’re proud of,” Otano said. “It could be a prom dress. We had students from DSU come in prom dresses they didn’t get to wear during COVID. It could be an old bridesmaid’s dress you’re pulling out of the back of the closet. It could be your favorite tie dye overalls, I want you to wear the coolest item of clothing, the thing that you’re the most proud to be seen in wear that to the micro gala.”
Tickets for the event are $220 per person and include the cocktail hour and five-course dinner. Guests will also receive commemorative photos from the event as well. Johnson explained that Chef Zeus is still putting together the menu. There will be a preview of the event on WBOC’s Delmarva Life on October 25, however.
“Kerriann is coming down from Opera Delaware. Sara will be with her on the sofa segment,” Johnson said. “Then they’re going to sing one or two songs from our night. And then chef will be in the kitchen preparing one of the dishes he will be prepared.”
On Sunday, November 18, Benvenuto will continue their Christmas kick-off with a “Merriest Sweater Contest.”
“Everybody who comes in a holiday sweater is entered into the contest and we have judges,” Johnson said. “And then we give away gift cards and prizes after the judges have picked their first seconds and thirds, Last year, we called it ugly sweater night last year but I don’t like ugly sweater. And when we were talking about this year, I said it’s called the merriest sweater.”
Tickets for the Microgala can be purchased from Opera Delaware by visiting https://www.operade.org/milford-microgala and clicking on Microgala Tickets Here.
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