Monday, July 16, 2012

Food, Wine and Operatic Song to headline upcoming Woodbury Gala

This is the flyer and the press release  for The Litchfield Hills Food, Wine and Opera Gala - A Musical Feast! which will be held on Saturday, September 8th, 2012, from 6 PM to 10 PM at The Country Loft, 557 Main Street South, Woodbury CT. Tickets are 100 dollars. Please call 203-266-4500 for tickets and reservations. (Below the flyer is the press release, which was also published as part of a feature article that appeared in LCT, The Litchfield County Times, written by editor Douglas Clement, Friday, August 24, 2012

      On an uncommonly warm early spring day in April, Karen Hughes of Abrash Galleries, Carole Winer of The Country Loft and Vincent de Luise were in a musical mood. As they shared a bottle of prosecco and some cheese in the aerie of one of Woodbury’s Main Street bistros, the conversation soon turned to song. They noticed that there weren’t that many cultural goings-on in this part of Litchfield County in the summer, and very few that featured vocal music.  Tanglewood, Caramoor and Music Mountain each had their own long-standing summer events, but they all were a bit far away, even by car. So, the trio began to discuss the possibility of joining forces to put together a summer dining and musical event in the community.

    From that germ of an idea at an informal meeting in May was birthed  The Litchfield  Hills Food, Wine and Opera Gala !   “A Musical Feast!”, to be held on Saturday evening, September 8th, on the grounds of  The Country Loft , on Main Street South in Woodbury.

The expansive and verdant grounds of The Country Loft,
the venue for the Sept. 8th Gala
    The trio also decided at their wine and cheese get-together that the Gala they had just conjured should not be a one-off event; rather, there should be an enduring purpose for the festivities, one that would be on-going and resonate with many in the community and beyond.

     And so, from that additional concept, they founded a new non-profit arts organization, The Connecticut Summer Opera Foundation (CSOF). CSOF will serve to support a summer residency in operatic vocal training, as well as engage in educational outreach by bringing operatic music to grade schools and elementary schools, to introduce the art form to the next generation of concert goers.  The Gala on September 8th will thus also be the first fundraiser for CSOF.

    The evening will unfold with a farm-to-table tasting  dinner curated by four of Connecticut’s most renowned chefs - Tom Gould of Brass City Bistro, Denis Niezes of Ovens of France, Carole Peck of Good News Café, Jerry Reveron of Taft School and founding chef of The Woodward House, and Rio Alexander, each of whom will use locally-sourced produce and ingredients to fashion their entrees. The dinner will be paired with wines selected by the chefs.
    The repast will be followed by an hour-long recital of vocal highlights from some of the world’s most beloved operas, including works by Rossini, Puccini, Verdi, Mozart and Bizet, as well as selections from America’s own composer and conductor laureate, Leonard Bernstein and his sparkling musical  (really, an American opera),  Candide.  After the recital, guests will be able to linger on and savor French-styled desserts, coffees and teas.
The Gala will take place on the lovely and expansive grounds of The Country Loft, which has its own interesting history. In 1745, Deacon Samuel Bull moved from Farmington to 100 acres in Woodbury where he set up a blacksmith business and built the Bull House, barns and silo, all of which became the Samuel Bull Homestead. The Bull family lived on the property until 1994, when the buildings and 19 acres of the land, including a pond framed by a dramatic rock escarpment, were purchased by Ms. Winer to create The Country Loft, an antiques dealership specializing in late 18th century and 19th century French antiques.

    Putting on large-scale events like the September 8th Gala is nothing new to Ms. Hughes, Ms Winer or Dr. de Luise. Ms Hughes and Ms. Winer have mounted several highly successful hospital and special-cause fundraisers at The Country Loft and elsewhere in Woodbury and Roxbury, each drawing several hundred guests. Dr. de Luise, a retired area ophthalmologist who still teaches at Yale School, Medical and Weill Cornell Medical School, has also been active over the years as a clarinetist, organizing the thirteen-concert Connecticut Mozart Festival in 1991, and before that, co-founding the annual classical music recital of the American Academy of Ophthalmology.

    Dr. de Luise also serves on the Music and Medicine Initiative at Weill Cornell Medical College and on the Board of Directors of the acclaimed Opera Company of Brooklyn. It is his relationship with that superb New York City-based musical organziation that became another key reason he wished to bring opera to Woodbury.              
     Beyond that, there is simply the natural and wonderful connection between fine dining and great music.

   “There is a long tradition of food and wine with opera,” says de Luise. “When you think about it, more than a few operas feature food and wine. Some operas even have banquet scenes, most famously the one in the second act of Mozart’s Don Giovanni, when the Don invites the “Stone Guest” (in reality the already dead Commendatore) to dinner, right before the Don’s own inevitable demise. In Verdi’s Macbeth, there is a Lucullan feast of a banquet, and Verdi’s title character in his opera Falstaff has already eaten and drunk pretty much the whole menu at the tavern at the Garter Inn by the middle  of  Act 1 !

    “And even opera novices will recognize the drinking song, “Libiamo ne’ lieti calici” from Verdi’s La Traviata, one of the most famous of all operatic melodies, which will be a featured ensemble piece at the Gala, replete with champagne glasses, no less ! " added de Luise.

   “The relationship between food and opera extends even to opera’s own superstars,” de Luise went on. “Back in the 1920s, the Australian soprano Nellie Melba was so popular that several dishes were named after her by their creator, the master French chef Escoffier, including peach Melba and Melba toast. The Italian coloratura soprano Luisa Tetrazzini's vocal talent has lived on in the popular dish, chicken Tetrazzini.”

The Renée Fleming-inspired Daniel Boulud
dessert "La Diva Renée"
   de Luise went on to mention that “in our own day, the reigning American soprano, the luminous Renée Fleming, has captured the imagination of so many, including another great French chef, Daniel Boulud, who has created a sumptuous dessert in her honor, called, what else? “La Diva Renée.” It is, according to Ms. Fleming’s website, “… a confection of a sablé cookie layered with hazelnut wafers, milk chocolate-Champagne Chantilly,  a    chocolate biscuit with a coating of bittersweet chocolate, and a final layer of an almond-Amaretto biscuit crowned with a milk chocolate emblem sporting the notes of the Marschallin’s aria from Richard Strauss'  (opera)  Der Rosenkavalier” “And it all sounds at once sinfully delicious and absolutely scrumptious,” added de Luise. Que Magnifique !

    Dr. de Luise has invited four splendid singers from New York City's acclaimed Opera Company of Brooklyn to perform the recital portion of the Gala. Soprano Roseanne Ackerley is a graduate of Mannes College of Music and has performed with Connecticut Grand Opera and Miami Lyric Opera. Tenor Darren Anderson, a graduate of the Opera Institute at Boston University, has appeared with New York City Opera, Glimmerglass Opera and Boston Lyric Opera. Mezzo-soprano Lauren Pastorek has degrees from the Eastman School of Music and Cincinnati Conservatory and has performed at City Center and Symphony Space in New York City, as well as with Opera Brooklyn. Baritone Kenneth Overton, a winner of the national Leontyne Price Competition, has appeared with San Francisco Opera, Opera Memphis, Sacramento Opera and the Norwalk Symphony. Maestro Jay Meetze, a graduate of Cincinnati Conservatory’s Masters Degree program in conducting, has been leading Opera Brooklyn since he founded the Company in 2000 and will conduct the vocalists at the Gala. Pianist Ming Kwong, who among his many appearances has performed at Tanglewood and Glimmerglass is one of the master class pianists of the Metropolitan Opera Guild, will be the accompanist.

    Of course, it wouldn’t be a true gala without some surprises - both musical and culinary - in store for the attendees as well !

    Attire for the Gala is casually elegant.

    “Food, wine and song! Curated by stars, performed by stars, under the stars, on September 8th !"

The Litchfield Hills Food, Wine and Opera Gala ! A Musical Feast!  will be held on Saturday, September 8th, 2012, from 6 PM to 10 PM at The Country Loft, 557 Main Street South, Woodbury CT. Tickets are 100 dollars. Please call 203-266-4500 for tickets and reservations.


  1. Mama-mia I can smell the food all the way here in So. Cal. We should arrange to do a hangout on air broadcast from the party to the world. Let me know and I will arrange it. It can be broadcast with any smartphone with a camera on the front and back via 3G (4G better), or wifi if avaiable. Just let me know if anyone wants to and I will send instructions. Parteee on !

    1. Thanks Gary !
      I will be greeting and emceeing the evening's event, so things will be busy. If there is a seamless and efficient way to perhaps broadcast the opera and american musical song part of the evening, that would be awesome ! Will you have an audience out there in So. Cal? Thanks so much for helping to spread the word about keeping the arts alive in America. BTW, congrats to Misty and Kerri again ! The best ! (I am a beach and indoor