By Meghan Mullan Posted June 6, 2007, 3:23 PM EDT
WASHINGTON More than 450 art patrons came out on Friday, June 1, for one of the gala season’s last (and glitziest) fetes—the Washington National Opera Ball—and the cocktails came early. Held at the 25-acre residence of the Peruvian ambassador, the event employed Marc Parc Valet to whisk guests up the driveway in open-air trolleys. “We provided trolleys for the guests because the driveway is long and narrow, and we wanted to avoid traffic congestion in the neighborhood,” said Washington National Opera director of special events Patti Humphrey, who had Occasions Caterers provide Pisco Sour cocktails aboard the buses.
Coming from 21 different dinner parties held at embassies around the city, the guests arrived at 10 p.m. for dancing and a lavish dessert party. This year, the receiving line (which in previous years had taken more than an hour to get through) was cut. “This is a very good thing,” Humphrey said. “The guests will have started their evening at 7:30 and they will be getting here at 10, so it’s nice that they can come in and hit the dance floor right away.”
Inside the historic mansion, New York-based designer Phillip Baloun decked two descending staircases in the foyer with red and pink gerbera daisies, a color theme that traveled throughout the party. Internationally known pianist and Peruvian native Myriam Avalos performed in the drawing room, which Humphrey converted into a coffee cabaret space. In the dining room, Occasions owner Eric Michaels created a chocolate buffet (which guests could smell as they entered the manse), the highlight of which was a four-foot-tall chocolate cake in the likeness of Machu Pichu.
“We are really going to be featuring the talent, culture, and cuisine of Peru, making everyone feel like they’ve just visited Lima,” Humphrey said several days before the event.
Outside, a 50- by 100-foot clear-ceilinged tent, washed with blue LED lights that could be seen from the driveway, showcased 50-foot photographic murals of the main square of Lima. Designed to resemble the square in a ballroom-esque format, the space featured gold velvet-covered chairs, matching silk tablecloths, and single orchid-plant centerpieces. Full-grown palm trees were brought in to top off the tropical feel, which was accented by Latin music and dancing throughout the night.
The New York-based Bob Hardwick Sound provided traditional ballroom music in the main tent, while Raymi, an Andean Latin fusion band, played in the secondary smaller tent, joining Zarzuela Di Si, a group performing music from the Spanish theater format, and La Casa de Felipe, a Peruvian dance troupe. “This is one of those events that people stay and have a good time,” Humphrey said. “Staying until past two in the morning on a Friday night in D.C. is a super success.”