Venue Change Requires New Format for Villa Charities' Venetian Ball

Photo: John Ribeiro/Fotowurx

The Venetian Ball celebrated two important anniversaries this year: the 40th of Villa Charities and the 150th of the unification of Italy. In honour of the special year, Villa Charities moved its annual fund-raising gala to the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts and featured an opera performance from the Canadian Tenors, Rufus Wainwright, and others. Co-chairs of the event Rudy Bratty and Tony Gagliano wanted the evening to be special and celebratory. “We thought, ‘Let’s try something different,’” Bratty said. Some 1,500 guests and 620 V.I.P.s attended the ball on October 29.
In past years, the ball had been held in the Metro Toronto Convention Centre and featured a cocktail reception, dinner, and performance. “We wanted to celebrate [the anniversaries] with a really high-quality concert,” Gagliano said. “We went to one of the greatest acoustic halls in the country.”

The new venue affected the format of the event considerably. Rather than have all 1,500 guests for dinner, Villa Charities only had the 620 V.I.P.s stay to dine due to capacity restrictions. The performance became the first thing on the gala schedule this year, rather than the last, so all guests could attend. Under the new format the performance was followed by a cocktail reception. Following that, the V.I.P. dinner began at 9:30 p.m. on the stage of R. Fraser Elliot Hall.

The opera performance marked a new direction for the Venetian Ball as well. In the past, the ball featured more mainstream performers like Stevie Wonder and Frankie Valli. “To have operatic entertainment was more of a risk,” Bratty said, but it was the perfect way to celebrate Italy and Italian culture. Performers included Dragonette’s Martina Sorbara, Measha Brueggergosman, the Canadian Tenors, Rufus Wainwright, and members of the Canadian Opera Company. The event raised $1.25 million for the Villa Charities Foundation, which provides care to elderly Italian-Canadians.

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