Witches, Nighttime Forest Inspire Lyric Opera's "Hocus Pocus" Gala

By Erin L. Souza October 27, 2011, 2:28 PM EDT

Photo: Roger Farrington

Boston Lyric Opera's "Hocus Pocus" Gala
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The Boston Lyric Opera hosted a witch-themed fund-raiser Saturday night at the Mandarin Oriental Boston. The gala, inspired by Halloween and the opera’s upcoming production of Macbeth, raised $500,000 through table and ticket sales and donations.

Singing performances were peppered throughout the evening, entertaining guests between dinner courses. Before performances became integral to the gala three years ago, the event followed a more traditional format of dinner, dancing, and a live auction. With the change, “we wanted to give patrons an evening of beautiful art and food,” said director of development Eileen Williston. “We wanted to let them in on the process [of putting together an opera]. We infused the art into the event.” An after-dinner video showcased opera performers explaining their work and asking guests for donations.


The event's design, based on the idea of a forest at midnight, included crinkled navy linens and silver chargers from Be Our Guest. Centerpieces by Winston Flowers included fiddle-head ferns, leaves, and mosses.

For the first time, the opera tasked an in-house staffer with the event's graphic design. Karen Robichaud created the save-the-dates, invitations, place cards, and mini books of spells for each place setting. The designer’s intimate knowledge of the opera and its work informed the design, resulting in work that an outside vendor might not have been able to do, according to Williston.

Williston anticipates next year’s gala will maintain a dinner-performance-donation appeal format but might add a new element of surprise. “We never want the gala to feel expected.”

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