Asheville Lyric Opera’s annual Taste of Opera Winter Gala happens Saturday, Jan. 25, at the Crowne Plaza Resort’s Exposition Center, beginning at 6 p.m. “The audience will be presented with great appetizer and wine offerings,” says General and Artistic Director David Starkey. “They’ll have reserved seats at tables of eight surrounding the stage.”
Volunteer Mark Sternal, the director of catering at Frankie Bones Restaurant & Lounge, has cooked up a new twist this year: Some of Asheville’s favorite chefs will complement the featured arias from upcoming ALO productions with food presented dim sum-style. “In a town full of food events, we’re bringing something fresh and new,” he says. “Carts with small dishes will be brought tableside, and you just point to what you want.” Sternal says Frankie Bones will feature “something tasty” from the new menu it will unveil later this month.
Selections from the opera company’s upcoming productions of Don Giovanni, the Broadway musical South Pacific and Die Fledermaus will be performed. “The audience may feel they’re part of an opera set, and we’ll give the chefs and the singers the ability to chime in and be creative or artistic in any manner they want,” Starkey says. “I don’t know which singers can cook or if the chefs can sing, but we’re open to intermingling their talents.”
Adam Hayes of the Grand Bohemian Hotel’s Red Stag Grill says he took theater classes in both high school and college. “I can visualize the production scale: singers serving food, and all the craziness that goes on in the kitchen unfolding next to your table with the chefs singing and everybody pouring wine. It will be a really interactive and engaging dining experience. It’s so bohemian.”
Dwight Butner, who owns Vincenzo’s Ristorante & Bistro, will also take part, but don’t expect to hear him singing. “I like to hear people perform who have skills that I don’t,” he says. Butner has been involved with the opera company for more than 10 years and previously served on their board of directors.
“The Taste of Opera is one of those things we look forward to doing every year, and we’re really proud to be invited,” he continues. “We think the Asheville Lyric Opera sets a standard for small community opera companies. I so respect them, what they’ve done for our community and their contribution to the arts.”
Tickets to the Taste of Opera Winter Gala ($75) are available at ashevillelyric.org or by calling 236-0670.