Event Date: April 9, 2022
Location: Wortham Theater Center
No. of Attendees: 470
Money Raised: $1,250,000
Beneficiary: Houston Grand Opera
Chairpersons: Jennifer and Benjamin Fink
Décor & Florals: The Events Company
Cuisine: City Kitchen
Photography: Wilson Parish and Michelle Watson
A Voyage Five Years in the Making—HGO’s Le Voyage à Marrakech Does Not Disappoint
White tie and tails, luxurious ballgowns, stunning décor, five-star cuisine, lively entertainment and very excited guests returned to Wortham Theater after a five-year hiatus, caused by Hurricane Harvey and then Covid. In 2020, just weeks away from Houston Grand Opera Ball, the gala, originally titled “Une Nuit à Marrakech,” was cancelled. This two-year journey was aptly renamed “Le Voyage à Marrakech,” and raised over $1.25 million which supports HGO’s performances and community programs. This was also the first Opera Ball with the new CEO and General Director Khori Dastoor.
This Morrocan-themed gala did not disappoint. From the moment the 470 well-heeled and well-attired attendees arrived on the red carpet at Fish Plaza, they were greeted with a traditional Moroccan tea service, walked on prized Abraham’s Rugs and were given the opportunity to pet and be photographed with Ernest the Camel and his handler!
Upon entering the Grand Foyer, Marrakesh was revealed to the delight of the five senses. Well-known band Moodafaruka delighted the ears with North African music. The senses of taste and smell were excited by the Morocco-inspired cocktails and hors d’oeuvres. Fortune tellers and henna artists offered guests a Middle-Eastern touch and vibrant décor by the Events Company, along with a luxe silent auction, charmed the eyes.
Once guests were seated for dinner, Ball chairs Jennifer and Ben Fink entered, with Jennifer carried in on an Amariya—an intricate roofed platform carried by six men called the Neggafates (meaning master planners) and traditionally reserved for lavish Moroccan weddings. Before dinner commenced, performances by belly dancers followed by a stirring rendition of “La Vie en Rose” by soprano Ana Maria Martinez, entertained guests.
An over-the-top Mediterranean feast from City Kitchen took guests to a Moroccan home, beginning with Medjool Dates with Spiced Kefir Cheese and Almonds. Harissa Marinated Diver Scallops and Shrimp with Mint, Tomato, Cucumber and Red Onion in a Scallop Shell on a Bed of Aromatic Rock Salt, presented in an elegant copper tagine, was the first course. The entrée featured Ras El Hanout Rack of Lamb with Cinnamon and Dried Fruits. A Gilded Chocolate Genie Lantern filled with Dark Chocolate Mousse and Garnished with Figs and Anise Whipped Cream completed the gastronomic voyage to Marrakech. All courses were paired with carefully selected wines by Medallion Global Wine Group.
Patrons filled the dance floor with help from The Celebrity All-Stars band and DJ Little Martin, who fired up the ENCORE After Party crowd, which was chaired by Lauren Randle.
Socially present (not previously mentioned): Meredith and Ben Marshall, Zane and Brady Carruth, Margaret Alkek Williams, Lynn Wyatt, Susan Sarofim, Dian and Harlan Stai, Sarah and Aaron Stai, Mayor Sylvester Turner, BenJoaquin Gouverneur, Patrick Summers, Sara and Bill Morgan, Franci Neely, Ron Franklin and Janet Gurwitch, Kristina and Paul Somerville, Sarahbeth and Pierce Bush, Brad and Joanna Marks, Robert Sakowitz, Sallie Sargent, Molly and Jim Crownover, Cynthia and Tony Petrello, Anne and Albert Chao, Kathy and Marty Goossen, Claire Liu and Joe Greenberg, Chinhui Juhn and Eddie Allen, Beth Madison, Ann & Jonathan Ayre, Hon. Chase and Diana Untermeyer, Karen and Mel Payne, Jill and Allyn Risley, Laura and Brad McWilliams, Betty and Jess Tutor, Isabel and Danny David, Kristy and Chris Bradshaw, Drs. Rachel and Warren Ellsworth, Dr. Yvonne and Rufus Cormier, Beth Wolff, Cynthia Wolff, Phyllis Williams, Astley Blair and Vivianna Jolie, Stella and Steven Tang, and Alan and Frank York.