RSVP / ORANGE COUNTY : On Waltz Street : Mutual Fun Yields Handsome Dividends at Vienna-Style Opera Ball in Dana Point

In the tradition of Vienna's famous opera ball, the Capistrano Valley Symphony and the ESA, an ecumenical service alliance, staged an evening of ballroom dancing, gourmet Austrian food and the famous waltzes of Johann Strauss II.

"In Viennese Style" was the theme of the masked opera ball that attracted more than 250 guests Saturday to what organizers called the next best thing to a real opera house--the Ritz-Carlton in Dana Point. The $125-per-person gala was expected to net about $50,000 for the symphony and the ESA, which offers a variety of programs to the needy in Orange County.

Grand Entrance

"The entire symphony is here. We're doing Strauss waltzes, the whole nine yards," said Barbara O'Hara, event chairwoman and president of the symphony's board of trustees who had the idea to hold a Viennese opera ball.

"I'd gone to the opera ball in Vienna and wanted to bring it here," she said.

Upon entering the grand ballroom, guests were greeted by the orchestra performing Strauss' "Emperor's Waltz," as waiters and waitresses stood at attention on the long dance floor. Party-goers, the men in tuxedos and the women wearing ball gowns and toting feathered and beaded face masks, were seated at tables draped in pale pink cloths and adorned with towering floral centerpieces--the work of four florists.

Chefs prepared an Austrian-style feast: smoked salmon with mousseline of smoked trout horseradish and spicy mesclun, veal chops with a balsamic walnut sauce and a chocolate Sacher torte, which originated from the Sacher hotel next to the Vienna opera house.

Viennese Waltzes

Guests waltzed on the dance floor in between courses and well into the night.

"The music program is very close to the kind traditionally played" in Vienna, said Paul Hamilton, vice president of the symphony board.

The orchestra, led by music director and conductor Ron Ravenscroft, performed Strauss' "Blue Danube," "Tales From the Vienna Woods" and other famous waltzes. Thurl Ravenscroft, Ron's father and the voice of the Pageant of the Masters in Laguna Beach and Tony the Tiger, introduced each number.

Following the Viennese tradition of premiering a piece of music at the opera ball, classical guitar soloist Eric Henderson performed "Christian's Song," a new guitar concerto by Ron Ravenscroft.

By holding a joint benefit, the orchestra and the ESA hoped to increase their exposure as well as funds.

"We're educating each other about the importance of music and caring for the elderly, the poor and the mentally ill," said Jacqueline DuPont, ESA board member and event co-chairwoman.

Beautiful Music

The ESA, based in Laguna Hills, operates 17 programs for the needy, including shelters for battered women, the mentally ill and homeless people throughout Orange County. Proceeds will help the alliance re-establish its Laguna Beach homeless shelter, which had to move to temporary quarters due to a $60,000 shortfall caused by the county's bankruptcy.

Capistrano Valley Symphony conducts the Riviera Pops series at the Dana Point Resort from May through September. Proceeds will benefit the orchestra as well its in-school educational concert program.

"Our goal is to bring beautiful music to south Orange County," O'Hara said.

Among the guests were Ashlee Kinney, event co-chairwoman and ESA board member; Art Simpson, president of the ESA; Dennis White, ESA executive director; Don and Ann Hansen, John and Jenifer Massey, Mike and Mimi Thompson, Diane Moriarty, Nick DeLeone, Adrienne Fitzgerald, Harold and Michele Kaufman, Patti Short, Pat Chong, Eleanor Covarrubias, the Rev. David Comegys, Dan and Maurine Mitchell, and Jack and Susan Zdanowski.

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