A Star-Studded Return: Lyric Opera Gala Is a Fashionable Evening to Remember

Some of the Chicago-area’s most generous philanthropists gathered for the Lyric Opera of Chicago’s “Lyric Under the Stars” fundraiser, their first in-person gathering since the onstart of the pandemic. The sold-out event, held Sept. 25, drew 250 supporters to celebrate the Lyric’s return to live performances, and raised $1.8 million gross dollars. 

Gala Chairwoman Karen Z. Gray-Krehbiel “provided visionary support and creative influence” for the event, a Lyric news release stated. The Lyric Opera Women’s Board, led by President Caroline Torrington Huebner, organized and made the event a sweeping success. 

The gala, held at Two North Riverside Plaza across from the Lyric Opera House, was the result of planning that began in November 2020 for a post-pandemic event. Options included everything from a drive-in event to boat-driven tours, according to a Lyric Opera news release. Ultimately, organizers landed on an in-person gathering under a 132-foot wide translucent tent with the back wall of the Lyric Opera House across the river coming to life with vivid projections by So Midwest, a film company whose work includes the Van Gogh immersive exhibit

The projection wall from the river. Photo by Bob Kusel.

Anthony Freud, Lyric’s General Director, President and CEO, hosted the gala. Lyric Board Chairwoman Sylvia Neil and Lyric’s new music director Enrique Mazzola welcomed guests. 

The event included dinner, performances by artists from the Lyric’s mainstage season and fireworks.

Lunga Erica Hallam, a South African tenor in his second year of training at Lyric’s Patrick G. and Shirley W. Ryan Opera Center, entertained guests with his interpretation of “I Only Have Eyes for You” accompanied by pianist Jerad Mosbey. American soprano Ann Toomey, a Ryan Center alum, performed “When You Wish Upon a Star” with the Stu Hirsch Orchestra. American tenor Joshua Guerrero closed the evening with Puccini’s ode to the stars “E lucevan le stella” from Tosca with Jerad Mosbey accompanying on piano. 

American tenor Joshua Guerrero. Photo by Jaclyn Simpson.

The Looks: At Long Last, a Reason to Dress Up

We talked to Mari Barnes, who owns Notice boutique, about the fashions of the evening. The store, located at 2112 Central in Evanston, also happens to be where one of the Lyric’s Women’s Board members purchased a Chicago flag pillow as a welcome gift for the Lyric’s new music director Enrique Mazzola.

Lyric Opera’s Board Chairwoman Sylvia Neil “brought this year’s new look of adding a pin to her simple stunning black dress.” Neil is photographed with Daniel Fischel, chairman and CEO of Compass Lexecon, a global economic consulting firm based in Chicago; and the Lyric’s new music director Enrique Mazzola.

Daniel Fischel, LOC board chair Sylvia Neil, and LOC Music Director Enrique Mazzola. Photo by Bob Kusel.

Sheila Ormesher “is wearing much more than the simple black dress with the lace detail on top.” She is accompanied by her husband, David Ormesher, who serves as founder and CEO of closerlook and ison Lyric’s board of directors as co-chair emeritus and chair of the Lyric board’s executive committee.

David and Sheila Ormesher. Photo by Bob Kusel.

Gala Chairwoman Karen Z. Gray Krehbiel and husband John Krehbiel Jr. “were glowing in their elegant blue that complemented her fabulous choice of the “Under The Stars“ theme.”

Gala Chair Karen Z Gray-Krehbiel & John H. Krehbiel Jr. Photo Bob Kusel.

Lyric Opera Women’s Board President Caroline Torrington Huebner “brought fun to the event with the gold flowers on her black dress.” Huebner is photographed with Gala Chairwoman Karen Z. Gray Krehbiel and Lyric Opera Board Chairwoman Sylvia Neil. The three women worked to make the Lyric’s first gala in 18 months a success. 

LOC Board Chair Sylvia Neil, Gala Chair Karen Z Gray-Krehbiel, and Womens Board President Caroline Torrington Huebner. Photo Bob Kusel.

Lyric Opera’s Music Director Enrique Mazzola and dramaturg Colin Ure “sported deep shades of blue and purple while Susan B. Noyes and Nancy Searle lit up the room with Susan’s silver detail on black and Nancy’s pewter dress.”

LOC Music Director Enrique Mazzola, Nancy Searle, Colin Ure, and Susan Noyes. Photo Bob Kusel.

Mia Escoe “wore fall’s warm tones with deep brown, magenta and pops of yellow leaves.” Even her husband, Kenneth Escoe, executive vice president of ITW, “sported a brown stripe tie to complement the fall tones.”

Mia and Kenneth Escoe dancing. Photo by Bob Kusel.

“The magenta dress with floral applique worn by Nancy Santi was absolutely stunning.” Santi is accompanied by her husband, Scott, who serves as Chairman and CEO of ITW and serves on the executive committee of the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago.

Nancy and Scott Santi. Photo by Bob Kusel.

Better, and Susan B. and Nick Noyes, were proud sponsors of “Lyric Under the Stars.”

Other Sponsors Included:

ITW, Northern Trust, Mrs. John V. Crowe, Karen Z. Gray-Krehbiel & John H. Krehbiel, Jr., Patrick G. & Shirley Welsh Ryan, AON, The Harris Family Foundation, Willkie Farr & Gallagher, Rebecca & Lester Knight, Sylvia Neil & Daniel Fischel, The Negaunee Foundation, John D. & Alexandra C. Nichols, Cathy & Bill Osborn, Betsy & Andy Rosenfield, Liz Stiffel, Abbot, Norman & Virginia Bobins/The Robert Thomas Bobins Foundation, Andy & Debi Butler, Elizabeth & Michael Cole, The Crown Family, Christina Kemper & Ambassador Ronald J. Gidwitz, Caroline & Charlie Huebner, Mimi & Todd Mitchell, Susan & Robert Morrison, Penny Pritzker & Bryan Traubert, Mr. & Mrs. Scott Santi, Mr. & Mrs. J. Christopher Reyes, Nasrin & Mark Thierer, Mr. & Mrs. Richard G. Weinberg, Mrs. James N. Bay, Dr. & Mrs. Mark Bowen, Amy & Paul Carbone, Mr. & Mrs. Gregory C. Case, Mark Tatro & Margarita Chavez-Tatro, The Cozad Family, Annie & Greg Jones, Stephen A. Kaplan, Mr. & Mrs. Jay Frederick Krehbiel, Brendan & Suzanne Mulshine, Sharon & Lee Oberlander, David & Sheila Ormesher, Mr. & Mrs. Greg Pearlman, Elke & Phillippe and Lynn & Frank, Lois B. Siegel, Mr. & Mrs. Alejandro Silva, Mr. & Mrs. James P. Stirling and Roberta L. Washlow & Robert J. Washlow.

More from Better:

Alice Fabbre is a Chicago-area freelance writer. Her work has appeared in the Chicago Tribune, Naperville Sun and Daily Southtown. She lives in the suburbs with her husband and their twin teenagers. When she’s not working, she enjoys bike riding or walking the trails at her local forest preserve, cheering on her student athletes and family game nights.

  Who We Are       NFP Support       Magazine       Programs       Donate