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Pittsburgh Opera artists perform for crowd at Maecenas XXXGala

| Sunday, May 11, 2014, 9:00 p.m.

“For those of you who know your Roman numerals, that's triple X,” said general director Christopher Hahn, referring to the Maecenas XXXGala. “But I assure you it's going to be a clean evening.”

But it became apparent early on the night was not going out without a bang for the 310 supporting their beloved Pittsburgh Opera.

“If you think about opera and see beyond the thinking that it's high-brow, it's really stories about the human condition,” said Donna Peterman (with John). “It's a little bit of escapism.”

Escapism, indeed. To begin, the evening unfolded at the opera's Strip District parking garage/lounge, which left more than a few temporarily disoriented.

“This does not look like the parking garage. This is amazing!” saidDusty Elias Kirk.

Then, midway through cocktail hour, the opera's resident artists parted the crowd a la the Red Sea with a dramatic entrance amid torches and smoke, heralding a medley that included scenes from Richard Wagner's “The Flying Dutchman.”

Once in full swing, the party slowly but surely made its way into the studio, which had been transformed from its raw, industrial warehouse roots into an elegant space glowing with 600 candles and airy white orchids and hydrangeas. The design was a collaboration between Allison McGeary Floral and Gabriela Porges, who chaired the evening with her husband, David.

In between Duquesne Club-catered courses, the resident artists wowed with another string of lively teasers before longtime supporters Jan and Dick Pagliari were lauded with the Maecenas Award.

Tito Capabianco (former general director) got us involved, Dick Pagliari said. “We'd drink grappa together. Tito taught me a lot of bad habits!”

With music from Cityscape luring everyone back to the lounge for the after-party, things were just getting started for board chairwoman Michele Fabrizi, board prez Clyde Jones, Dr.LisaCibik andBernie Kobosky, Vivian andBill Benter, Federicaand Enrico Dallavecchia, Nancy andJohn Traina, Rose Kustenkow, Paul Gitnik and Gene Svrcek, Nachum Golan andSteve Hough, Gene Welsh and David McAdams, Rosemary and Dr.Mark Wholey, and Ali Good.

Kate Benz is the social columnist for Trib Total Media and can be reached at, 412-380-8515 or via Twitter @KateBenzTRIB.

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