Well, you don't see that every day. Sure, last Saturday's Ars Lyrica gala had all the standard elements of a ritzy charity ball—a luxurious venue (Hotel Alessandra), professional performances (by Ars Lyrica artists and an impromptu violin concerto by gala honoree Dr. Sippi Khurana), opulent ballroom decor (from Debbie Pakzaban and Hanh Gallery), a seated dinner (catered by Lucienne), and a DJ-led after-party—but there was one standout feature on the program: a wedding.
Yes, an actual wedding. A Mid-Winter's Night Dream Gala chairs Stephanie von Stein and Dr. Mark A. Schusterman surprised guests (and seriously upped the ante for all future gala organizers) by tying the knot right then and there.
Before that, though, gala guests—who ventured downtown to honor Dr. Khurana and raise money for Ars Lyrica's biennial Baroque opera productions—enjoyed cocktails, hors d'oeuvres, and harp music from Joanna Whitsett before Hotel Alessandra's main ballroom doors revealed a winter wonderland replete with twinkling lights and a flower wall.
Khurana delighted with her impromptu Vivaldi performance, accompanied by lute, and performances continued from mezzo-soprano Cecilia Duarte, lutenist Arash Noori, and percussionist Jésus Pacheco. Artistic director Matthew Dirst offered remarks, and then all eyes turned to the back of the room, where von Stein appeared, a vision in her white gown, and walked down the aisle to Schubert's "Ave Maria."
The bride and groom exchanged vows and were pronounced Dr. and Mrs. Mark A. Schusterman. Then, dinner was served.
Alessandra's in-house restaurant, Lucienne, served continental European cuisine on a wintry theme. Bolstered by a meal and the undeniable presence of romance, guests continued the celebration with an upbeat after-party featuring DJ Forrest, chaired by Amanda Kingston-Beetle.
The gala broke Ars Lyrica's fundraising records, with proceeds supporting the organization's 2020/21 production of Purcell's Dido and Aneas. Thanks to Ars Lyrica, Houstonians get a dose of locally produced Baroque opera every other year.