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Gala season is upon us, and we hear this year it’s more important than ever to put on your finest finery and write large checks, as Brooklyn’s arts and cultural institutions are still hurting for cash in the wake of the city’s post Sept. 11 budget cuts and the pervasive economic recession.

Two organizations that know how to celebrate humanity through top-notch song - the Brooklyn Academy of Music and the Brooklyn Youth Chorus - held fundraisers in April that drew out the music makers and music lovers.

While BAM staged the much-anticipated Claudio Monteverdi opera cycle - which showcased all three of the composer’s remaining masterworks, the Brooklyn Youth Chorus commissioned new choral works and announced an exciting relocation in the works.

The Brooklyn Youth Chorus honored Borough President Marty Markowitz and Robert Spano, music director of the Brooklyn Philharmonic (and the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra), on April 22 at a soiree at the Heights Casino on Montague Street in Brooklyn Heights.

The chorus, which is celebrating its 10th anniversary, plans to move to a new home and to open the doors of the borough’s first voice-based music school, the Brooklyn Youth Chorus Academy, at 179 Pacific St. in September. The chorus’ "Voices of Harmony" gala raised more than $100,000 for the group’s operating costs.

Among the 340 partygoers were composers Daniel Bernard Roumain and Kirk Nurock, in the audience to hear their works - commissioned by the Chorus - performed. If you’d like to hear ’em for yourself, Nurock’s "Na-ni-na," Roumain’s "What We Are" and Jackson Berkey’s new "Silent Tents" will again be performed by the Brooklyn Youth Chorus at 7:30 pm on June 8 at St. Charles Borromeo Church, 21 Sidney Place in Brooklyn Heights. [Tickets are $25. For more info, call (718) 243-9447.]

Other gala VIPs included WNYC radio personality Margaret Junthwaite and the great jazz singer Theo Bleckmann.

Bravo Monteverdi

Designer Peter Cunningham of Absolutely Wild Floral Events and Decor transformed the Brooklyn Academy of Music’s Lepercq Space at 30 Lafayette Ave. into an interpretive, ancient Mediterranean seascape on April 10. Guests dined there before watching the U.S. premiere of Les Arts Florissants and Aix-en-Provence Festival’s production of the Monteverdi opera, "Il Ritorno d’Ulissse in Patria."

The Royal Shakespeare Company’s artistic director, Adrian Noble, didn’t hop across the pond for this weeklong engagement, but his evocative staging at the BAM Harvey Theater spoke volumes in his stead. The opera is based on Homer’s mythic tale of Ulysses’ return to Ithaca after a long absence and of his wife Penelope’s constancy.

On this evening, BAM’s supporters showed their constancy by donating just over $400,000 for BAM’s programming and the Spring 2002 opera season. Jean-Marc Moriani, CEO of Credit Lyonnais Americas, served as gala chairman.

Among the guests who mixed and mingled with cast members Kresimir Spicer (Ulysses) and Marijana Mijanovic (Penelope) - reportedly a hot item on and off the stage - and Les Arts Florissants artistic director William Christie, was BAM’s new trustee, Danny Simmons. Simmons, who will present the artists of Def Poetry, including playwright Danny Hoch, on May 17 at 9 pm in the BAMcafe, is co-founder of Def Jam records and owner of Clinton Hill’s Corridor Gallery. (Simmons’ brother Joseph is a member of the old-school rap group RUN-DMC.)

Socialites Anne Bass, Beth Rudin DeWoody and Annaliese Soros were also in attendance.

An upcoming highlight of BAM’s 2002 spring season is Fredrich von Schilller’s play, "Maria Stuart," directed by famed Swedish filmmaker Ingmar Bergman. "Maria Stuart" will be performed the Royal Dramatic Theatre of Sweden from June 12 through June 16 at BAM’s Howard Gilman Opera House (30 Lafayette Ave.). (Tickets are $25-$65. For more information, call (718) 636-4100.)

Powerful lineup

The next gala fundraiser will benefit Spano’s financially strapped Brooklyn Philharmonic. The Philharmonic will honor Kevin Burke, president and COO of Consolidated Edison Company of New York Inc. and Craig G. Matthews, retired vice chairman and COO of Keyspan Energy. Featuring a performance by internationally acclaimed pianist Lang Lang, the black-tie event will be held at the Brooklyn Museum of Art on Monday, May 13 at 6:30 pm. Call (718) 622-5555 for tickets.

Updated 4:00 pm, November 10, 2010
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