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Black Tie & Tales

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  • | 5:00 a.m. December 19, 2012
Sandra Chororos, Elisabeth Waters, Heather Dunhill, Felice Schulaner and Marina Bourantonis
Sandra Chororos, Elisabeth Waters, Heather Dunhill, Felice Schulaner and Marina Bourantonis
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+ Back in the saddle
Temporarily and briefly, but nonetheless pleased for the opportunity to send you holiday greetings and wish you health and serenity in 2013. From the looks of things, you have been and will be … busy!

+ Baker Babes
Elisabeth Waters invites company to bake cookies with her every year. This year, yoga instructor Marina Bourantonis teamed up with Heather Dunhill to assemble a mindful and exceptionally stylish gingerbread house. Felice Schulaner was up to her elbows in chocolate, and Sandra Chororos exercised hers with the rolling pin. Elisabeth’s husband, Gil Waters, prepared the traditional rum punch to which the ladies added generous pours of Veuve Cliquot.

+ Nutcracker — the next generation
There was a weekend of festivities surrounding the world premiere performances of Sarasota Ballet Director Iain Webb’s “John Ringling’s Circus Nutcracker,” with choreography by Matthew Hart and sets and costumes by Peter Docherty. Docherty drew much of his inspiration from the Blackpool Circus at the base of the famous tower in his Lancashire, England hometown; he says he knew fate meant him to design the production because he had bought a huge book on circus as a Christmas gift to himself last year right before Mr. Hart recruited him.

The celebratory events included a circus-themed luncheon for children of all ages preceding the Saturday matinee; see photos online at

+ Set for dinner
The Sarasota Opera held its annual Co-Producers Dinner Dec. 12, at the Opera House. Maestro Victor DeRenzi and his new teammate, Executive Director Richard Russell, welcomed some 150 guests to cocktails in the foyer followed by dinner on stage against the backdrop for Bizet’s “The Pearl Fishers.” That opera is wildly popular with Sarasota audiences; it was a sell-out when launched in 2000 and again (including the dress rehearsal!) in 2003. Other opera companies rented the production so often that the sets wore out, so the opera has built new ones for the upcoming season.

+ Busy, busy, busy
The NOOA troupe from Tel Mond, Israel that visited Sarasota this month, as part of a Sister Cities exchange, was on a fast track. They danced for the Holocaust Survivor Luncheon at Temple Emanu-El, at Booker School, the Sarasota Military Academy, Riverview High School and the Sailor Circus, all preceding their big performance on Dec. 10, at the Jewish Federation campus. Among the local families housing the dancers: Carolyn Michel and Howard Millman, who accommodated four at their St. Armands residence and hosted an impromptu pool party attended by 20 or so dancers who snacked, swam and slid. Michel deemed the guests “enchanting,” and the visit “a true cultural exchange with our Sister city.”

+ Tidbits
Three quarters of a Century Young … According to Dr. Bernie Levine, his wife, Marion, celebrated her Dec. 4 birthday over a whole month and in three states — New York, Connecticut and most recently at Michael’s Wine Cellar …

Ner shel Hanukkah … Who knew that Irish-to-the-core restaurateur Sean Murphy has a 27-year tradition of inviting a customer at his Beach Bistro to light the Menorah each night? Now, he is also doing it at Eat Here on Main Street; on night seven, the honor went to Longboat Key resident Harold Ronson …

Man plans … the Sunshine from Darkness event originally scheduled for January is being rescheduled for March. Watch the Black Tie Calendar and this column for the new date as soon as it is confirmed …

Calling All Downton Abbey Fans … Get out your hats and gloves and see an exclusive preview screening of Season 3 at a just announced Jan. 2 luncheon benefiting WEDU, Florida’s West Coast Public Broadcasting Organization. The venue is Michael’s On East; tariff is $65. Info and reservations at [email protected] or 800-354-9338 ext. 2241 …

Black Tie Affair
Bradenton Opera Guild Winter Gala honoring and welcoming Richard Russell, executive director, Sarasota Opera

: 6:30 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 13
Where: Bird Key Yacht Club
Tickets: $250
Contact: 366-8450
Attire: Black Tie is preferred but guests are equally welcome to “come dressed as Giuseppe Verdi” for the Bradenton Guild’s annual formal.

This year it celebrates the return of Richard Russell, who was the highly regarded director of marketing at Sarasota Opera from 2005 until 2010, when he left to be general director of Opera New Jersey. Now he’s back and the hillside’s dew-pearled.


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