Opera Ball patrons might have thought they were at a party in Abu Dhabi instead of Washington, DC when they entered the Embassy of the United Arab Emirates on Saturday night. Washington National Opera‘s largest fundraiser was held for the first time at the Embassy of the United Arab Emirates under the patronage of Ambassador Yousef Al Otaiba and his wife Abeer Al Otaiba.
The Embassy was transformed into an opulent space fit for Sheikh Khalifa himself. Renowed philanthropist Adrienne Arsht chaired the Ball for the first time. Ms. Arsht is an active supporter of the performing arts and serves as the Treasurer of the Board of Trustees of the Kennedy Center.
When guests arrived at 9:30 p.m., they entered the Ball through a series of Arab pergolas, arriving at a custom-built lantern filled with candles at the grand portico of the Embassy. Once inside the Embassy, guests encountered a 20-foot water wall and dramatic moving images of life in the UAE projected onto screens inside the atrium, where the Ambassador, Mrs. Al Otaiba and Adrienne Arsht greeted guests.
In recent years, the ball has been held at the embassies of China, Russia, and Germany and true to tradition, this year’s Opera Ball was celebrated with international flare. The Embassy staff, comprised primarily of students from the UAE, was dressed in traditional Emirati clothing. Highlights of the evening included Emirati folk dance performances by the Abu Dhabi-based National Band for Folk Art. Artists from the UAE General Women’s Union adorned guests with henna in gazebos outside the Ballroom. Of course, no evening celebrated in Arabian style would be complete without hookah and guests enjoyed the popular pastime in the Embassy courtyard. Most guests enjoyed dinner at various embassies around town prior to the event, so patrons were treated to extensive dessert bars once they arrived at the Ball. Traditional Emirati desserts such as kamfaroush and gemat were prepared in front of guests in specialty tents outside the Ballroom.
Saturday night’s guest list included Supreme Court Justices, members of Congress, and other high-ranking government officials. Guests were sent home with gift bags filled with gourmet chocolate and a pearl oyster from the Arabian Gulf.
Washington National Opera will open the 2012-2013 season with Donizetti’s “Anna Bolena” in September.