Make it unforgettable

Fifty years of the Dayton Opera Ball

By John Hamilton

Photo: [l-r] Betty Holton, Robb Sloan, Ron Anderson, Mimi Kuntz, Ken Kuntz and Dana Kane at the 2014 Opera Ball; photo: Kim Coughnour

The curtain will, figuratively, rise again for the Dayton Opera Guild as it hosts its 50th Annual Dayton Opera Ball on Saturday, April 11. With a theme tied into the unforgettable music of the 1950s, the evening will feature live music performances of pieces from the eponymous era, dancing, and a silent auction with many fabulous prizes up for grab.

It’s not stuffy at all,” Executive Vice President and Dayton Opera Co-Chair Penny Wolff assures. “Every year we always try to do something different and reimagine the Ball to keep it interesting and fun.” Since the first event in 1965, the guild has changed its theme every year to keep it interesting. The first ball was themed “Space Age.”

Although the Opera Ball has a casual atmosphere, it’s definitely something for opera fans and those gaining an interest.

“This is a small scale event that’s usually attended primarily by local opera fans,” Wolff explains. “The people who have attended previously are all supporters of the opera and who recognize the art of opera performances and what to see it continue to thrive.”

While this event is hosted by an organization that showcases opera music, the live music will not be performed by the house’s singers. Instead, it will be performed by local band The Bob Gray Orchestra.

The 10 piece band will perform music of the 1950s throughout the night.

“The music is going to be from artists who had started performing on television,” Wolff says. “They’ll be playing crooner music, love ballads, but there won’t be any rock and roll music. The party’s theme is meant to feel more like the nightclub scene.”

But what more is there to this event besides the excellent music selection? There will be a silent auction held with close to 100 items up for bid. Two of the more fabulous and rather pricy prizes come from Jaffe Jewelers: the Opera Necklace and the Cheri Dori Blue Topaz.

“One of our most popular prizes to auction is a supernumerary role in a future opera production,” says Wolff. A supernumerary role is the opera and theatre equivalent of a movie extra. The winner will be given a chance to be costumed and stand in a large group in the background during one of two upcoming shows.

The first, Othello, based on the William Shakespeare tragedy of the same name, is about a 16th century Moorish General who is convinced his wife, Desdemona, is having an affair by his ensign Iago.

The second is the Giacomo Puccini classic opera Madame Butterfly, about a Japanese woman in the early 20th century and the turmoil and heartbreak she endures.

There are other prizes that may require the winner to acquire a passport. “There are four different trips up for auction at the Ball,” Wolff continues. “There’s an African photo safari, a tour of British Colombia, a trip to an Indonesian villa and a trip to Tuscany, Italy.”

The African photo safari trip is a six day, six night trip for two at the luxurious 5,000 acre Zulu Nyala Game Reserve in South Africa, where the winners will get a chance to take a guided tour and see the wild animals of the country. The trip to British Columbia is a gateway up to the Pacific Northwest in Vancouver where one will get the chance to see the majestic sights of Canada such as the Blackcomb Mountain. The Indonesian prize is an escape to the Jepun Bali Villa, where the lucky bidder will be whisked almost immediately from the airport and brought to the Villa and receive Balinese massages, delicious food and a chance to learn scuba diving during the eight days and seven nights stay. The final vacation prize to Tuscany will take you to the medieval town of Cortona which was the setting for the popular book and film “Under the Tuscan Sun.”

“This is sure to be a fanciful evening of fine dining and dancing, glitz and glamor and much more,” Wolff says enthusiastically.

The Dayton Opera Ball will take place Saturday, April 11 from 6 p.m. – midnight at the Moraine Country Club, 4075 Southern Boulevard, in Dayton. Tickets for the Ball are separated into four levels. The lowest is the Johnny Mathis Level, which is for first time attendees, those under the age of 40, and active members of the military. The others are the Ella Fitzgerald Level at $175, the Frank Sinatra Level at $225 and the Nat King Cole Level priced at $225. For ticket information, please call 937.293.5295 or visit

Reach DCP freelance writer John Hamilton at

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