Celebrities seen at the National Opera

  • The Washington Examiner
  • |
  • May 10, 2005

by Karen Feld

New gig for Librarian of Congress is super!

The Washington National Opera kicked off a delightful production of Puccini’s “Tosca” Friday evening at the Kennedy Center. Three well-known Washington personalities were “supers” (supernumaries, or extra performers who appear without speaking or singing). Lorenzo Ascoli, senior vice president of Bank of America and a board member of the opera, played the archbishop; Ricardo Ernst, Georgetown University business school professor, played a deacon, and Dr. James Billington, director of the Library of Congress, took the part of he cardinal. The three rehearsed only once, just a simple walk-through. Billington enjoyed the stage so much that he’s agreed to do it again during both the matinee and evening performances on May 28.

Maria Jose Monteil as Luisa Fernanda and Placido Domingo as Hernando perform in the Washington National Opera production of Frederico Moreno Torroba’s “Luisa Fernanda” on Nov. 8, 2004. The Opera premiered Puccini’s “Tosca” on Friday at the Kennedy Center.

Michel’s voice, civility

At the post-performance dinner on the Kennedy Center roof terrace – it was moved from Firenzie House, the residence of the Italian ambassador, because the ambassador had been called back to Rome, in part because of the mysterious death there last week of American lobbyist Ed von Kloberg – Jim Billington told former House GOP leader Bob Michel, “You have the best deep bass voice; you should be up there on stage.”

Other opera-goers – including National Public Radio’s Nina Totenberg – complimented former leader Michel on his “civility,” and asked how to bring it back to the Congress. “There’s no civility anymore,” observed Totenberg. There was even mention of a civility caucus among some of the guests. When asked about the Tom DeLay mess, Michel called it “a distraction.”


Love of Puccini brings together varied crowd

When socialite Mary Ourisman saw former House Speaker Newt Gingrich with his wife, Calista, enjoying the performance, she said her first job in Washington was working for Newt. She couldn’t believe he’s turned into such an opera fan. … Philip Skinner of San Fransisco, who is performing with the company, couldn’t stop talking about how thrilled he was to run into Gen. Wesley Clark walking down Connecticut Avenue earlier in the week. … Stuart Bernstein, who has recently returned from Denmark, where he was ambassador, said he’s “adapting” to being back. “I miss the action,” said Bernstein, there with his stunning wife, Wilma. Other guests included Ambassador Michael Lowell of Malta, Lt. Gen. James Conway, NSO conductor Leonard Slatkin, and of course, General Director Plácido Domingo, who said that “Puccini was ahead of his time,” and “he was snubbed by the critics because they were concerned that he was too loved by the people.”

Plácido says ‘good night’ – it’s a union thing

After blaming the problems with the supertitles on “technology,” Maestro Domingo engaged the dinner guests until after midnight. They didn’t mind, but event organizers did. Bright lights turned up abruptly, ending the evening. After all, the Kennedy Center is union, and we were told it’s an additional $2,000 cost after the midnight hour. Needless to say, had the dinner been held at the Italian ambassador’s lavish residence, the guests would have partied on and on.

Horse sense: Who is prancing with whom?

Race bits: The grass is greener. The Buzz hears that Fox News’ Brit Hume traded a TV camera and desk for a race card and binoculars at the Virginia Gold Cup on Saturday afternoon. … Actor Kelly Preston, who appeared to be more interested in hanging around the red carpet than watching the race, peeled off her jacket for the camera to show off her figure. … And failed “American Idol” contestant Nadia Turner posed for photos with comedian Bill Maher, who was all over her, until Sen. Barack Obama’s, D-Ill., wife left. Then she showed the object of her attention by moving right in on the Senate star.

Beef in Bethesda

Old Homestead Steak House, which opens May 16 in the Chevy Chase Bank building in Bethesda, is seeking a spunky senior (65+) to be Miss Old Homestead Bethesda, sort of the Clara Peller of this generation. Instead of the Wendy’s ’80s ad campaign, where the old actress demanded, “Where’s the beef?”, it’s now “Here’s the Beef. … The Kobe Beef.” The steak house, founded 137 years ago, is the oldest in New York City and one of the first to bring Japan’s Kobe beef into the U.S. They now serve American-raised Kobe beef, and even a $19 hot dog made from it. What’s more, owners Greg and Marc Sherry’s grandfather created the term “doggie bag,” since the portions were so huge. It makes perfect sense that Campari, the toy poodle who assists with this column, is a judge for the open contest Thursday morning in Bethesda. The winner receives a year’s worth of Porterhouse steaks and $1,000 cash. And, oh, yes, the canine judge gets his Kobe beef dinner as well.

Capitol File lauds a “Nanny,” hires an editor

Capitol File magazine is making its presence in the community known before its September launch. Niche Media’s new luxury quarterly honors actor Fran Drescher (former star of “The Nanny,” now with WB’s new “Living With Fran”), a uterine cancer survivor, for pushing “Johanna’s Law” – the Gynecologic Cancer Education and Awareness Act – Wednesday evening at Chloe in Adams Morgan. … Kate Gibbs, previously managing editor of AOL CityGuide, is the new editor in chief of Capitol File.

Goldie Sighting:

Actor Goldie Hawn and her longtime partner, Kurt Russell, were spotted enjoying the tandoori salmon and chicken as well as samplings of eggplant and okra at the Bombay Club on Connecticut Avenue Sunday evening. Hawn, 59, who grew up in Takoma Park, was back in town to flog her memoir, “A Lotus Grows in the Mud.” She’s also written a movie script that she hopes to direct.

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