Friday night, in the elegant L’Orangerie of Mondorf-les-Bains, a group of British expats and their friends and colleagues enjoyed a perfect summer evening together forgetting about the affairs of the week. The event commenced with Champagne on the terrace overlooking the gardens.
An hour or so later, the group assembled indoors for a very special dinner. Robert Deed, the sitting treasurer and previous chair of the BCC, kicked things off with an uplifting welcome in which he encouraged guests to withdraw the bewildering things happening in Britain at the moment and enjoy musical offerings by Opera à la Carte, a British chamber opera company.
The group opened with a Rossini piece from “La Traviata” sung by Ricardo Panela. His performance in the intimate setting of the dining hall was a sublime reprieve for those present. Soprano Catharine Rogers’ interpretation of Dvorak’s “Song to the Moon” set the stage for an evening of old-world romance and was followed by Tosti’s “Marechiare” performed by Nicholas Heath.
As the group’s artistic director, Heath says that a part of his job he particularly enjoys is helping people to escape into opera. The combination of music, sumptuous food and good friends, in fact, proved to be a welcome retreat for many. The evening progressed with a serving of brochette de scampis, which was enjoyed to the tune of a comical rendition of “La Cenerentola” (Cinderella) in which Panela was pursued around the dining hall by “two ugly step sisters”.
The good-humoured guests then dined on médaillon de veau, polenta et tomate séchée and artichaut barigoule served with Edmond de la Fontaine pinot noir rouge. As the performers took an intermission, attendees were able to renew old acquaintances and meet new friends.
While many people present had attended a BCC dinner before, there were plenty of new faces. The BCC is currently celebrating its 25th anniversary and has been hosting the annual dinner on and off for many years. This year, Opera à la Carte was invited to perform due to the popular reception the group received the last time they entertained BCC guests.
When the dinner plates were cleared away, the performers offered lighter fare including “You Wonderful You” and a serenade with the ukulele. Charlotte poire chocolat was served and the evening was brought to a close with a lilting performance of “Moon River” by mezzo soprano Mae Heydorn.
It’s not easy to strike an easy balance between sophistication and relaxation, but this year’s BCC Summer Dinner did just that. Even the breeze blowing through the French windows of the hall was the perfect temperature. Guests departed just before midnight through the starry walkways of Mondorf feeling the effects of a perfect escape.
As Gioachino Rossini said, “Eating, loving, singing, and digesting are, in truth, the four acts of the comic opera known as life, and they pass like bubbles in a bottle of Champagne. Whoever lets them break without having enjoyed them is a complete fool.”