By Douglas P. Clement

On a perfect summer morning recently, I stopped by Country Loft Antiques in Woodbury to chat with owner Carole Winer, Karen Reddington-Hughes of Abrash Galleries, which specializes in Oriental rugs and antiquities, and Vincent P. de Luise, a retired ophthalmologist who still teaches at Yales and Weill Cornells medical schools.

We gathered in the warm and wonderful kitchen/dining area of the historic 18th-century home on the property that Ms. Winer is debuting as a bed-and-breakfast as part of a larger celebrations and special events role for the Country Loft estate. The recipe this enterprising trio had cooked up for a September gala event was fully contained in one of Dr. de Luises remarks over coffee, Theres an inherent intersection between fine food, great wines and operatic music. It made me recall that the last time I was in Ms. Winers home many years ago, a festive gathering had centered on fine food, great wines and, if not operatic music, then conversation at least imbued with the passion of great opera.

It also made me reflect that, often quietly, Woodbury can lay claim to being one of the regions most culturally sophisticated towns. In fact, Dr. de Luise and his ensemble were gathered at the latest fledgling cultural locus, the French-styled cafe known as W Soiree, when they first envisioned The Litchfield Hills Food, Wine and Opera Gala, A Musical Feast!, which will be held Saturday, Sept. 8, at Country Loft, beginning at 6 p.m., and features a marriage of farm-to-table foods prepared by renowned local chefs, fine wines and classic arias performed by young opera stars.

Were not just putting on a party. The emphasis is really on education, stressed Ms. Reddington-Hughes, as the trio noted the creation of the nonprofit Connecticut Summer Opera Foundation.

Hopefully well have a beautiful evening on the property, added Ms. Winer as the vision emerged of an annual event that represents the culmination of a residency program and educational amenities for aspiring performers.

That vision will come into sharp, melodic focus for guests savvy enough to attend the debut event, where the fine wines will be paired with the cuisine of chefs Carole Peck of Good News Cafe, Denis Niez of Ovens of France, Jerry Reveron of Taft School, the founding chef of The Woodward House, and Tom Gould of Brass City Bistro. Tickets are $100, and are available by calling Country Loft at 203-266-4500 or going online at www.ctsummeropera.org[1].

In terms of the details about the inspiration, the event and more, the words of Dr. de Luise, also found on his blog (http://amusicalvision.blogspot.com/2012/06/litchfield-hills-food-wine-and-opera.html[2]) stand eloquently on their own. From this point on, heres what he has to say, with information that would be redundant elided:

On an uncommonly warm early spring day in May, Karen Hughes of Abrash Galleries, Carole Winer of The Country Loft and Vincent de Luise were in a musical mood. As they shared a bottle of prosecco and some cheese in the aerie of one of Woodburys Main Street bistros, the conversation soon turned to song. They noticed that there werent that many cultural goings-on in this part of Litchfield County in the summer, and very few that featured vocal music. Tanglewood, Caramoor and Music Mountain each had their own long-standing summer events, but they all were a bit far away, even by car. So, the trio began to discuss the possibility of joining forces to put together a summer dining and musical event in the community.

From that germ of an idea at an informal meeting in May was birthed The Litchfield Hills Food, Wine and Opera Gala, A Musical Feast! …

The trio also decided at their wine and cheese get-together that the Gala event they had just conjured should not be a one-off event; rather, there should be an enduring purpose for the festivities, one that would be on-going and resonate with many in the community and beyond. Continued…[3]

And so, from that additional concept, they founded a new non-profit arts organization, The Connecticut Summer Opera Foundation (CSOF). The CSOF will serve to support a summer residency in operatic vocal training, as well as engage in educational outreach by bringing operatic music to grade schools and elementary schools, to introduce the art form to the next generation of concert goers.

The Gala on September 8th will thus also be the first fund-raiser for CSOF.

The evening will unfold with a farm-to-table tasting curated by four of Connecticuts most renowned chefs … each of whom will use locally-sourced produce and ingredients to fashion their entrees. The tasting dinner will be paired with wines selected by the chefs … .

The repast will be followed by an hour-long recital of vocal highlights from some of the worlds most beloved operas, including works by Rossini, Puccini, Verdi, Mozart and Bizet, as well as selections from Americas own composer and conductor laureate, Leonard Bernstein, and his sparkling musical (really, an American opera) Candide. After the recital, guests will be able to linger on and savor French-styled desserts, coffees and teas.

The Gala will take place on the lovely and expansive grounds of The Country Loft, which has its own interesting history. In 1745, Deacon Samuel Bull moved from Farmington to 100 acres in Woodbury where he set up a blacksmith business and built the Bull House, barns and silo, all of which became the Samuel Bull Homestead. The Bull family lived on the property until 1994, when the buildings and 19 acres of the land, involving a pond framed by a dramatic rock escarpment, were purchased by Ms. Winer to create The Country Loft, an antiques dealership specializing in late 18th century and 19th century French antiques.

Putting on large-scale events like the September 8th Gala is nothing new to Ms. Hughes, Ms Winer or Dr. de Luise. Ms Hughes and Ms. Winer have mounted several highly successful hospital and special-cause fund-raisers at The Country Loft and elsewhere in Woodbury and Roxbury, each drawing several hundred guests. Dr. de Luise … has also been active over the years as a clarinetist, organizing the thirteen-concert Connecticut Mozart Festival in 1991, and before that, co-founding the annual classical music recital of the American Academy of Ophthalmology.

Dr. de Luise also serves on the Board of Directors of Opera Company of Brooklyn, and it was his relationship with that small but superb opera company in New York City that became another key reason he wished to bring opera to Woodbury.

Beyond that, there is always the natural and wonderful connection between fine dining and great music.

There is a long tradition of food with opera, says Dr. de Luise. When you think about it, more than a few operas feature food and wine, and some even have banquet scenes, perhaps most famously the one in the second act of Mozarts Don Giovanni, when the Don invites the Stone Guest (in reality the already dead Commendatore) to dinner before the Dons own inevitable demise. In Verdis Macbeth, there is a truly Lucullan feast of a banquet, and Verdis title character in Falstaff has already eaten and drunk pretty much the whole menu at the Garter Inn tavern by the middle of Act 1.

And even opera novices will recognize the drinking song, Libiamo ne lieti calici from Verdis La Traviata, one of the most famous of all operatic melodies, which will be a featured ensemble piece at the Gala, replete with champagne glasses, no less. Continued…[4]

The relationship between food and opera extends even to operas own stars, Dr. de Luise went on. Back in the 1920s, the Australian soprano Nellie Melba was so popular that several dishes were named after her by their creator, the master French chef Escoffier, including peach Melba and Melba toast. And the brilliant Italian coloratura soprano Luisa Tetrazzini lent her name to the popular dish chicken Tetrazzini.

Dr. de Luise went on to mention that in our own day, the reigning American soprano, the luminous Rene Fleming, has captured the imagination of so many, involving a nother great French chef, Daniel Boulud, who created a sumptuous dessert in her honor, called, what else? La Diva Rene. It is, according to Ms. Flemings Web site, a confection of a sabl cookie layered with hazelnut wafers, milk chocolate-Champagne Chantilly, a chocolate biscuit coated with bittersweet chocolate. and a final layer of an almond-Amaretto biscuit crowned with a milk chocolate emblem sporting the notes of the Marschallins aria from Richard Strauss (opera) Der Rosenkavalier And it all sounds at once sinfully delicious and absolutely scrumptious, added Dr. de Luise. …

Dr. de Luise has invited four splendid singers from Opera Company of Brooklyn to perform the recital portion of the Gala. Soprano Roseanne Ackerley is a graduate of Mannes College of Music and has performed with Connecticut Grand Opera and Miami Lyric Opera. Tenor Darren Anderson, a graduate of the Opera Institute at Boston University, has appeared with New York City Opera, Glimmerglass Opera and Boston Lyric Opera. Mezzo-soprano Lauren Pastorek has degrees from the Eastman School of Music and Cincinnati Conservatory and has performed at City Center and Symphony Space in New York City, as well as with Opera Brooklyn. Baritone Kenneth Overton, a winner of the national Leontyne Price Competition, has appeared with San Francisco Opera, Opera Memphis, Sacramento Opera and the Norwalk Symphony. Maestro Jay Meetze, a graduate of Cincinnati Conservatorys Masters Degree program in conducting, has been leading Opera Brooklyn since he founded the Company in 2000 and will conduct the vocalists at the Gala. Pianist Ming Kwong, who among his many appearances has performed at Tanglewood and Glimmerglass and is one of the master class pianists of the Metropolitan Opera Guild, will be the accompanist.

Of course, it wouldnt be a true gala without some surprisesmusical and culinaryin store for the attendees as well!

Attire is casually elegant. The gala goes from 6 to 10 p.m. Call Country Loft at 203-266-4500 for tickets and reservations.

On a perfect summer morning recently, I stopped by Country Loft Antiques in Woodbury to chat with owner Carole Winer, Karen Reddington-Hughes of Abrash Galleries, which specializes in Oriental rugs and antiquities, and Vincent P. de Luise, a retired ophthalmologist who still teaches at Yales and Weill Cornells medical schools.

We gathered in the warm and wonderful kitchen/dining area of the historic 18th-century home on the property that Ms. Winer is debuting as a bed-and-breakfast as part of a larger celebrations and special events role for the Country Loft estate. The recipe this enterprising trio had cooked up for a September gala event was fully contained in one of Dr. de Luises remarks over coffee, Theres an inherent intersection between fine food, great wines and operatic music. It made me recall that the last time I was in Ms. Winers home many years ago, a festive gathering had centered on fine food, great wines and, if not operatic music, then conversation at least imbued with the passion of great opera.

It also made me reflect that, often quietly, Woodbury can lay claim to being one of the regions most culturally sophisticated towns. In fact, Dr. de Luise and his ensemble were gathered at the latest fledgling cultural locus, the French-styled cafe known as W Soiree, when they first envisioned The Litchfield Hills Food, Wine and Opera Gala, A Musical Feast!, which will be held Saturday, Sept. 8, at Country Loft, beginning at 6 p.m., and features a marriage of farm-to-table foods prepared by renowned local chefs, fine wines and classic arias performed by young opera stars.

Were not just putting on a party. The emphasis is really on education, stressed Ms. Reddington-Hughes, as the trio noted the creation of the nonprofit Connecticut Summer Opera Foundation.

Hopefully well have a beautiful evening on the property, added Ms. Winer as the vision emerged of an annual event that represents the culmination of a residency program and educational amenities for aspiring performers.

That vision will come into sharp, melodic focus for guests savvy enough to attend the debut event, where the fine wines will be paired with the cuisine of chefs Carole Peck of Good News Cafe, Denis Niez of Ovens of France, Jerry Reveron of Taft School, the founding chef of The Woodward House, and Tom Gould of Brass City Bistro. Tickets are $100, and are available by calling Country Loft at 203-266-4500 or going online at www.ctsummeropera.org[5].

In terms of the details about the inspiration, the event and more, the words of Dr. de Luise, also found on his blog (http://amusicalvision.blogspot.com/2012/06/litchfield-hills-food-wine-and-opera.html[6]) stand eloquently on their own. From this point on, heres what he has to say, with information that would be redundant elided:

On an uncommonly warm early spring day in May, Karen Hughes of Abrash Galleries, Carole Winer of The Country Loft and Vincent de Luise were in a musical mood. As they shared a bottle of prosecco and some cheese in the aerie of one of Woodburys Main Street bistros, the conversation soon turned to song. They noticed that there werent that many cultural goings-on in this part of Litchfield County in the summer, and very few that featured vocal music. Tanglewood, Caramoor and Music Mountain each had their own long-standing summer events, but they all were a bit far away, even by car. So, the trio began to discuss the possibility of joining forces to put together a summer dining and musical event in the community.

From that germ of an idea at an informal meeting in May was birthed The Litchfield Hills Food, Wine and Opera Gala, A Musical Feast! …

The trio also decided at their wine and cheese get-together that the Gala event they had just conjured should not be a one-off event; rather, there should be an enduring purpose for the festivities, one that would be on-going and resonate with many in the community and beyond.

And so, from that additional concept, they founded a new non-profit arts organization, The Connecticut Summer Opera Foundation (CSOF). The CSOF will serve to support a summer residency in operatic vocal training, as well as engage in educational outreach by bringing operatic music to grade schools and elementary schools, to introduce the art form to the next generation of concert goers.

The Gala on September 8th will thus also be the first fund-raiser for CSOF.

The evening will unfold with a farm-to-table tasting curated by four of Connecticuts most renowned chefs … each of whom will use locally-sourced produce and ingredients to fashion their entrees. The tasting dinner will be paired with wines selected by the chefs … .

The repast will be followed by an hour-long recital of vocal highlights from some of the worlds most beloved operas, including works by Rossini, Puccini, Verdi, Mozart and Bizet, as well as selections from Americas own composer and conductor laureate, Leonard Bernstein, and his sparkling musical (really, an American opera) Candide. After the recital, guests will be able to linger on and savor French-styled desserts, coffees and teas.

The Gala will take place on the lovely and expansive grounds of The Country Loft, which has its own interesting history. In 1745, Deacon Samuel Bull moved from Farmington to 100 acres in Woodbury where he set up a blacksmith business and built the Bull House, barns and silo, all of which became the Samuel Bull Homestead. The Bull family lived on the property until 1994, when the buildings and 19 acres of the land, involving a pond framed by a dramatic rock escarpment, were purchased by Ms. Winer to create The Country Loft, an antiques dealership specializing in late 18th century and 19th century French antiques.

Putting on large-scale events like the September 8th Gala is nothing new to Ms. Hughes, Ms Winer or Dr. de Luise. Ms Hughes and Ms. Winer have mounted several highly successful hospital and special-cause fund-raisers at The Country Loft and elsewhere in Woodbury and Roxbury, each drawing several hundred guests. Dr. de Luise … has also been active over the years as a clarinetist, organizing the thirteen-concert Connecticut Mozart Festival in 1991, and before that, co-founding the annual classical music recital of the American Academy of Ophthalmology.

Dr. de Luise also serves on the Board of Directors of Opera Company of Brooklyn, and it was his relationship with that small but superb opera company in New York City that became another key reason he wished to bring opera to Woodbury.

Beyond that, there is always the natural and wonderful connection between fine dining and great music.

There is a long tradition of food with opera, says Dr. de Luise. When you think about it, more than a few operas feature food and wine, and some even have banquet scenes, perhaps most famously the one in the second act of Mozarts Don Giovanni, when the Don invites the Stone Guest (in reality the already dead Commendatore) to dinner before the Dons own inevitable demise. In Verdis Macbeth, there is a truly Lucullan feast of a banquet, and Verdis title character in Falstaff has already eaten and drunk pretty much the whole menu at the Garter Inn tavern by the middle of Act 1.

And even opera novices will recognize the drinking song, Libiamo ne lieti calici from Verdis La Traviata, one of the most famous of all operatic melodies, which will be a featured ensemble piece at the Gala, replete with champagne glasses, no less.

The relationship between food and opera extends even to operas own stars, Dr. de Luise went on. Back in the 1920s, the Australian soprano Nellie Melba was so popular that several dishes were named after her by their creator, the master French chef Escoffier, including peach Melba and Melba toast. And the brilliant Italian coloratura soprano Luisa Tetrazzini lent her name to the popular dish chicken Tetrazzini.

Dr. de Luise went on to mention that in our own day, the reigning American soprano, the luminous Rene Fleming, has captured the imagination of so many, involving a nother great French chef, Daniel Boulud, who created a sumptuous dessert in her honor, called, what else? La Diva Rene. It is, according to Ms. Flemings Web site, a confection of a sabl cookie layered with hazelnut wafers, milk chocolate-Champagne Chantilly, a chocolate biscuit coated with bittersweet chocolate. and a final layer of an almond-Amaretto biscuit crowned with a milk chocolate emblem sporting the notes of the Marschallins aria from Richard Strauss (opera) Der Rosenkavalier And it all sounds at once sinfully delicious and absolutely scrumptious, added Dr. de Luise. …

Dr. de Luise has invited four splendid singers from Opera Company of Brooklyn to perform the recital portion of the Gala. Soprano Roseanne Ackerley is a graduate of Mannes College of Music and has performed with Connecticut Grand Opera and Miami Lyric Opera. Tenor Darren Anderson, a graduate of the Opera Institute at Boston University, has appeared with New York City Opera, Glimmerglass Opera and Boston Lyric Opera. Mezzo-soprano Lauren Pastorek has degrees from the Eastman School of Music and Cincinnati Conservatory and has performed at City Center and Symphony Space in New York City, as well as with Opera Brooklyn. Baritone Kenneth Overton, a winner of the national Leontyne Price Competition, has appeared with San Francisco Opera, Opera Memphis, Sacramento Opera and the Norwalk Symphony. Maestro Jay Meetze, a graduate of Cincinnati Conservatorys Masters Degree program in conducting, has been leading Opera Brooklyn since he founded the Company in 2000 and will conduct the vocalists at the Gala. Pianist Ming Kwong, who among his many appearances has performed at Tanglewood and Glimmerglass and is one of the master class pianists of the Metropolitan Opera Guild, will be the accompanist.

Of course, it wouldnt be a true gala without some surprisesmusical and culinaryin store for the attendees as well!

Attire is casually elegant. The gala goes from 6 to 10 p.m. Call Country Loft at 203-266-4500 for tickets and reservations.

References

  1. ^ www.ctsummeropera.org (www.ctsummeropera.org)
  2. ^ http://amusicalvision.blogspot.com/2012/06/litchfield-hills-food-wine-and-opera.html (amusicalvision.blogspot.com)
  3. ^ Continued… (www.countytimes.com)
  4. ^ Continued… (www.countytimes.com)
  5. ^ www.ctsummeropera.org (www.ctsummeropera.org)
  6. ^ http://amusicalvision.blogspot.com/2012/06/litchfield-hills-food-wine-and-opera.html (amusicalvision.blogspot.com)

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