(Originally published 2.16.11 in BizBash Washington)The Washington National Opera hosted its ninth annual midwinter fund-raiser, renamed the Midwinter Fiesta this year in honor of its Mexican theme, on Saturday night at the Mexican Cultural Institute at the Embassy of Mexico. Despite cutting its advertising budget, the event sold out for its ninth year, with 300 people in attendance.
“I don’t think [not advertising] made one bit of difference,” said Deana Taylor, the opera’s associate director of special events, who worked with the organization’s women’s committee to plan the affair. “Our presence on our own Web site was stronger, and our ability to direct people to our auction Web site, which we got up earlier this year, made a real difference.”
Taylor displayed the more than 100 items available in a silent auction throughout the second floor, after they’d been advertised online since November—nearly two months sooner than last year. The night garnered 19 sponsors, including Jacqueline B. Mars, daughter and granddaughter of the founders of Mars candy company, who secured the $25,000 title sponsorship.
The opera once again employed the cocktail-party format adopted for 2010’s Midwinter Fete at the cultural center at the Embassy of France, with six restaurants setting up tasting stations throughout five rooms, each lit in a different color, on the second floor of the venue. Occasions Caterers also provided passed hors d’oeuvres of beer-and-Brie quesadillas, spinach and mushroom empanadas, and grilled shrimp skewers with guacamole. Casa Dragones Tequila and the Mexican Embassy sponsored two specialty bars this year serving tequila and margaritas, respectively.
About two hours into the evening, Mexican tenor José Ortega, one of the opera’s Domingo-Cafritz Young Artists, performed a 30-minute show on the main stage. Mariachi Los Amigos also performed throughout the night, before turning the entertainment over to DJ Dino, who played salsa music for two hours before the party wrapped up at 12:30 a.m.
Though final numbers still being determined, event organizers estimate the night surpassed this year’s goal of $145,000.