We are gearing up for the annual Calgary Opera Gala which takes place on April 27th this year at the Jubilee Auditorium in Calgary. We feel so privileged to be the caterer for this spectacular evening. It is quite a splashy event and one that we look forward to. The sublime singing, the magical set, the glamorous gowns, and, of course, the fantastic food!
The elements of the Opera gala evening are ones that we absolutely love to work with; a beautiful and dramatic setting (you can not get better than being on an actual stage!), a completely themed menu that evokes the time and place of each Opera, wines paired to each course, and the challenge of producing and serving this sumptuous meal for 320 guests with no onsite kitchen.
The challenges are many - but the Devour Catering team lives for events like this! It is Calgary Opera's signature fundraising event and in 2012 raised a very impressive $330,000 dollars. The first year Devour participated was in 2009 and the Opera was 'Ariadne auf Naxos'. The dining room was placed on the stunning set of a Viennese ballroom and a beautiful Austrian six-course dinner with wine pairings was enjoyed by almost 200 guests who were dressed to the nines.
The 2010 'Dinner on the Set' took place on the set of a modern 'Don Giovanni' skyscraper with a 1960's themed menu with a slight Italian twist. Memorable menu items were the amuse bouche of grilled prawn Bloody Mary and the duck consomme with wild mushroom and black truffle followed by a gin and cucumber aspic as the palate cleanser (see....you have to fit the jelly salad in there somewhere!).
The 2011 evening was on the set of 'Aida' with a breathtaking Pharoah sculpture taking centre-stage while guests devoured an Egyptian themed dinner. The main course was Egyptian braised lamb shank with Shiraz jus, saffron couscous and grilled vegetables. Delicious and beautiful. But the showstopper had to be the dessert which was an orange blossom milk pudding with pistachio brittle served with rosewater and honey doughnut (photo is in the bottom collage in the top right corner).
In 2012, the event expanded to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Calgary Opera and 320 guests enjoyed a fabulous evening of French-themed hors d'oeuvres and champagne served on the stage surrounded by the set for Act 1 of 'La Boheme'. Dinner featuring Beef Bourgignon was served in the lobby, which had been magically transformed into a chic dining room 'chez Paris'. Dessert with Gran Marnier was served again on the stage but the set had magically changed to Act 3.
We always host a tasting in advance of the event with the organizing committee so we can discuss flavours, presentation, and portion size. We also taste a selection of wines with each course and decide as a group which ones we think pair best with the menu.
Here is the menu for 'La Traviata' that we presented at the tasting:
Aperitivo - on the set of La Traviata
Saffron and Caciocavallo arancini
Slow cooked lamb over black olive polenta cake
Pancetta-wrapped sweet breads
Pear and gorgonzola flatbreads with basil pesto
Tuna conserva on herb potato cake
Bison carpaccio with arugula
Spring vegetable frittata
A plated assortment of Italian cured meats, olives, and roasted vegetables on a bed of greens served with fresh grissini and foccacia
Oxtail cappelletti with white truffle cream sauce and shaved Grana Padano
Veal involtini over herb gnocchi with oven-roasted tomato caper sauce
Dolce - on the set of La Traviata
Assorted desserts to include:
Tiramisu, Panna Cotta, Torta de ricotta, Pear and fig tart, Biscotti and Pizzelles
Formaggi e Frutta (Italian cheese and fruit platters)
Served with Grappa and Limoncello
This is a corporate fundraising gala like no other in Calgary. And I mean this literally and figuratively. The opera is different every year, the set is different, the menu is different. And this all takes place for one night only. And, when its over, its over!
The evening captivates every guest who attends. It is a full sensory experience and, there is of course beautiful singing by the Calgary Opera Emerging Artists throughout the night. The opportunity to be part of a team of such talented artists is one we enjoy and it puts our skills to the test. But the unforgettable experience we are a part of makes it all worthwhile.
We will be posting photos and hopefully some video from the evening....so stay tuned for an update on how everything goes sometime after April 27th.