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Tremendous, Timeless, Tosca!

- San Diego Opera Gala 2009

"It was a magical, and beautiful evening.  The Opera, Tosca, was fabulous, and  the music and singing really took you to a different place and elevated your soul!  The dinner and gala party was so very beautiful and carried out the theme of Tosca!  It is always my favorite evening of the year!"

- Iris Strauss, Founder and President of the Dow Divas

That's Iris of the mighty Dow Divas, a group of beautifully smart women who are 13 years strong raising funds for the San Diego Opera. And for this year's 44th season gala, the Dow Divas, once again chaired the Gala.

The theme for San Diego's Opera Gala was Palazzo Promenade. The big night was January 24th, 2009. The setting was the posh U.S. Grant Hotel. The featured opera, Tosca, was at the Civic Theatre.

The evening started with Veuve Clicquot Champagne served in the foyer to the U.S. Grant's Grande Ballroom.

Grand too were the patrons. Among the many, many beautifully dressed were Sally B. Thornton in a black with gold accented Mary McFadden, Colette Carson Royston in a beautiful navy chiffon one shouldered J. Mendel, Lee Clark chose a Swarovski crystal enhanced gown by Randolph Duke. It was cut on the bias. Karen Cohn wore a rich purple Marc Bouwer. Valerie Cooper chose a striking Marc Bouwer too. Val's was in pretty green that matched her colorful necklace. Jeanne Jones chose a one of a kind Temperley by Alice Temperley that she found in London.

Audrey Geisel teasingly asked Jeanne if she had paid by the gold bar. Jeanne's gown was adorned with many gold bar tabs, arranged in an alluring pattern. They shimmered and shook when Jeanne moved.

Matthew and Iris Strauss, aka 'Tosca'

Jeanne Jones with Lynda Kerr and Valerie Cooper ** Sheryl White

Tosca Title Sponsors Karen and Donald Cohn


Sarah B. Rebelo-Marsh wore a pretty fluttering Carlos Miele in off-white. Jennifer Greenfield chose a Giambattista Valli, while Hanaa Hensersky chose a darling sculptured and strapless gown by Frank Usher in black and bright pink. Maree Mossmer wore a strapless maroon colored Carolina Herrera with train. Maree's girlfriend Lynda Kerr also had a strapless gown. Lynda's was designed by Oscar de la Renta. They both laughed as their trains were stepped on here and there. But no worries. It's part of the party!

County Supervisor Pam Slater-Price chose a ruffled high collared embellished gown by Tadashi. It was in black. Emma Zuckerman wore Carolina Herrera. Her fancy coiffure was by popular hair designer Eric.

Rusti Bartell chose an elegant jacket and long skirt by Escada Couture, Lael Kovtun chose an artfully beaded Badgley Mischka, and Tamara Alter wore a pretty Armani.

Tamara's mother Iris Strauss, wore a delightful gown by Naeem Khan. Sheryl White also chose an exquisite Naeem Khan gown. It was one shouldered and hand beaded.

Robin Nordhoff wore a Nina Austin in a cheery pattern reminiscent of Pucci, and Lee Goldberg in Clemo looked wonderful. Lee also had the best dressed broken toe at the party!

Joan Jacobs was dazzling despite having just come from a whirlwind trip to Obama's Inauguration, she said it was wonderful!!, and a quick trip to Las Vegas for the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego's Contemporary Collector's group. Joan styled together a melange of designers. And the final result was 'just right' elegant.

Elegant too was the dinner repast. The menu was as follows:


Grilled Vegetable Salad with Micro Greens, Boucheron Cheese
 Hazelnut Vinaigrette

{Choice of Dinner}
Braised Osso Buco, Fresh Tomato Pomodoro & Gremolata
Parmesan Risotto & Market Vegetables
Salmon with Braised Eggplant & Cipollini Onions
Red Wine & Thyme Reduction
Herb Risotto, Braised Market Vegetables

Anise Biscotti
La Colombe Blend Coffee, Decaffeinated Coffee and Mighty Leaf Tea Selection


The performance of Puccini's Tosca was adept, and artistically rendered amidst luxurious sets. Costuming was magnificent. Triumphantly tremendous too were the voices and stars of Tosca. Sylvie Valayre, Marcus Haddock and Greer Gimsley swept patrons into the timeless and magnificent story of Tosca. And they received a standing ovation for it!

Patron guests enjoyed chic intermezzos in a private tent just outside the Civic Theatre. After the performance, they returned to the U.S. Grant for dessert and dancing to NRG.

Among the patrons there were David C. Copley, Debbie Turner and Conrad Prebys, the same Conrad Prebys who just donated $10 million to the Burnham Institute, Alberta and Charles Feurzeig, Pauline Foster, Joan and Irwin Jacobs, Jeanne Jones and Don Breitenberg, Colette and Ivor Royston, Andrew Shelton, Sheryl and Harvey White, Sally and John Thornton, Lee and Frank Goldberg, Iris and Matthew Strauss, and Charles Brandes.

Charles explained he was solo that night but wife Tanya was there in spirit. Tanya was on the other side of the globe doing medical charity work. But she won't miss the rest of the season The Brandes's are the Title Co-Sponsors of this season's Madame Butterfly.

Also missing the other half was Salah Hassanein. Zandra Rhodes was in London, so Salah took his niece Hanaa Hensersky.

More there included Teresa and Harry Hixson, Valerie and Harry Cooper, Sheila and Jeffrey Lipinsky, Rana Sampson and Mayor Jerry Sanders, Tamara and Richard Alter, and Karen and Donald Cohn.

By the way, the Cohn's were the Title Co-Sponsors of Tosca, Sheila Potiker was the Prdoducers' Circle Sponsor, and Darlene and Donald Shiley were also Producers' Circle Sponsors.

Lynda and Richard Kerr generously underwrote the dinner décor which was skillfully done by Jim Lennox and his team at Pacific Event Productions, who in turn underwrote the décor, Neiman Marcus underwrote the patron gifts, Sheryl and Harvey White underwrote the photography by Melissa Jacobs, Don Patt, of Potts by Patt Florist underwrote the centerpieces and linens, Pam Wygod underwrote the dinner wines, and Stumps Village Market underwrote the Champagne.

The starring Dow Divas were the Gala Lead Sponsors. The terrific 23 ladies are: Rusti Bartell, Barbara Bloom, Tanya Brandes, Lee Clark, Karen Cohn, Valerie Cooper, Alberta Feurzeig, Jake Figi, Dawn Gilman, Lee Goldberg, Jennifer Greenfield, Joan Jacobs, Jeanne Jones, Wanda Levi, Linda Kerr, Sheila Lipinsky, Sheila Potiker, Brenda Marsh-Rebelo, Colette Carson Royston, Iris Strauss, Sheryl White, M. Faye Wilson, and Pamela Wygod.

Iris Strauss is President and Founder of the Divas. She is also San Diego Opera's unofficial Patron Queen and Saint. Iris makes good things happen for the arts. And San Diego Opera is one of her favorites.

A thought joined in by many.

Lee Goldberg remarked "I thought the evening  was one of the most beautiful Galas the S.D. Opera has ever put on. Tosca was wonderful, and everyone had a great time!"

"The Artists were the best I have ever heard. A great compliment to the performers is to observe during the Opera and see no one is falling asleep. Now to the party... most of us feel the decorations for the party were very romantic and beautiful. Some of the best we have seen. When the song LAST DANCE was played around 1 am, there 8-10 of us still on the dance floor. WE HAD A GREAT TIME! Didn't make sense to leave until the band quit playing," said Lee Clark.

Ian Campbell, the San Diego Opera's Artistic Director and General Director, was very excited about the Gala Opening. "We’re thrilled with the audience reaction to the opening season opera, TOSCA.  The standing ovation and cheers at the conclusion were gratefully received by the artists who look forward to the next four performances.  The entire evening was a great launch to what promises to be a spectacular season."

Colette Carson Royston added, "The opera was fabulous. And everyone looked beautiful." First Lady of San Diego Rana Sampson said, "Ian Campbell, with the support of Robert Horsman, the Dow Divas and so many others, runs a top notch opera company where beautiful voices mix with fantastic sets and an appreciative and elegantly clad audience. For opera lovers, opening night, satisfies all the senses."

Valerie Cooper concurred and added this. "San Diego Opera started the season with a sensational performance of Tosca, it was so well cast and the sets were over the top.  Every year the SD Opera seems to outdo themselves and this presentation of Puccini was no exception. The evening started with a lovely dinner at The Grant Hotel. The ballroom had been transformed into an incredible and intimate setting in keeping with the Palazzo Promenade theme. Jim Lennox of Pacific Events, Don Patt of Potts by Patt and Dow Diva Lynda Kerr are to be commended on creating the beautiful décor. Then it was off to the Opera for Tosca and then the after party back at the Grant which consisted of Champagne and a lovely desert buffet with a little dancing to the tune of NRG to work the calories off.  It was wonderful to see so many ladies in such exquisite gowns and of course the men looking dapper in their black ties. The Dow Divas and the wonderful staff of the Opera made this a beautiful evening to start the 2009 season."

Sheryl White had these thoughts. "The night was a lot of fun and the Opera was fabulous! This Tosca would turn anyone that's on the fence about whether they like Opera or not in to a true believer! The real test was that Harvey didn't nod off once! It was also a great night to check out everyone's beautiful dresses..Wow!"

Before the gala evening Iris Strauss was very excited about the start to the season. “I am very, very excited about the opening of our opera season, and the much anticipated performance of Tosca.  We have a brilliant soprano,  a world class cast,  the San Diego Symphony playing,  gorgeous sets, and all that goes into a grand opera!

This spectacular opening night gala is called "Palazzo Promenade" and it is sponsored by the Dow Divas.  The evening will start with a glorious, gourmet dinner in the ballroom of the US Grant Hotel, followed by a stunning  performance of Tosca, and then back to the Grant Ballroom  where the excitement will continue into the late hours of the evening with food, dining, and dancing.  The cast of the opera always joins us too, it is so special to meet and talk with them.”

Iris's anticipation happily played out and exceeded her expectations.

Karen Cohn added this. "The San Diego Opera is a 44 year old institution in our beautiful city that has brought music and joy to tens of thousands of listeners. These are rough times for the Arts and the Opera needs, and appreciates, support from every patron to keep the company alive and producing soaring arias in the years to come. We need to thank everyone who attends and urge them to keep doing so in these perilous times."

Ann Campbell, the San Diego Opera's Director of Development, made this comment. "The Dow Divas produced the most spectacular Gala in the Opera’s history. We are indebted to this exceptional group of the most talented, creative and energetic leaders in San Diego."

Energetic aptly describes longtime San Diego Opera supporter Helen Davis. Helen, at a genteel age of 90 plus was on the move all night, walker and all. Word is Helen's fountain of youth is her insatiable love of opera! And that love is carried onto the next generation with daughter and Dow Diva, Lee Clark.


Bravo to the Dow Divas, the Patrons, and Ann and Ian Campbell for making the San Diego Opera flourish and be highly recognized by the international world of opera!

To learn more about the San Diego Opera season and its special events,

Please visit


Please enjoy the photos!

The Dow Divas

(Seated from left to right): Lee Goldberg, Joan Jacobs, Sheryl White, Dow Diva President Iris Lynn Strauss, Karen Cohn, Valerie Cooper, Alberta Feurzeig

(Middle row left to right):  Rusti Bartell, Sarah Brenda Marsh-Rebelo, Colette Royston, Pam Wygod, Lee Clark, Jeanne Jones, Wanda Levi, Barbara Bloom

(Back row left to right):  Lynda Kerr, Sheila Potiker, Dawn Gilman, Sheila Lipinsky. Jennifer Greenfield

(Not pictured):  Tanya Brandes, Jake Figi, M. Faye Wilson

photo courtesy of the San Diego Opera

"We are so proud of SAN DIEGO OPERA, and happily support this great organization!"
- Dow Diva member, Lee Goldberg

Rusti Bartell ** Lynda Kerr and Michael Mossmer ** Valerie Cooper and Ruth Leonardi

Harry Cooper with Lynda Kerr ** Iris and Matthew Strauss ** Sarah B. Marsh Rebel lo

Lee Goldberg ** John Rebel lo with Joye Blount ** Anita Bye ** Valerie Cooper

Hank and Robin Nordoff ** Sarah B. Marsh-Rebelo with Lee Goldberg ** Karen Cohn and Sheryl White

Erika and Fred Torri

Lynda Kerr ** Lee Clark with her husband Dr. Jerry Pikolysky

Lael and Jay Kovtun ** Emma Zuckerman

Jeanne Jones ** Frank Stern and Rusti Bartell

Bea and Bob Epsten

Marvin and Judi Wolf

Lydia McNeil with Teresa Hixson and Maree Mossmer

Valerie and Harry Cooper ** Sarah B. Marsh-Rebelo

Jennifer Greenfield ** Maree Mossmer ** Hanaa Hensersky

Barbara Bloom and Lee Goldberg

Jesse Knight Jr. and Joye Blount ** Karen Cohn and Sheryl White

Richard and Lynda Kerr

Joan Jacobs and Barbara Bloom

Maree Mossmer and Tamara Alter

Rana Sampson and Ann Campbell ** Charles Brandes

The Dinner Table Setting

Pam Slater-Price with Ian Campbell

Sarah B. Marsh-Rebelo with Ian Campbell

Salah Hassanein with his niece, Hanaa Hensersky

Robert Horsman ** Katherine Kennedy

John Rebel lo with Pam Slater-Price and Ann Campbell

Claire Reiss and Natasha Reiss

The San Diego Opera Team - Bravo! - Rebecca Rader, Edward Wilensky, Justine Mittleman, Jan Kaplan, Heide Olberg and Katrina Carrol



The Buzz


Could this be a clue about the Charger's commitment to San Diego. Charger attorney Mark Fabiani and family have just been admitted as members to the La Jolla Beach & Tennis Club.


Have you seen the silly spoof Tropical Thunder, written, produced and starring Ben Stiller. The movie is indeed clever and silly. But the ending dance scene with Tom Cruise is priceless!


Fred Applegate and his fiance Laura Bradley let friends and Epilepsy Foundation of San Diego County supporters enjoy one last sweet look at their eight gingerbread home concoctions they purchased from the 2008 Gingerbread City event held last December.


Georgia and Blair Sadler had a great trip over the holidays to Paris. It wasn't all just sight seeing. Their daughter Noelle's engagement was celebrated too!

...... economy in the justice system!?

Appellate Judge Judy Haller and her husband, attorney John Haller are the proud new owners of a Smart Car.



Upcoming Events


February 7th - Mainly Mozart Gala. To learn more the gala and about Mainly Mozart's other events, please visit

February 12th - MCASD is hosting a Nordstrom fashion show at MCASD's downtown location. Tickets will go fast!


...more next time!


Reported by Margo Schwab


Photoshopping and Photography Services

Photos on this website available if it is of you

available by The Social Diary

~ 619-384-7333




Email Commentary to be added


Thanks for being there Margo, you're the best! Sheryl

Nice pics of the opening! Thank God you did not publish any of me. You are an excellent photographer!

yes, we had fun, the opera was great and it was nice chatting with everyone during the two intermissions.


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* Margo Schwab, more formally known as Margaret E. Schwab, has produced, written, interviewed and photographed for various media organizations since 1989. Schwab attended Holton Arms School, La Jolla Country Day School and La Jolla High School. Schwab has a B.A. from Scripps College, spent a business internship with S.A.I.C., Science Applications International Corporation, and earned a Masters of Business degree, M.B.A., from the University of San Diego. Schwab additionally took college courses from Harvard University, and Syracuse University. Schwab volunteers for numerous charity organizations. She also continues to support animal organizations and the prevention of people and animal abuse. Schwab is the editor of The Social Diary.



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