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Opera Ball: All Fun, No Pumpkins

Washington National Opera president Kenneth Feinberg praises D.C. public music teacher Priscilla Barrow at Friday's Opera Ball at the German Embassy. (Russell Hirshon)

A modern twist to an old fairy tale: Priscilla Barrow got the full Cinderella treatment Friday at the Washington National Opera annual black-tie ball.

Barrow was the surprise recipient of a Twitter contest prize in recognition for her work as a D.C. public schools music teacher. The reward? Box seats for Thursday's finale of "Turandot," a post-performance dinner with Plácido Domingo and Aretha Franklin, and a star turn at the company's glam annual benefit -- where she received a rousing ovation when unexpectedly called onstage. "This is for all of us," she said modestly. "It's about teaching music and sharing the arts with our students."

Jane and Calvin Cafritz with supernumeraries dressed in costumes from Mozart's "The Magic Flute." (Russell Hirshon)

But only one person could be Cinderella, so the opera staff made it a night to remember: The costume department fashioned Barrow's hot pink ball gown and found matching jewels, a limo and a two-night stay at the Four Seasons hotel.

After dinners at more than two dozen embassies, the 500 guests (Supreme Court justices John Roberts, Antonin Scalia and Ruth Bader Ginsburg; Sens. Pat Leahy and Tom Udall; Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano; and Capt. Richard Phillips -- of pirate fame) gathered for dessert and dancing at the German Embassy, which was transformed by surreal characters from Mozart and Wagner operas and a dramatic replica of the Berlin Wall, which fell 20 years ago. The opera also had Germany's modern version of Marlene Dietrich: cabaret singer Ute Lemper, who slinked through two sets in the embassy's basement Berlin Bar. "Welcome to the underworld," she said slyly.

Cabaret singer Ute Lemper performs "Mack the Knife" at the Opera Ball. (Russell Hirshon)

"Opera is a blend of staging, design, lighting, costume, drama, music," said Susan Lehrman, chairman of the party, which raised $850,000. "We wanted all those elements here."

It all worked: The swells stayed well past their bedtimes and, unlike the original fairy tale, this Cinderella didn't have to leave the ball by midnight. Barrow and her Prince Charming (husband Larry) were on the dance floor into the wee hours, and a limo -- not a pumpkin -- whisked them into the night. "The kids were just so excited," she told us. "I have to give them a play-by-play of everything."

By The Reliable Source  |  June 8, 2009; 1:03 AM ET
Categories:  Parties  
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