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We rubbed elbows with an internationally acclaimed pianist, and we swooned when he played. The centerpieces of peonies intoxicated us with their beauty - and the borough president arrived just in time to make us laugh at ourselves.

We were at the Brooklyn Philharmonic’s Spring Gala at the Brooklyn Museum of Art at 200 Eastern Parkway. The audience, packed into the Cantor Auditorium, was regaled with an emotional recital (akin to Geoffrey Rush’s performance in "Shine") by 19-year-old wunderkind pianist Lang Lang. He was joined in a traditional Chinese folk song by his father, Guo-Ren Lang, on erhu, and then the audience rewarded Lang’s impassioned performance of Liszt with a standing ovation.

Noticeably absent at the black-tie soiree was the maestro - Philharmonic music director Robert Spano who also serves as music director for the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, although Artistic Advisor Evans Mirageas certainly had enough enthusiasm for two in his introduction of Lang.

The Philharmonic honored Kevin Burke, president and CEO of Consolidated Edison Company of New York, (who noted with a laugh that "New York’s utilities are well represented this evening"), Frederic Salerno, vice chairman and chief financial officer of Verizon Communications, (who said, "Music washes away the dust of everyday life," and so in the wake of Sept. 11, "We need [the Brooklyn Philharmonic] now more than ever"), and Craig Matthews, retired vice chairman and chief operating officer of Keyspan Energy, and president of the Philharmonic’s board of directors, who boldly predicted that the financially troubled orchestra "will achieve its 50th anniversary in just two years."

Philharmonic CEO Catherine Cahill, dressed in red silk blouse with mandarin collar, set the Asian theme for the evening, which was echoed by glinting gold cane chairs in the Beaux Arts Court and great heaps of peonies as centerpieces. (Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz was overheard saying Cahill had "a million-dollar smile." Perhaps she could smile easier because she was able to negotiate a new contract with the Philharmonic’s union in April.)

Markowitz, the gala’s honorary chairman, showed up just in time for dinner with a proclamation declaring May 13 annual Brooklyn Philharmonic fundraising gala day. (The beep, on a highly publicized diet, declined to eat, but then assured his tablemates that he was just saving his appetite for a newly opened Applebees, his next stop. I wonder how Abigail Kirsch Culinary Productions feels about that?) He did make a point of remembering his party favor, a Lang Lang CD, before dashing off to his next event.

Brooklyn Academy of Music executive producer Joe Melillo and executive director Karen Brooks Hopkins were both on hand at the fundraiser, perhaps to talk up the several co-productions they will share with the Philharmonic in its 2002-2003 season, including the 10th anniversary of choreographer Mark Morris’ "The Hard Nut," Mozart’s "Cosi fan tutte," and Osvaldo Golijov’s "La Pasion."

The Philharmonic’s Spring Gala raised $340,000 to benefit its concert season, music education and community outreach programs.

Medal of honor

The Philharmonic, as well as one of its boardmembers, Richard Hayden, will be presented with the 2002 Founders Medal by the Brooklyn Hospital Foundation on May 31 at 7 pm at its "Dreams of Summer" ball at Keyspan Park in Coney Island, home of the Brooklyn Cyclones.

According to event organizers, cocktails will be held in the stands and dinner will be served in a huge tent pitched over second base. Fireworks will follow dinner. Guests are urged to leave their black tie at home and don summer dresses
and linen instead. Tickets begin at $500. For more information, call (718) 250-7799.

In the Garden

The Mighty Sparrow himself landed in the Brooklyn Center for the Performing Arts gala at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden’s Palm House on May 8. The second annual Ovation Awards dinner honored Markowitz, Health Plus chief marketing officer Dominic Mascara and ABN AMRO executive vice-president Louis Rosenthal.

The evening was hosted by "Ain’t No Mountain High Enough" writers Ashford & Simpson. Brooklyn Center raised $100,000 to benefit the Center’s diverse music, dance and educational programs which they produce at Brooklyn College’s Walt Whitman Theater, according to producing director Julie Pareles. Highlights of their 2002-2003 season will include performances by Ben Vereen, Dan Zanes (a Cobble Hill resident and former front man of the Del Fuegos), singer Barbara Cook, the Moscow Ballet and comedian Richard Lewis.

Movie mogul

At the Brooklyn Academy of Music Film Festa honoring his achievements, legendary producer Dino De Laurentiis explained the source of his longevity and strength as "Three Cs": capoccia (head), cuore (heart) and coglioni (balls).

Honoring De Laurentiis was actress Julianne Moore (who played Clarice Starling in "Hannibal," produced by De Laurentiis) and producer Edward Pressman ("Badlands," "American Psycho"), who introduced the screening of "Nights of Cabiria," produced by De Laurentiis and directed by Federico Fellini. Larry Gleason, special consultant for MGM Studios, served as chairman of the event, which raised $250,000 for Audrey Cohen College and BAM.

During the De Laurentiis series at BAM, May 2-19, actors Isabella Rossellini and Bruce Campbell came to introduce screenings as well as former NYC police detective Frank Serpico who inspired Sidney Lumet’s "Serpico."

Updated 4:00 pm, November 10, 2010
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