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A Beautiful Evening with “The People’s Diva” at the Ford Honors Gala

For those who attended the stunning 4pm Hill Auditorium recital last Sunday, you already know that Renee Fleming received the 2011 UMS Distinguished Artist Award. What you might not know is what happened afterward…! People are still talking…

From left: Jim Vella, Ford Motor Company Fund & Community Services, Mary Sue Coleman, President, University of Michigan, Renée Fleming, Ken Fischer, President, UMS

As part of honoring Ms.Fleming, 325 guests fêted her with a champagne reception and dinner at the Biomedical Science Research Building. The BSRB atrium was transformed into the perfect space to celebrate the gifts and achievements of “The People’s Diva”.

The warm, inviting and DIY-chic atmosphere was decked out in plums and grays, highlighted by cozy colored lights. The guests of all ages, equally decked out in “Creative Black Tie”—the latest trend in formal dressing, were captured by local photographer Steve Kuzma.  Of course, Ms. Fleming had changed into yet another glorious ball gown, this time a strapless steel gray long dress, topped by a fur wrap of the same color. Gorgeous as always.  She was a gracious honoree, just as she had been on the stage at Hill. Funny, lively, captivating—she made certain to greet all the guests, new friends and old, who approached her at the dinner. She also  participated in the ceremony honoring the DTE Energy Foundation School of the Year – Ann Arbor’s Angell Elementary – and Educator of the Year – Roberto Clemente’s Joey Parins.

From left: Kenneth C. Fischer, UMS President; Joan Singer and Gary Court, accepting the DTE School of the Year award on behalf of Angell Elementary School; Renée Fleming; and Joey Parins, DTE Educator of the Year with Fred Shell, President of the DTE Energy Foundation

The shimmering lavender table linens, dressed with white rose topiaries by Ann Arbor florist Tom Thompson, provided the perfect backdrop to a gourmet dinner by Opus One Detroit. After sumptuous hors d’oeuvres, a dinner of braised short ribs, parmesan encrusted halibut and eggplant napoleon followed. A delicious lemon and blackberry tart finished off the meal.  Post-dinner dancing to the Rhythm Society Orchestra, a 15-piece swing band, closed out the evening…but not before guests had a chance to nibble on chocolate chip cookies and take home a Renee Fleming CD as another fond memory.

The Ford Honors Gala celebrates an artist honoree each UMS season and raises funds for UMS’s Education & Community Engagement Programs. The event gives guests the opportunity to experience artists up close, a chance to meet like-minded lovers of the performing arts and have a marvelous time doing both! Stay tuned for more information on next year’s event, or, if you’d like to get on the mailing list right now, please send an email to cstraub [at] umich [dot] edu.