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Collaborative Efforts 

In what was warmly welcomed as an occasion to finally gather and celebrate, many performers, patrons and arts organizers honored achievements in opera, dance and symphony music at the 13th annual Tribute to the Classical Arts awards gala held Tue., Feb. 27 at the Monteleone Hotel.

"Over the last 18 months, we've pretty much had to report on sadness, which makes this very special," said host Angela Hill of WWL-TV News. "The classical arts make us who we are as New Orleanians as much as Mardi Gras, Jazz Fest and now our football team."

While many arts organizations like the Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra (LPO), New Orleans Opera Association and New Orleans Ballet Association lost their performance homes in theaters like the Mahalia Jackson Theater for the Performing Arts and Orpheum Theater due to Katrina flooding, they were able to adapt, stage performances and in many cases create new partnerships and events that surpassed pre-storm high points. Creative director Robert Lyall turned the Opera Association's annual fundraiser, originally scheduled for the Mahalia, into the largest opera event ever staged in Louisiana. Rather than pare down the original February 2006 event, he deferred the date to March and built up to A Night for New Orleans featuring legendary opera singer Placido Domingo. Held in the New Orleans Arena, it drew more than 7,400 spectators and showed the way in which many local arts organizations were boldly planning the rebuilding of the classical arts scene in New Orleans.

"It was one of those events that just grew exponentially. It became star-crossed when it started building. We didn't realize how big it had become until it was finally happening," he said after receiving an award for Creative Achievement in Opera. Lyall also won the award for opera conducting for the opera Siegfried.

A Night for New Orleans would also not have happened had it not been for the collaboration of other arts groups and patrons. Betty Brooks Doss was recognized with the Classical Arts Patron Award for 2007 for her support and leadership in making the event possible. Lyall also thanked groups that have regularly collaborated with the Opera Association, particularly the Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra and New Orleans Symphony Chorus.

Under the leadership of Managing Director Babs Mollere, the LPO recovered from Katrina by taking a flexible approach to finding venues in which to perform and traveling and forging partnerships with other orchestras. For her efforts, she received the 2007 Special Recognition Award

"It's humbling for me to look out at you. I see a room full of people who just refused to quit. It's nice to hear it called 'determiniation' instead of 'being stubborn,'" she told the crowd. "We're not going to just survive, we're going to thrive,"

After the event, Mollere added, "We're a fairly constant community. [The arts organizations] are dependent on one another. We're always working out schedules, helping each other. So we've been busy, but it's nice to have an opportunity to celebrate. There's an incredible spirit among the people who know what it's been like to bring this all back. You can feel it in the room."

New opportunities have arrived for arts training as well. Faina Lushtak, professor of music at Tulane University, received a lifetime achievement award for her career composing, performing and teaching. She was named a Steinway Artist this year, a prestigious international recognition from the renowned piano maker. Steve Kinchen of Hall Piano, which handles Steinway locally, presented Lushtak with the 2007 Lifetime Achievement Award. Hall Piano is also a new sponsor of the Tribute to the Classical Arts event. In addition to Lushtak's honor from Steinway, which places two of the pianos in her rehearsal space, Tulane is now a Steinway school, equipped with the top-quality pianos in practice and performance facilities.

One former student of Lushtak's who did not go to Tulane was on hand. Councilperson Shelley Midura took piano lessons from Lushtak while in high school.

"She was strict, she had me doing exercises I had never done before," Midura says. "When she plays, her fingers -- her notes -- are like waterfalls. But she's also ferocious when she plays."

Also receiving recognition for work with students was the New Orleans Ballet Association (NOBA). Before the storm, NOBA had worked with the New Orleans Recreation Department to provide dance instruction to 800 children. Since the storm, NOBA has continued its commitment to area children and now provides free dance instruction to 600 students in three parishes. NOBA Executive Director Jenny Hamilton accepted the 2007 award for Arts Education.

Founded by Gambit Weekly, The Tribute to the Classical Arts has celebrated annual achievement in the classical arts since 1993. Since there were no awards given in 2006 due to Hurricane Katrina, the 2007 awards were for performances in 2006, qualifying performances from 2005 and recognizing lifetime achievement and special efforts to revitalize the arts following the storm. Several local arts groups performed short pieces during the luncheon. The event was sponsored by Gambit Weekly, WWNO Radio 89.9 FM, Uptown Costume & Dancewear, the Monteleone Hotel, Hall Piano and Coleman E. Adler & Sons, which provided the award trophies.

2007 Classical Arts Winners

The Lifetime Achievement Award

Faina Lushtak

Tulane's Newcomb College of Music

Classical Arts Patron Award

Betty Brooks Doss

Board Member of the New Orleans Opera Association

Arts Education Award

New Orleans Ballet Association

Jenny Hamilton, Executive Director

Special Recognition Award

Babs Mollere

Managing Director, Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra

Best Classical Music Performance

Mahler's Symphony No.5

Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra with the Baton Rouge Symphony

Timothy Muffitt, Conductor, First Baptist Church

Best Chamber Music Performance

String Quartet Concert for Habitat for Humanity Musicians Village

Valerie Poullette, Amy Thiaville, Allen Nisbet, Daniel Avshalomov

Temple Sinai Sanctuary

Best Performance of New Classical Music

Festival of Living Composers

Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra

Convention Center Theater

Best Opera Production

Siegfried

New Orleans Opera Association

Conductor Robert Lyall

Stage Director Dean Miladinovic

Creative Achievement In Opera

Robert Lyall

A Night for New Orleans with Placido Domingo

New Orleans Arena

Best Choral Arts Presentation

Beethoven's Ninth

Symphony Chorus of New Orleans

Klauspeter Seibel, Conductor, First Baptist Church

Best Classical Ballet Production

Time to Dance

Delta Festival Ballet

Roussel Hall, Loyola University

Best Modern Dance Production

Orpheus

Tsunami Dance Company

Contemporary Arts Center

Best Ethnic Dance Presentation

Ocean of Light

Happensdance

Best Choreography (new work)

John Rodi & Daniel Gianfala

Bolero

Loyola Ballet Fall Concert

Special Achievement in Dance

One River Mississippi ­ New Orleans

Barbara Hayley & Monique Moss, Choreographers

Marylee Hardenbergh, National Artistic Director

click to enlarge The Delta Festival Ballet performs at Tribute to the Classical - Arts. - CHERYL GERBER
  • Cheryl Gerber
  • The Delta Festival Ballet performs at Tribute to the Classical Arts.
click to enlarge Arts Patron award recipient Betty Brooks Doss, two-time - opera award winner Robert Lyall and Gambit Weekly - Publisher Margo Dubos - CHERYL GERBER
  • Cheryl Gerber
  • Arts Patron award recipient Betty Brooks Doss, two-time opera award winner Robert Lyall and Gambit Weekly Publisher Margo Dubos
click to enlarge Hall Piano representative Steve Kinchen and Tulane music - professor Faina Lushtak - CHERYL GERBER
  • Cheryl Gerber
  • Hall Piano representative Steve Kinchen and Tulane music professor Faina Lushtak
click to enlarge NOBA Executive Director Jenny Hamilton, WWL News Anchor - Angela Hill, Phyllis Taylor and Cynthia LeBreton of NOBA - CHERYL GERBER
  • Cheryl Gerber
  • NOBA Executive Director Jenny Hamilton, WWL News Anchor Angela Hill, Phyllis Taylor and Cynthia LeBreton of NOBA
click to enlarge Komenka Ethnic Dance performs at the Classical Arts - luncheon. - CHERYL GERBER
  • Cheryl Gerber
  • Komenka Ethnic Dance performs at the Classical Arts luncheon.
click to enlarge LPO Managing Director Babs Mollere, Dr. Hugh Long and - Patti Adams - CHERYL GERBER
  • Cheryl Gerber
  • LPO Managing Director Babs Mollere, Dr. Hugh Long and Patti Adams
click to enlarge Barbara Haley, John Burr, Monique Moss and Anne Burr. - CHERYL GERBER
  • Cheryl Gerber
  • Barbara Haley, John Burr, Monique Moss and Anne Burr.
click to enlarge Erin Healan, Kettye Voltz and John Allen of Tsunami Dance
  • Erin Healan, Kettye Voltz and John Allen of Tsunami Dance
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