- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 23, 2006

If you think it’s difficult raising money for performing arts institutions located outside the Beltway, just try doing it for one in another country. It’s much harder — even when the recipient is as worthy and well-known as London’s Covent Garden.

The task of the venerable Royal Opera House’s management eased considerably when local good-cause gal Willee Lewis signed on to help establish a local toehold for a future “Friends of” group. After she persuaded Democratic Party doyenne Esther Coopersmith

to host a gathering for the cause in her Embassy Row manse Wednesday night, it was full steam ahead.

Although Mrs. Coopersmith can easily accommodate a cast of hundreds, just 50 likely prospects were invited to hear Dame Judith Mayhew Jonas’ pitch to support Covent Garden and celebrate the 75th anniversary of the Royal Ballet (which is resident there) when the company comes to the Kennedy Center in June.

“London, New York and Washington are centers of finance, government and world-class media. They share world-class culture as well,” Covent Garden’s chairman and the first lady provost of King’s College, Cambridge, said to nodding heads in the vast French Empire-style living room. “We need to cooperate and work together.”

Later, over Mrs. Coopersmith’s “very American” dinner of chili, corn bread, salad and cake, there were hints of further …interest when Yank supporters’ “privileges” were spelled out: choice seats, “special treatment” and maybe even a chance to clink glasses with Covent Garden’s supreme patrons at a tony event.

Would any of you like to see the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall,” Dame Judith teased, “and a bit of ballet on the side ?”

Prospective members will be invited to watch the Royal Ballet in June and can decide then whether to participate further. Here’s who might be there: Jim Kimsey, Marie Ridder, Nini Ferguson, Carmen Petrowitz, Ina Ginsburg, Aniko Gaal Schott, Robert and Jamie Craft, Freddie and Diana Prince, Joan and Bernard Carl, Susan Eisenhower and Elizabeth Drew.

Kevin Chaffee

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