- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 12, 2006

The Washington Performing Arts Society knows how to put together a network every bit as impressive as a roster of performing-arts programs, to judge by Tuesday’s benefit dinner and reception at the Kennedy Center, which included a concert by Washington’s own diva deluxe, Denyce Graves.

No fewer than four women chaired the official 2006-07 Season Opening Celebration, attended by royalty (Farah Pahlavi, widow of Iran’s late shah); diplomats, including Chile’s new Ambassador Mariano Fernandez Amunategui (“I’ve been very well received here”); and politicians, including District Mayor-apparent Adrian Fenty, invited by co-chairwoman Susan Porter. Her husband’s law firm, Arnold & Porter, once held a fundraiser him, she said.

“He said he could only come to dinner,” Mrs. Porter reported of Mr. Fenty, who is known more as an athlete than an artist. “I said, ‘You’re making a big mistake, because the “Today” show is coming to the reception afterwards to film Denyce Graves.’”

In contrast to the spring gala, WPAS’ fall gathering is almost a low-key family affair, with some 250 faithful supporters this year heralding the organization’s 41st year. A harp-and-flute duo greeted such guests as Strathmore Center head Eliot Pfanstiehl, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, WUSA-9 anchor J.C. Hayward, former FBI and CIA chief William Webster; and arts philanthropists Alexine and Aaron Jackson, Jacqueline Badger Mars, and Jane and Calvin Cafritz.

“When people come together like this, it leads to a better world,” co-chairwoman Jacqueline Cooper told diners. WPAS President Neale Perl couldn’t help reminding the concert audience of how the organization had introduced Miss Graves in a Terrace Theater recital in 1994 before her Carnegie Hall debut and presented her locally seven times since then. “A demonstration,” he boasted, “of our mission to develop the career of great artists.”

Ann Geracimos

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