Chat with the Carnevale Chair

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Carnevale 2014 Chairperson Duane Schrader (left) with 2013 Chair Christy Kramer and 2014 Co-Chair Rich Whipple.

Carnevale 2014 Chairperson Duane Schrader (left) with 2013 Chair Christy Kramer and 2014 Co-Chair Rich Whipple.

Kentucky Opera: Carnevale is arguably Louisville’s premier black tie gala. Tell us a little about the planning process for an event of this scale. How long have you been involved?

Duane Schrader: This is my second year as a chair — I was co-chair last year with Christy [Kramer] — and Rich [Whipple] is my co-chair this year. This is my third year on the Carnevale committee, and I’ve been on the Opera board for I think six years now.

KO: And can you speak a bit as to the planning process?

DS: Yeah. Well, you know, we have something like 380 people who come, and we do think it’s hands-down the best event in Louisville — the greatest amount of gala and glitz for your money. It involves a number of elements: artists singing throughout the evening, open bar, as well as the silent and live auctions. I’ll say that we are very lucky to have Michael Miller, who has a lot of experience with this type of event. He’s been on point with Carnevale for several years now.

We have certain things that we, as a committee, need to accomplish. We begin in the early summer, to try and ascertain those people interested in being on the committee. And then, of course, we build from that point on. This year we’ve been very focused on sub-committees. Rich, for example, works the auction angle, and I’m in charge of table sales.

KO: And you’re always trying to branch out, reach more people to become involved?

DS: Absolutely, absolutely. There was a time, as I understand maybe four or five years ago, that people outside the board weren’t really involved, but we’ve taken great pains to include others as widely as possible.

KO: Why do you feel this inclusiveness is so important?

DS: Well, you know, the board can only be so big and only do so much. Obviously, people who are involved in the opera are passionate about it. When people go to the opera they tend to like it, and they want to go as often as possible; or they’ve seen one, and they never care to go to another. We’ve recognized that the people who are in love with the opera are pretty keen on keeping it.

We think it’s important to reach out and give them the opportunity to participate in this fundraiser — especially here in Louisville, where the arts generally are so accessible. You know, when I first joined the board I was a little worried that this would be a really stuffy, buttoned down thing, but I’ve been overwhelmed by how fun everybody is, and how interested they are in this great social event.

KO: You decided this year’s theme would be based on Romeo and Juliet. Was that just a given, or how did you arrive at that?

DS: Carnevale tends to take its theme from the subsequent Opera production. I don’t know if David Roth actually picks a third opera with Carnevale in mind, but of course, the theme fits perfectly.

KO: We don’t want to reveal too much, but are there any surprises we can share with our readers?

DS: Well, again, we think this is the best gala in town — the most glamorous and perhaps the best value, especially in terms of the food! The dinner is going to be amazing and always surprises. The Marriott does an insanely wonderful job — no “banquet food” if you know what I mean. And this year, they’ve tailored the menu to Romeo and Juliet with five courses, each course corresponding to an act in the production. Lots of fun. The presentations will be dramatic and somewhat surprising I think.

The biggest surprise for me will be trying to find a tie and cumberbund that matches the color scheme!

KO: Are there any color scheme hints that you can reveal for those who might be looking for an outfit over the holidays?

DS: Well, there’s a little bit of dying and death in Romeo and Juliet like in most operas, so a little red is never a bad idea.

KO: Red’s a safe bet this year, then?

DS: It’ll play.

KO: One of the other amazing things about Carnevale is the live entertainment — professional opera singers, including our Studio Artists who perform throughout the entire evening. How are the song selections made? Are you involved in that process?

DS: Unfortunately, I’m not. That’s all done through the Studio Artist Program with the help of the wonderful Deanna Hoying, our education director. But I think we can safely say there will be something for everyone — Broadway songs, famous arias from a large selection of operas — we want to do things that aren’t too stuffy, that are fun and showcase Romeo and Juliet, which is just around the corner from Carnevale. You’ll be sure to recognize something from the repertory.

KO: Very nice. Anything else you want to mention?

DS: I’m really looking forward to the food. The food is very exciting. We did the tasting with Marriott and they offered us a number of options, and it’s a very dramatic presentation. This is the kind of food for theatre.

KO: And then, we always have our fantastic lounge.

DS: Yes! The Lover’s Grotto. This element has sort of grown organically. Some years ago when my wife and I went to the first Carnevale, it was a wonderful gala event that just sort of stopped. So we said, listen, everybody’s done up for the evening, so let’s make a night out of it.

And so then I think a little jazz combo was added the next year, and then we moved into the Marriott. With all the extra space, we added some canned music, some more refreshments, and people stayed. Now it’s growing each year. Last year we set aside and decorated a special place for the lounge. We had a special playlist, and everybody, even our grande dames, stayed, danced and really enjoyed themselves. It was a wonderful tribute to the cross-generational enthusiasm for opera in Louisville. This year The Lover’s Grotto is expanding even more with a DJ. It should be a really great time.