The Pittsburgh Opera’s Maecenas Gala

Post by: Tags: , , , , , — Jody on May 9, 2014

Create Studios has been honored to design the opulent Maecenas Gala invitations. My challenge? When a guest receives these invitations, they must instantly know they are valued and cherished as patrons and supporters of the Pittsburgh Opera, while capturing the vision and spirit of the event as set for the the staff at the Opera and the selected event chairs. The invitations must also always speak to the theme and decor of the event to evoke the mood for the evening. This year, the Pittsburgh Opera‘s new Manager of Special Events, Katie Gaines, and I sat down to discuss the concept- and we arrived at an urban contemporary style, with contrast as a central theme- a mix of art deco and film noir, black & white.

Event Highlights:

• The Pittsburgh Opera is celebrating the 30th Anniversary of the MAECENAS Gala as well as the close to 75th Pittsburgh Opera Season

• A nod to the closing opera, “Orphee” by Philip Glass, based on the film by Jean Cocteau.

Based on Cocteau’s fascinating retelling of the Orpheus myth, Orphée, the first opera of Philip Glass’ Cocteau Trilogy, is an extended parable on the life of an artist, a poet harassed and misunderstood by peers. His success leads to the ridicule by fellow poets, ending in a creatively crippling isolation. With a renewed apprehension of his own mortality, Orphee regains his emotional strength, enabling him to ignore the trials of ordinary life, freeing him to be a poet. The poets Orphee and Cegeste, Euridice, and a mysterious Princess interact within the worlds of the living and the dead, existing in that mysterious realm that separates the two worlds. Love triumphs and thus returns Orphee and Euridice to mortal life, with no remaining consciousness of their unusual time spent between “the worlds”. The Princess has violated the laws of life and death one time too many and is banished into oblivion.

Get to know Katie Gaines, Manager of Special Events, Pittsburgh Opera!

1- How long have you been with the Pittsburgh Opera?

This is my first season with Pittsburgh Opera. It has been an incredible experience to work with such a dedicated and hard working organization.

2- Please describe your position there.

I manage all special events related to fundraising for Pittsburgh Opera. I think opera gets a bad rap for being stuffy, but it’s not the case. We love a good time and we throw some of the best parties in the city!

3- Tell us about Maecenas! (what it is? how many years? the style? the guests? the performances?the location?)

Maecenas is the gala event that ends the Pittsburgh Opera season each year. This year we celebrate two big anniversaries – Pittsburgh Opera’s 75th season and the 30th Maecenas! The event is named after Gaius Maecenas who was friend to Augustus Ceasar and was patron to artists such as Homer and Virgil. This event celebrates the people who support Pittsburgh Opera and make it all possible. It is black tie and includes cocktails, dinner, dancing and several performances by our talented Resident Artists. This year the event is held in our space in the strip district and there will be more than 300 people in attendance. We completely transform the interior of our building. In fact, the process of “building” the event will take a full week and require the work of several dozen people.

4- What was your inspiration when planning this year’s Maecenas?

David and Gabriela Porges are chairing the event this year and Gabriela has been the brilliant visionary in conceptualizing the style of the event. She wants to celebrate that Pittsburgh Opera has closed this important anniversary season with Orphee, a contemporary opera by Philip Glass, so this year the event will take on a contemporary chic like never before. Orphee explores themes of transition, reflection and contrast. Allison McGeary of Allison McGeary Florist, Inc. took our concepts and have made them even more beautiful than we could have ever imagined and the talented production and artistic staff at the opera have several surprises up their sleeves! My job is to connect the vision with the execution and I think people will love what they see. I don’t want to give too much away because here at Pittsburgh Opera we love the theatrics of a big reveal – you have to be there to see it! It will take your breath away!

5- Tell us about your collaboration with Create Studios (Jody) and how you arrived at this year’s design?

We met with Jody and told her about our vision, specifically that contrast is important to the theme of the event. Jody mocked up several designs for the invitation and we worked together to edit until we reached the final design.

6- What do you hope your guests feel when they see the invitation to Maecenas arrive in the mail?

We wanted the invitation to stand out in the mail pile when our guests empty their mailbox which Jody accomplished with the weight and size of the package. The invitation had to communicate that this will be a luxe event, but also make the guest immediately aware of the contemporary feel we’re going for. It had to be effortless and chic. People need to open it and feel like they can’t miss it!

7- What is your favorite part of the event?

There are going to be so many moments to love about this event. There will be theatrics and singing. There will be drinks and music and incredible food by the Duquesne Club. I will love every minute of it, but my favorite part will undoubtedly be the crucial funds Maecenas XXX will raise for Pittsburgh Opera. I love a fantastic party, but there’s no better feeling than raising money for an organization that gives so much to Pittsburgh’s cultural scene.

8- What will you wear to Maecenas?

A girl has to have some secrets! I will be in a fabulous floor length gown that reflects the contemporary feel we’re going for. In fact, I think for this one the gown will be understated and it’ll be all about the hair and accessories!

9- What are three words you would use to describe the Opera for newcomers/ those not familiar with the Pittsburgh Opera?


10- Top 3 pieces of advice for event planners in Pittsburgh?

1. The devil is in the details and so are the things that make a great event.
2. For me, the events I run are about fundraising. Never forget why you’re doing it, especially on the bad days.
3. Be open to the ideas that are around you. The best ideas can come from surprising places.

11- What is your favorite neighborhood in Pittsburgh? why?

I have to go with Swisshelm Park. My husband and I bought a house here last year and it’s a neighborhood I didn’t even know existed until our realtor showed it to us. It’s the kind of community where the loudest thing going on outside on a sunny Saturday is the sound of neighborhood kids playing in the streets. We have space and a big yard and yet I can be in Squirrel Hill, Regent Square, or Oakland in 5 minutes or less.

12- Favorite place to vacation/ travel?

What’s a vacation?! But seriously, I love taking quick trips to New York City whenever I can. My husband and I honeymooned in Cabo a few years ago and had the time of our lives.

13- If you had to pick a theme song, what would it be? (any song!)

This is a tough one for a music fanatic like myself. I’m going to go with “Ring of Fire” by Johnny Cash (and written by June Carter). It celebrates the love is painful. Nothing worth having in life comes easy.

14- Favorite genre of music?

Deep down I’m a rock and roll girl. I just need an electric guitar in my life (might be why I married a guitarist). I’m particularly in love when rock starts to blend into other genera of music – particularly blues, folk and funk – which it does so well.

La bohème or Madama Butterfly?

Gotta go with La bohème! Especially after getting such an up close look at it working with the opera when they did it this year!