The Opera Singers Initiative Celebrates Fall, and Tells Us How To Rid Ourselves of a Cold

It was the night of the Opera Singers Initiative Fall Fête Gala, and we—standing before the Kosciuszko Foundation’s marble staircase—had lost our voice. 

The Opera Singers Initiative was founded in 2007 as a way to help emerging professional classical performers, 10 are chosen each year to participate in a 12-month training program, which touches on all facets of being a divo, from performing opportunities to business sessions. The Fall Fête Gala, their “event of the season,” and held last Thursday, presents the “full opera form,” everything from singing to fashion and art.

Opera enthusiasts in black suits and simple sheaths hovered about the performers in their  shimmering floor-length gowns, clinging to white plates piled high with cheese cubes and hummus spread, leaning costerless wineglasses upon thick and historic wood trellises—the patrons seemingly uninspired. On our second trip round the h’orderve table The Observer bumped into the petite and bejeweled soprano, Narine Ojakhyan, who, after briefly recoiling from our sniffling frame, just getting over a cold herself, told us that what we needed was a teaspoon of manuka honey. “Swallow it slowly; the manuka honey is the best—it kills all the bacteria in your throat,” she said, acting out the instruction with an exaggerated gulp.

Founder of the Opera Singer’s Initiative, Anna R. Lee, showing off her ample new-mommy décolletage—her husband and unofficial cofounder flashing iPhone photos of their son all the while—suggested throat-coat, and a banana for nerves. Is that like imagining the audience in their underwear, we asked? “I’ve never done that,” she laughed, “but a banana and throat coat, that works.”

Dana-Maxx Pomerantz, a rather adorable woman with red hair and redder lipstick, had gathered around to weigh in on whether the baby looked more like mom or dad—dad, it seems—though less helpful on this count. We did, however, swap stories of our mothers’ eBay bamboozlings: two cases of faux Chanel. Ms. Pomerantz has been involved with OSI, featured as their “emerging” designer for several seasons and dressing one of performers at the event. The lucky mannequin flit around in the periphery, a flash of hot pink, hand on hip, perfecting her “model pose.” So, does the designer listen to opera? No.

“I don’t know about you,” she said, turning to her intern, a thin blond holding what might have been a clipboard, “but I thought opera singers would be fat and old. These girls are tiny!”

Upstairs, we found ourselves sitting next to the events coordinator and her boyfriend, watching along asa girl with the face of a porcelain doll sang us a song about knowing how to charm an older man, and Ms. Pomerantz hooted at her naked-legged model; and one of the singers excitedly introduced her piece from the “opera version of the Little Mermaid,” in a sugary voice.

Afterwards, mouth full of cupcake, we caught up with “emerging” artist Jason Bryant and his date, owner of porter/contemporary gallery Jessica Porter. Mr. Bryant stood out in the monochromatic crowd, wearing a burgundy suit and sneakers. He, a skateboarder who used board graphics in his recent work, explained to us Ms. Lee’s banana comment, one we had immaturely misinterpreted. “It’s so you don’t cramp up.”

When we asked Ms. Porter if she had watched Bravo’s Gallery Girls, she jokingly told us, “I am going to walk away from you now,” spilling some white wine on our shoes as she pretended to go, her hesitation causing her to jerk.

Our vocal cords needed rest, and we head for the door, but not before some final, unsolicited health advice came from a fellow attendee: “chew on a clove of raw garlic. It won’t be fun, but it’ll work.”

The Opera Singers Initiative Celebrates Fall, and Tells Us How To Rid Ourselves of a Cold