Scene Last Night: Koch, Placido, Estefan Toast Adrienne Arsht

Adrienne Arsht's Birthday Party
Christoph Eschenbach, music director of the National Symphony Orchestra, and Adrienne Arsht, who surrounded herself with artist friends to celebrate her birthday. "Artists are important to me every day of my life," Arsht said. Photographer: Amanda Gordon/Bloomberg

About 240 friends crowded the ballroom of the Plaza Hotel in New York last night to celebrate the 70th birthday of Adrienne Arsht, a former bank chairman and lawyer who now devotes her time to philanthropy.

Arsht, dressed in a red Valentino gown and a Van Cleef & Arpels zipper necklace, designed the evening around the performing arts. Talent included classical pianists Natasha Paremski and Jean-Yves Thibaudet, Broadway star Rebecca Luker, soprano Harolyn Blackwell and members of Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo. Bandleader Peter Duchin played piano during cocktail hour.

“This is an occasion to share my friends who are artists with all my other friends,” Arsht said.

The guest list reflected her ties to New York, Washington and Miami. Among those assembled: singer Gloria Estefan, industrialist David Koch, U.S. House of Representatives Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California, lobbyists Heather and Tony Podesta, philanthropist Laurie Tisch (sporting a brand-new Giants Super Bowl championship ring), Lincoln Center President Reynold Levy, Kennedy Center President Michael Kaiser and composer Jeanine Tesori.

“She’s the only person I know who exists comfortably in the worlds of policy, the arts and philanthropy,” said Frederick Kempe, president and chief executive of the Atlantic Council, on whose board Arsht sits.

Arsht dove big time into supporting the performing arts after selling TotalBank to Banco Popular Espanol in 2007.

Gifts and Boards

She gave $30 million to what became the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts of Miami-Dade County. At the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, she started a fund for musical theater that led to the revival of Stephen Sondheim’s “Follies.” (The well-reviewed show heads for Los Angeles this spring.)

She is treasurer of the Kennedy Center board and also on the boards of Lincoln Center and the Metropolitan Opera, where she presides over the New Year’s Eve gala.

“She is a good example of what the one percent should be doing with their money,” said actor David Hyde-Pierce, the night’s emcee.

Dinner was salmon en croute and Brussels sprouts. For dessert, Arsht ordered up Good Humor ice cream and movie-theater candy.

Diamonds and Rubies

Open jewelry boxes, filled with costume amethysts, diamonds and rubies rested on beds of moss and succulents at every table. Brooklyn-based Cait & Jules LLC handled event design.

“This party is amazing,” said Selwa “Lucky” Roosevelt, a former U.S. chief of protocol. “Most women lie about their age, and she’s celebrating.”

“I told her this decade is going to be really terrific,” said Placido Domingo, who has pushed past 70 himself.

The program appropriately concluded with Brian Stokes-Mitchell singing “Some Enchanted Evening.” Then Arsht got up and made a public promise to each performer, to donate $10,000 to the charity of their choosing.

(Amanda Gordon is a writer and photographer for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. Any opinions expressed are her own.)

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