Scene in D.C.: Indian Opera Sneak Peek, Italian Nativity

Opera Lafayette Dinner
Stanley O. Roth, vice president of international government relations at Boeing and opera soprano Marianne Fiset. Photographer: Stephanie Green/Bloomberg

Dec. 10 (Bloomberg) -- India’s ambassador to the U.S. offered a sneak peek at a comic opera set in her country and sung in French.

Friday night’s dinner at Ambassador Nirupama Rao’s residence was in honor of “Lalla Roukh,” the 1862 opera by Felicien David being produced by Opera Lafayette at the Kennedy Center in Washington and Lincoln Center in New York in January.

It’s about a Mughal princess and the poet-singer who crosses her path.

Ryan Brown, the conductor and artistic director of Opera Lafayette, an American period ensemble that performs French works, said “Lalla Roukh” captures the influence of orientalism in music.

Rao praised the opera for exploring “the mystery that is our land.” She, like many of her female guests, wore an elaborate sari.

A traditional Indian kathak dancer entertained the 80 guests before dinner in the reception room, which was decorated with Hindu icons and artwork from the ambassador’s personal collection.

Tables were named after historic Indian places. Sitting at Thanjavur was soprano Marianne Fiset, who has the opera’s lead role and sang one of its arias for the guests. She also performed a duet with Nathalie Paulin, who will sing the role of Mirza, Lalla’s confidante.

Also at Thanjavur were, Allen Shofe, the senior vice president for corporate affairs of pharmaceutical company Emergent BioSolutions Inc., and William Miller, senior vice president of the Business Roundtable.

India Flight

Stanley O. Roth, vice president of international government relations for Boeing Co., soaked up the atmosphere. He said he’s flying to India this week. Boeing and Emergent were among the evening’s sponsors.

The dinner consisted of tikkis, chicken biryani and shahi tukra served with Brio Shiraz.

After the meal, Roth asked Fiset to sign his program. He said, “I’ve always worked in high-stress jobs,” and likes opera as “a way to get away.”

Italian Christmas

At Friday night’s holiday party at Villa Firenze, the home of Italian Ambassador Claudio Bisogniero, his wife, Laura Denise, showed her Nativity collection.

Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano, Democratic Congressman Elijah Cummings of Maryland and Lazard Freres & Co. senior managing director Vernon Jordan huddled in the reception room.

Napolitano caught up with her predecessor, Michael Chertoff, now the chairman of the Chertoff Group.

Risotto balls, mini pizzas, and walnut and gorgonzola cheese tarts were passed.

About an hour into the Frank Sinatra background music, two opera singers sashayed through the crowd belting out Verdi classics while toasting guests with glasses of Ferrari Maximum Brut. Afterward Bisogniero announced the ravioli and fettuccini buffet awaiting his guests in the dining room.

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

Muse highlights include John Mariani on wine and Laurie Muchnick on books.

To contact the writer on this story: Stephanie Green in Washington at or on Twitter @stephlgreen.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Manuela Hoelterhoff at