DiDonato, Lauder, Fleming Tartan Up for Met Opera Gala

Soprano Elza van den Heever gave away souvenir locks of her own hair at the Metropolitan Opera’s gala after triumphing as Queen Elizabeth I in a new production of “Maria Stuarda.”

Van den Heever, a South African making her Met debut, had shaved her head to better channel the historic queen.

Donizetti imagines a dramatic encounter between Elizabeth and the woman she keeps caged in her Tower, Mary, Queen of Scots. Van den Heever and Joyce DiDonato provided the necessary intensity, with the soprano looking especially formidable in Elizabeth’s bright red wig and alabaster makeup.

Guests equipped with noise makers gave them a big welcome when they arrived in the grand tier for the New Year dinner.

The tables, bedecked with tartan tablecloths, bore the names of Scottish cities. The hearty meal included smoked haddock and rack of lamb served with multiple offerings of Scotch.

General manager Peter Gelb said that the strong spirits were intended to get his guests “feeling Scottish or nothing at all.” He dined with the production’s director David McVicar and conductor Maurizio Benini.

Leonard Lauder

“Would you buy lipstick from a guy who looks like this?,” asked Estee Lauder chairman emeritus Leonard Lauder, wearing kitschy 2013 sunglasses.

He hammed it up with opera star Renee Fleming, in green Gianfranco Ferre with a sweeping train.

They were joined by actress Tyne Daly, “The Good Wife’s” Christine Baranski, pianist Jean-Yves Thibaudet, Philipp Hensler, head of distribution of Oppenheimer Funds Inc., and some 350 guests.

In honor of Mary’s Scottish roots, gala chairman Adrienne Arsht encouraged guests to wear plaid. She found a tartan Oscar de la Renta gown after an exhaustive search. Many of the male revelers wore kilts.

After dessert, guests gathered on the dance floor where Gelb did a countdown to midnight. At the dawn of the New Year, fireworks exploded outside the opera house doors.

“To come here more often,” Lauder said of his 2013 resolution.

The gala raised $850,000 for the opera company at Lincoln Center.

(Stephanie Green 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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