IN celebration of its second anniversary, Marco Polo Ortigas Manila went exquisitely grand and treated its guests to Silken Voices, Silken Roads: An Opera Gala Dinner. Held at the Grand Ballroom of the hotel, the grand affair combined food and music with a little fashion to take guests on the 24-year journey of the great explorer Marco Polo down the Silk Road.
It was a journey that started in the West and ended in the East—from Marco Polo’s hometown in Europe to China. A sit-down dinner cum concert and lounge-style fashion show in an elegant setting illuminated in red hues, Silken Voices, Silken Roads opened with cocktails. As guests were served canapes from Spain to China to the Philippines—Chinese Black Marinated Fungus, Cod Fish Croquettes with Romesco Sauce, Mango Ginger Slurp, and Sustainable Mahi-Mahi Crudo Marinated in Citrus Fruit and Kaffir Lime Leaves—paired with a glass of 2014 Pluvium, Merseguera Sauvignon Blanc Valencia DO Spain, models dressed in Venetian couture outfits designed by Renee Salud stood in the middle of the Grand Ballroom for everyone to appreciate the masterpieces of the hands.
Then it was time for the program—and dinner!—proper, so Marco Polo Ortigas Manila’s general manager Frank Reichenbach formally welcomed everyone to the celebration. Opening the program was an Italian opera song, Libiamo, as performed by Asia’s Got Talent runner-up Gerphil Flores, the Philippine Opera Company, and Francisco Aseniero.
Opening the gala dinner, on the other hand, was Italian Beef Tenderloin Carpaccio Marinated with Herbs, Parmesan and Shaved Black Truffle Dressing. The appetizer, prepared by the talented kitchen staff of Marco Polo Ortigas led by Executive Chef Lluis Pesarrodona and paired with 2014 Banfi Placido Pinot Grigio from Italy, puts emphasis on Europe, where Marco Polo’s journey began.
After this, the music and the food alternately took center stage—each one a masterpiece that never failed to impress the audience.
Since Marco Polo traveled through the Middle East from Europe, the region inspired the next song number, Lakme, performed by Philippine Opera Company’s Karla Gutierrez and Marian Santiago.
This song segued the gala dinner to an impressive platter of Baby Calamari and Roasted Duck Simmered in Red Curry and Topped with Lemongrass Cappuccino, which is a walk through Asian cuisine. It was served with 2014 Talamonti Trebbi from Italy.
Violinist Joseph Brian Cimafranca then stressed the journey of Marco Polo through the Middle East with a contemporary piece, Kashmir, a haunting piece of violin music filled with heart and emotions.
Similarly, a Middle Eastern-inspired dish, Chicken Kebab Roulade with Orange Flavored Hummus and Dried Fruits, made its way to the tables for everyone to appreciate the Middle Eastern episode even more. It came paired with 2014 Gerard Bertrand Geme Sans Blanc from France which, despite its country of origin, complemented the dish perfectly.
Gerphil Flores then took center stage, and her presence and solo performance of Un Bel Di, the most famous aria from Puccini’s Madama Butterfly, were larger than her petite frame and beautiful face.
After the song, Silken Voices, Silken Roads emphasized the role that China played in Marco Polo’s journey with a dish that brought a taste of China, Stir-fried Lapu-Lapu and Tiger Prawns in XO Sauce and Soft Tofu, to the table. But while Chinese food is normally washed down with tea, for this special opera gala dinner, it was paired with 2014 Banfi Placido Chianti from Italy.
Philippine Opera Company made the evening of pure opera music more exciting with moving love songs, Kismet and And This Is Beloved, as performed by Marian Santiago, tenor Christian Nagaño and baritone Lawrence Jatayna together with tenor Francisco Aseniero.
Marco Polo’s journey from the West to the East was never more evident than in the next dish, which was a pasta medley of Lemon Ricotta Tortellini and Fried Noodles with Scallops and Morel, whose flavors were brought to the fore by a glass of 2014 Gerard Bertrand Res. Pinot Noir from France.
As for the musical performances that kept everyone entertained, the journey continued with charming arias, Yours Is My Heart Alone and When He Speaks, with Francisco Aseniero in his solo performance.
To point out that after 23 years, Marco Polo returned to Europe, bringing with him tremendous knowledge on the different cultures of the places that he had reached in his long journey, the dessert served was Hazelnut Opera Cake, Coffee Jelly and Tahiti Vanilla Sauce, served with Banfi Bellagio Red from Italy.
And on stage, the strains of Funiculi Funicala and O Sole Mio continued.
As the evening came to an end, the tall and lovely models of Renee Salud once again drew oohs and aahs with their outfits, which were inspired by China but also worked around Philippine silhouettes. Renee Salud himself took to the stage afterwards to acknowledge the loud applause, and a short thank-you message by Marco Polo Ortigas’ GM Frank Reichenbach formally brought the exquisite affair to a close.
“It was truly an evening when Opera Music, Food and Fashion came together in a beautiful seeting that evoked romance and fantasy. In such a setting, only the finest feasts can truly complement the drama. Together, these elements combined to give our guests a greater awareness of the tremendous talent that makes the Philippine cultural scene so very rice, just as it gives our chefs the chance to create innovative dishes that blend the best local and imported ingredients. Topping off the experience, wines were chosen with bravura,” says Reichenbach.
Silken Voices, Silken Roads: An Opera Gala Dinner successfully brought everyone on a cultural journey from West to East.