BY MARY ELLEN CONNELLAN
The splendor of the Château de Versailles was reimagined at the sumptuous Civic Opera of Chicago by the Woman’s Board of the Alliance Française, dazzling guests on with Versailles en Scène. The evening was inspired by the epic banquets and magnificent fetes created by Francois Vatel at the court of Louis XIV, harnessing the flourishing creativity that has long been associated with the Chateau and Les Jardins à la Française.
Elegant Francophiles strolled through lush box gardens, enjoyed moments of theatrical surprise with baroque musical accompaniments, dined on the stage in the Hall of Mirrors, and were dazzled by fireworks with scenes from the Jardins de Versailles. Throughout the dinner and the after-party with dancing in the l’Orangerie, Stanley Paul regaled le beau monde!
After the introduction of Gala Chair Stacy Lou Lorin and Guests of Honor, Guillaume Lacroix, Consul General of France in Chicago, and his wife, Santa, Hervé de la Vauvre, President of the Board of Directors, and his lovely wife, Isabelle, were honored with Le Prix de l’Alliance Française for their generosity and commitment to the promotion of French culture and for their efforts to foster good will and a greater understanding between peoples.
Exclusive live and silent auctions showcased the richness of French style and culture, raising over $600,000 for cultural and educational programs, in particular, its collaboration with the Chicago Public Schools, this year celebrating its 20th anniversary. Executive Director Jack McCord announced that the Alliance’s educational outreach with the high school students of Chicago Public Schools would receive a portion of the evening’s profits and toasted Francie Saltoun, its founder, for her seminal work in its creation and implementation. In this program, students attend after school French immersion classes at the Alliance. After two years, the highest achievers are given the opportunity to study in Paris or at Concordia Language Villages.
Greg Dellinger of Talent Acquisitions Strategies encouraged lively bidding ona once-in-a-lifetime visit to Versailles with a private behind the scenes tour; a rare dinner by Alain Ducasse in the Chateau, including an overnight stay at the Trianon Versailles; a dream day in Paris with a private tour of Le Marais by renowned author Madame Christine de Vasselot; villas on the Riviera; connoisseur wine dinners; a one-week trip to Lyon and daily curated visit by Hervé and Isabelle de la Vauvre; and the Ryder Cup for two. It concluded with a surprise appearance by the designer Anne Fontaine, who offered a luxurious evening gown from her Les Précieuses collection, a visit to her atelier in Normandy, and a private dinner with her and her husband, Ari Zlotkin. The package also a two-night stay for two guests at the luxury five-star Relais and Chateau, La Ferme Saint Siméon.
Guests captivated by the evening included Ari Zlotkin, Monique Clarine and Ralph Wanger, Anne and Paul Krauss, Elizabeth Price and Lou Yecies, Annette and J. Rowan Carroll, Lidia Devonshire, Tanja and Paul-Henri Chevalier, Christine Laurens and Xavier Renner, Janis and John K. Notz, Jr., Anne Thompson and Alejandro Arreola, Solange and William Brown, Kristina Orfali and Pierre-André Chiappori, Libby and David Horn, Caroline De Langhe, Alissa Shulkin, Suzette Bulley, Lisa Bailey, Gloria Groom and Joe Berton, Cynthia and Benjamin Chereskin, Annemette and Henrik Clausen, Lauren and Matthew Ziol, Betsey and Dale Pinkert, Christine Marquet de Vasselot, Christel and James Reum, Stephen Kaplan, Lili Gaubin, Jason Tuttle, Pauline Kurtides and Cornelius Sheehan III, Camille Grand-Dewyse and Jashin Gugnani, Liz Stiffel, Ruth Ann and Michael McGuinnis, Annie and Jean-Pierre Ergas, Ursula and Stanley Johnson, Monique and Thomas Demery, Margaret and Joseph Fourness, and Margaret and Michael Unetich.