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On Friday, Michigan Opera Theatre will celebrate its 20th-annual black-tie gala fundraiser, BravoBRAVO!, with a party guaranteed to rock every nook and cranny of the august theater designed by C. Howard Crane. 

The event, which last year drew 1,200, will feature food and drink from over a dozen premier Metro-area establishments.

In addition, there will be dancing, an exhibit on the Detroit Opera House's distinctive architecture and a must-see performance by one-time Metropolitan Opera tenor Richard Leech in a Techno version of the classic "O Sole Mio" accompanied by beatboxer Stevie Soul, electric violin and Jit street dancers.

It's quite a scene.

"People walk in and literally gasp," said Lisa DiChiera, daughter of MOT founder and longtime artistic director David DiChiera, who died last year. 

"It’s like the coolest nightclub you could ever go to."

The wingding, which last year raised $50,000 for MOT, was launched in 1999 as an effort to pull young professionals into the Opera House at a time, long before today's redevelopment, when downtown was mostly shunned and dark. 

"The idea was you need to start fostering and cultivating the next generation of supporters," said DiChiera, who helped organize the early galas. "You don't even need to make them opera lovers -- this is about getting people into this incredible historic theater in the heart of downtown."

The theme this year is "Your City, Your Stage, Your Story." 

Public-relations executive David Rudolph, who worked hand in glove with DiChiera, said one of the event's selling points has always been that "It's not just 'Come eat and drink till you pass out.' People wander through these rooms and get to hear opera, or poetry being recited."

They both underline that this is not a somber, stuffy affair.

"David DiChiera was always thinking about making the arts accessible to everybody," Rudolph said. "That's what I loved about him. He was so concerned with getting African-Americans involved, and with Detroiters knowing this place."

Inevitably, the nature of BravoBRAVO! has evolved over time. 

"Basically the concept is same as the original," DiChiera said, "though that year we did something that wouldn’t be P.C. today — we had a date auction, with three men and three women, one of whom was a runner-up for Miss Michigan."

This year, participating bars and restaurants include Beans & Cornbread, Dilla's Delights, Wolfgang Puck Steak, the Detroit Beer Co. and Cooking with Que. 

Some of the musicians scattered through the vast house will be Nicole New, Midwest Dueling Pianos, House Party Detroit, Omar Aragonés and DJ Todd Everett. 

Maker Trice Clark will lead an interactive painting exercise that MOT Chief Development Officer Frankie Piccirelli describes as "a huge black-and-white backdrop of florals. Patrons will be able color in the florals and take a picture. Plus, we'll be doing a time-lapse video all night," which will then go up on the opera's social-media thread. 

And before tenor Leech, who now directs MOT's resident-artist programs, takes the stage, there will be a impromptu poetry slam by Reyes Poetry, using quotes the artist will have collected by chatting with patrons earlier in the evening. 

Proceeds from the fundraiser will benefit MOT's Create and Perform program, a two-week summer improvisation workshop for eight to 12-year-olds. 

If you pony up for a VIP ticket, you'll get exclusive access to a "silent disco" in which individual headphones will allow dancers to groove to the music of their choice. Vertical Detroit will do the catering for the VIP lounge.

Everyone coming to BravoBRAVO!, however, will enjoy free entry to the after-party at 3Fifty Terrace atop the Music Hall, with entertainment by DJ Godfather. 

(313) 222-6021 

mhodges@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @mhodgesartguy 

BravoBRAVO! 

June 7 

Detroit Opera House, 1526 Broadway, Detroit 

8 p.m.-midnight

$160 - general admission; $250 - VIP tickets 

Tickets can be purchased at the Opera House box office, by telephone or online:

(313) 237-7464

michiganopera.org 

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