News & Politics

Washington Performing Arts Society Hosts an Inaugural Brunch

The guest of honor was opera singer Jessye Norman.

Jessye Norman greets well-wishers at her table at the Hay-Adams brunch hosted by the WPAS. Photograph by Carol Ross Joynt.

The Washington Performing Arts Society got out in front of the inaugural hoopla with an early event: a luxurious Saturday steak and eggs brunch on the sun-filled roof terrace of the Hay-Adams Hotel. The 150 guests, many of them from New York, paid $2,500 per person for the opportunity to enjoy the resplendent view of the White House and the city as well to mingle with Attorney General Eric Holder, Chief of Protocol Capricia Marshall, ten ambassadors, two members of Congress, and the city’s performing arts community. It was nothing but the best. The Champagne was from Pommery, the Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc from Cakebread Cellars, and the Pinot Noir from Steele.

The canapés included ham biscuits. The brunch menu began with smoked salmon carpaccio and asparagus, followed by seared filet mignon with morel sauce, fresh scrambled eggs, potatoes, tomato, and watercress; dessert was strawberries with bruléed sabayon. But the high point was easily the presence of Howard University graduate and world-renowned opera singer Jessye Norman. Holder presented her with the WPAS’s Ambassador of the Arts Award. Audra McDonald sang in her honor.

After the performance and meal, guests lingered to talk with Norman, who held court at her table, and to step outside on the balcony for the view, which was made inviting when the hotel staff opened all the rooms’ French doors. The weather was surprisingly temperate—about 50 degrees—and with the bright sunshine it felt almost like a spring day.

The brunch was made possible, in part, by a contribution from Reginald Van Lee, who is chairman of the WPAS board of directors and also a friend of President and Mrs. Obama. He welcomed the guests, along with Rachel Pearson, who is the organization’s development committee chair.