Jeri Lynch creates many faces for the HOT Opera Ball.

The ladies show off just a few of the 130 masks they created for the opera Ball centerpieces.

TAKING ON THE ROLE OF OPERA BALL CHAIR for Hawaii Opera Theatre’s (HOT) annual gala fundraiser would be a daunting task for most people. However, this year’s chairwoman, Jeri Lynch, found in it an opportunity to let her creative juices flow in splashes of color, daubs of glitter and feathery flourishes.

“One of the jobs of Opera Ball Chair is to come up with a theme,” she explains. “From the theme, other aspects of the event unfold: centerpieces, menu, entertainment, etc.” For this year’s Opera Ball, Lynch opted for the dual natured theme of comedie et tragedie.

“The next step was to come up with centerpieces,” she says, adding that she decided to use the classic comedy and tragedy masks for the decor. “With the theme of comedy and tragedy, masks were a natural.” After going through some early iterations of the design, Lynch settled on a completely hands-on, custom look for each table using papier mache masks. “…I enlisted the help of two talented ladies, Dianne Wennick and Joyce Tomonari,” she reveals. At first, the ladies were simply going to paint each mask’s lips different colors. “Once we started painting the lips, I decided that we should try to make each one a one-of-a-kind personality, complete with a name.”

Lynch and her team created 130 masks within two weeks—each with a different personality. Indeed, each set has its own name; including ‘Rocky and Flint’ and’ Shelly and Poseidon’ (complete with fish hanging out of his mouth). There are a few themed for various fashion houses and even a set for Jeri and her husband, Jerry. As evidence of the thought and time these ladies invested in this project, they endearingly refer to masks by their first names and gleefully recount triumphs in creating each design.

“Painting the masks was one of the most fun and creative projects I’ve ever done,” Lynch says. As for any moments of doubt, she says “just one—‘would we be able to come up with 130 different ideas?’” Not to worry, as the Chair assures that there is a surplus of concepts waiting in the wings should additional masks be required.

Jeri Lynch, Joyce Tomonari and Dianne Wennick assembling the masks in Lynch’s project room.

Of course, the whole reason behind the Opera Ball is to support HOT. “It is an exciting year for opera patrons because I think it is an incredibly balanced season in terms of repertoire,” says Karen Tiller, HOT executive director. “We have Die Fledermaus, which is a wonderful, fanciful way to begin our new season. We follow that with a dramatic tour de force … an opera we haven’t ever done, The Dialogues of the Carmelites. Finally, the much-loved standard, Tosca, finishes our season.” New this year is the fact that HOT will spread the performances throughout the year, something that Tiller is excited about. “It’s going to allow us to do more … specific events for each production,” she explains. “I think we have an opportunity to reach out to a larger audience with greater educational and event opportunities.”

As for the Opera Ball, Tiller says it’s not-to-be-missed. “Jeri has infused this event with new life and creativity,” she says. “The Opera Ball is really my favorite black-tie event—and not just because I’m supposed to say that.”

In addition to watching the guests “meet the masks,” Lynch points out that this year’s Opera Ball—to be held on November 10 at the Sheraton Waikiki—will feature a chance for guests to bid on the masks at there table, another “first” this year for HOT. “…Or perhaps even bid on masks at another table—for all is fair in love, war and charity,” she says.