What started in 1999 as a wine and cheese night to benefit the Detroit Opera House and the Michigan Opera Theatre certainly has a different name and face going into its 13th year. BravoBravo!, the event that's helped raise $100 million to fund the arts in Detroit is back and, dare we say it, they've really done it this time.
This year the event, which features local cookery and cocktails, national concert acts and colorful accoutrements, will be in the style of Brazil's legendary Carnivale.
In previous years the event's themes have ranged from environmental awareness to fashion appreciation, but this year the young professionals of Michigan Opera Theatre's Volunteer Committee chose a theme that would let them light up the night.
"The committee wanted something really colorful and this theme gives them an opportunity to really play a lot," says public relations coordinator Jeff Strayer. It's not a restrictive theme and you can really do a lot with it."
Although June isn't the typical pre-Lenten time of year associated with the biggest Mardi Gras festival in the world, the theme lends a wide range of bright colors that correspondingly and ceremonially help to usher in the summer months.
Led into the Opera House by a lime-green carpet – a key color in the celebration of Carnivale—guests will almost immediately be met by Gratitude, a band of singers and steel drum players. And that's just for starters.
"Amy Kaminsky, who is one of the co-chairs, she's been putting together and providing all the models for the event," says event co-chair Dominic Arellano. "The models are going to be decked out in these really really authentic Carnivale costumes and I think you'll see the theme in the décor all around."
Featuring five rooms of entertainment, BravoBravo! will host acts you'll know from the local scene as well as those who are famous for playing national stages, a first for this event.
"This is my last year chairing BravoBravo! and three years ago I was brought on to start doing the programming, so I have felt like this event really deserves a national headliner every year at this point," Arellano says. "I think this event is unique because it's in its thirteenth year, so it's been going on for quite a long time. It's not like this just started yesterday, so it's an event that's maturing into a much bigger thing and it really deserves a national headliner."
So to up the ante, the committee booked Tha Boogie, an up-and-coming alt-pop duo from California and a group Arellano found to be the perfect fit.
"I was looking through a bunch of different acts and we had almost booked Raphael Saadiq last year, and we missed him by literally a day," Arellano says. "So I was really just researching in that area and Tha Boogie are his protégé, so it was really just a natural fit. So when I heard them and their sound, they just seemed like they had the right sound and the right energy and we really liked them. They're really pop, but they have a great musical integrity that's still there, which for pop music is unique in a way."
And BravoBravo! won't be the only Detroit event you'll find this pair of performers at this weekend.
"They're also going to be playing at the Belle Isle Art Exhibit on Saturday, so they're doing two gigs," Arellano says. "I think that's pretty great that they're doing that, coming to town to play two gigs for fundraisers. They're just really interested in Detroit, and the fact that they're doing this for us really says a lot."
Along with Tha Boogie, established musical acts like the John Arnold Trio, FAWN, Louis Hensley and several city DJs will be performing throughout the evening; a diverse group of artists for a corresponding crowd, according to Arellano.
"Two people stopped me last year in the middle of the night and said how they couldn't believe there were so many different people walking around and all the different things that were happening," he says. "You're just walking around and it's nothing but discovery in a lot of ways. You're walking into rooms of the Opera House you may not have ever been in before and seeing lots of city DJs doing Italo disco in the Cadillac Café. So there are so many of these little things and that's what makes it so special."
In and of itself, it would seem an event bringing together the best food and drink the city has to offer could be nothing short of special, but it's the 2,000 people that pack this event every year who turn it into a spectacle even Carnivale can't rival.
"People just love to see everyone all dressed up, they love the food, they love that it's local and it highlights the city," Strayer says. "It's local sponsors, local drinks sponsors and a lot of the musical acts are local as well. I think people just like the fact that it celebrates Detroit in this amazing venue."
But can we expect something we've never seen before at the best annual party supporting the arts in Detroit?
"There are always surprises at BravoBravo! whether they've been called for or not," Arellano says. "That's just the nature, the vivaciousness of the event and that's good. That's what keeps people coming back." | RDW
BravoBravo! • Detroit Opera House • 6/8, 7:30 – 12:30 p.m. • bravobravo.org • $110 general admission; $150 V.I.P.