Masked ball gala will celebrate the wonderful world of opera

It's time to don your Mardi Gras mask and help spark the interest of youth in opera. The Aiken Opera Society is holding its annual Wonderful World of Opera Masked Ball Gala on Saturday, Feb. 21 from 7 p.m. until midnight at the Woodside Country Club. The gala serves as the organization's major fund-raising event of the year. According to Aiken Opera Society President Dr. Sandra Field, the funds raised make the Opera in the Schools program possible. Through this program, over 3,000 students from elementary age to high school are exposed to opera each year. The group began in 2000 and is a non-profit organization of opera enthusiasts. The Aiken Opera Society's mission is "to encourage and develop an active interest in this unique art form. The organization sponsors educational outreach, special events, a Young Artist Competition and attendance to regional opera performances," states the group's website. "This year we are presenting 10 performances in schools featuring performances by the Augusta Opera Company and FBN Productions," said Field. The Augusta Opera Company is presenting a revised version of "Pirates of Penzance" and FBN Productions is presenting "Pinocchio." The Wonderful World of Opera Mask Ball Gala is a black tie event where guests will be greeted with champagne, treated to a Viennese Mardi Gras dinner, an award-winning musical performance and dancing. The South Carolina Metropolitan Opera Regional Audition Winner in 2008, Krista Wilhelmsen, will perform during the evening and the Jimmy Farr Orchestra will offer dance music until midnight. Tickets to the masked ball are $125 per person and are available by e-mailing sandraf@usca.edu or by calling 292-3124. For more information on the gala or on the Aiken Opera Society, visit www.aikenoperasociety.com.