Determining themes for previous Tanglewood opening night galas always came swiftly and easily for Nina Jung, the Boston Symphony Orchestra’s in-house event designer. Four years ago when the season opened with Hector Berlioz’s epic Trojan War opera “Les Troyens,” she whipped up a themed menu and party — togas optional.
This year, as the BSO celebrates its 75th season in the Berkshires, Jung was faced with a challenge: There is no clear musical theme for opening night.
“This is what I keep calling souped-up Tanglewood,” Jung said last week on the phone from Lenox. “We’re doing a lot of wonderful music in one night, but there is no clear definition of a theme. We have French music, we have American songbook, we have Copland. It’s all over the map.”
The Tanglewood 75th Anniversary Gala, which takes place Saturday, will feature both the BSO and the Boston Pops, along with conductors John Williams, Keith Lockhart, Andris Nelsons, David Zinman, as well as performers Yo-Yo Ma, James Taylor, and Anne-Sophie Mutter.
While Jung was thinking of a party inspired by music, Jacqueline Togut, who is underwriting the cost of the dinner with her husband Albert, had a different idea: What about a trip back to the year the outdoor classical venue was born?
“When I thought 1937, I thought about Art Deco,” Togut says. “I realize it was the tail end of the Art Deco movement, so I took a little license with that. But the idea of a gala based on Art Deco struck me as incredibly glamorous.”
The party takes place in a massive tent with seating for more than 500 guests, and Jung is planning to transform the look of the tent into a 1930s nightclub, although she concedes that it will be a challenge, given the party will mostly take place during daylight hours.
To give the white tent a nightclub feel, the interior will be draped with silver metallic fabric. Crystal chandeliers will hang throughout the interior, and table centerpieces will be in various sizes of milk glass containers, all filled with orchids and banana leaves. The centerpieces are staggered in height “so it doesn’t look like a wedding,” Togut says. Flower arrangements are being designed by Winston Flowers.
Beyond the glamour of the party, the Boston Symphony Orchestra is raising money to support educational programs at Tanglewood. According to BSO managing director Mark Volpe, the 75th Anniversary Gala has already raised $800,000. When benefactor tickets enter the equation, that number rises to more than $1 million. By comparison, last year’s opening night gala raised $335,000.
“Out of this comes the ability to educate musicians from all over the world,” he says. “And let’s face it, long before any of these other summer sheds were built in other cities, there was Tanglewood. That’s an important tradition to honor.”
The dress code is not 1937 nightclub attire, although Togut says she anticipates a slightly amped up version of the usual attire for the occasion.
“It’s summer, and it’s outside, and it’s the country,” she says. “So I think there will be more ties than usual, just not black ties.”
Tanglewood 75th Anniversary Gala by the numbers
yards of silver metallic chiffon swagged inside the tent
hung at various heights inside the tent
square feet of space
for dinner inside the tent
square feet in the tent
for the cocktail reception
dollars for a gold benefactor ticket
to the gala
bottles of champagne
pigs in a blanket
with honey-dijon dipping sauce
pounds of beef for entrees
orchids for decor
plates used for the dinner
Tickets to the gala dinner and the shed are sold out for the evening. Lawn seats are still available at $30. Call 888-266-1200 or visit www.bso.org.
Christopher Muther can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on