"How did you manage to lose so much weight?" a buxom fan asked soprano Renata Scotto. At this point, dinner was over and Scotto was standing next to her table, which was named Manon Lescaut. She simply pointed to her untouched dessert, a creamy Italian pastry lying untouched on the table. "There," she said. "1,000 calories still on the plate."
This vindication of her will power was the final triumph of an evening that had been a series of triumphs -- and evening when she bowed to a dizzying series of standing ovations, caught flowers thrown down to her from the highest balconies and was given an antique jade necklace by an admirer. Then she went to dinner in the Kennedy Center Atrium with more than 100 fans -- mostly lawyers recruited into a new organization called Lawyers Committee form the Arts sponsored by the Washington Performing Arts Society.
Within a few weeks of launching the idea, WPAS has enrolled 35 attorneys from some prestigious firms, as well as five judges from the U.S. Court and the Superior Court of the District of Columbia. "All of us here are privileged," said Sherman Katz of Courdert Brothers, a co-chairman of the committee. "And with that privilege goes responsibility." Each of the guests contributed $500 to the WPAS, receiving in return box seats for the Scotto recital and invitations to dine with the star afterward. "These will be our charter members," said WPAS managing director Patrick Hayes. "Our final goal is only 100, and it will not take long to reach that."
Many of the lawyers present agreed. "At Yale Law School," John Barnum of White & Case told Hayes at a table called La Boheme, "we had a group of singing lawyers called the Oversextet -- well-named, too." Then he began naming local attorneys who play drums, clarinet or bass. "There are lots of musical lawyers around -- you just have to find them."
One musical lawyer who helped arrange the event, James Symington of Smathers, Symington and Herlong, noted that all of the tables (including Otello, La Gioconda, Madama Butterfly and La Traviata) were named after operas in which Scotto had sung a leading role. "We don't have a Macbeth," he said, "because who would want to eat at a table called Macbeth?" m
"I would like to eat at a table called Macbeth," said Scotto, who was still glowing from her triumph as Lady Macbeth at Covent Garden. "Then we could sing a Brindisi with wine the color of blood." She raised her glass of blood-red Chianti and looked at it fondly, but hen put it back down -- calories still on the table.