Written by: Simonette Berry
Are you one of those people who finds yourself weaving in and out of crowded department store aisles a few days before Christmas, battling the masses instead of making like Betty Crocker? Canned holiday music is barely audible over the din of long, bustling queues in which the nearly deaf or technologically impaired yell urgently into cell phones, and badly behaved children tear through displays like tiny bulls charging at every red bow in sight (there’s always one in the store during Christmas who you just know is getting coal in his stocking that year). As you wait in line, you tell yourself, again, boy, procrastination just isn’t worth it. Last minute shopping is the last way to get into the holiday spirit. Wouldn’t you would rather be home decorating your tree to “Santa Baby” and smiling like a Cheshire cat at all of your neatly wrapped presents and spotless house?
The Shreveport-Bossier Opera Guild has a solution for you, restless Christmas shopper. To prevent holiday procrastination, combine one part winter wonderland with two parts open market-style shopping, add a dash of support-the-arts, and pour in a frosted glass. The 37th annual Boutiques de Noel brings a one-stop-shopping open market event to the Bossier Civic Center this year. All proceeds of this festive shopping event will benefit the Shreveport Opera and their educational outreach program, the Shreveport Opera Express. One of the oldest opera companies in the country, the Shreveport Opera is now celebrating its 63rd season. Get your holiday shopping done before December settles her icy mantle over Louisiana, and let your gift list benefit an extraordinary local arts organization.
The marketplace is held Thursday, November 17th, through Saturday, November 19th. Admission is $7 and valet parking is $5. Among the many exciting events on the schedule is a fashion show Friday night and a special appearance by Santa on Saturday. This year’s theme is “Winter Wonderland,” and the 19th-century-style open market will be twinkling with holiday spirit. Over 100 vendors display their wares at this one-stop-shopping extravaganza. You can browse through art, jewelry, clothing, decorations, and a myriad of gift items to knock out your Christmas list in one fell swoop. The lovely Boutiques de Noel gala, where you can enjoy fine cuisine, music, and exclusive pre-shopping, is held on the evening of Wednesday, November 16th, and tickets are still available.
The seed for the 19th-century-style marketplace was planted in the 1970s when Delton Harrison, co-chair of the Shreveport-Bossier Opera Guild at the time, stumbled upon a holiday market set up in a Madison Avenue hotel in New York City. He found the idea of a Christmas bazaar enchanting, and decided to propose it to the opera board as a way to raise money and involve local retailers. The first Boutique de Noel, in 1974, was a smashing success, and the event quickly became the guild’s largest fundraising event.
The Shreveport-Bossier Opera Guild’s mission, since its inception in 1949, has been to promote the love and appreciation of vocal music in all of its forms and to financially support the opera. Early fundraising efforts included style shows, luncheons, and membership dues, attracting stars like Beverly Sills, Franco Corelli, Sherrill Milnes, and Leontyne Price. The Shreveport Opera has also helped launch the careers of internationally acclaimed stars like RenÃ©e Fleming and Greer Grimsley.
The proceeds of Les Boutiques de Noel add to the Opera Guild’s efforts to bring the best and brightest to the stage, and also benefit the Shreveport Opera Express Program. SOX is the only opera education and outreach program in the state and one of few in the country, starting its 12th season this year. With schools cutting music education programs right and left, SOX’s mission is to make sure as many students as possible are still exposed to the arts. Each year they reach 50,000 students in Louisiana, east Texas, southern Arkansas, and Mississippi. They educate children, youths, and adults with touring shows. Blossoming performers from around the country, often fresh out of college, audition for the chance to spend nine months touring and performing with the company. This year, they are putting on a show about bully prevention and another about the green movement for elementary students. For high school students and adults, they offer Operatizers, a broadway-style opera concert to give the audience a feel for the multiple genres and applications of musical theater.
Help support the Shreveport Opera by becoming a sponsor, or by purchasing tickets for Les Boutiques de Noel market and gala from Maria Casten at (318) 797-9484 or (318) 470-7385. To join the Guild, mail $25 to Wendy Harper, 109 Preston Ave., Shreveport, LA 71105. Enter the Winter Wonderland this season and experience the magic of Christmas with the Shreveport Opera.