Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Washington Social Diary: The Washington Opera Ball

Guests congregate around the pink marble fountain in the 106-year-old Organization of American States mansion on Constitution Avenue for the 2016 Washington Opera Ball.
by Carol Joynt

Hello, dear NYSD readers. I’m still here in Washington, though preoccupied since late March. No, I didn’t run off and join a presidential campaign, but close enough. I took a full time job at MSNBC as a booking producer for Chris Matthews and his nightly broadcast, “Hardball.” It’s comparable to working, if virtually, in all of the presidential campaigns, and the best possible perch for experiencing this fascinating, sometimes bizarre, sometimes perplexing, always exciting and likely historic 2016 race for the White House.

It’s comforting to be back in a world I know well, broadcast news, though I have affection, too, for a world I got to know a little better in the last several years, Washington social life. Which is why it was a welcomed gesture when the Washington National Opera’s Michael Solomon reached out with an invitation to this year’s Opera Ball, celebrating “60 years of unparalleled artistic achievements.”
Entering the Organization of American States mansion on Constitution Avenue for The Opera Ball.
The Opera Ball – this was my 8th – traditionally caps the winter and spring social seasons of balls and galas and special soirees that begin with the Washington Winter (antiques) Show in January. After the Opera Ball the swells launch into their warm weather social pursuits. 

Warm weather wasn’t anywhere near DC on Saturday night as the swarm of 500, men in black tie and women in ball gowns, swept through the drizzle and chill and into the 106-year-old Organization of American States mansion on Constitution Avenue. It sits only a few blocks from the White House and where Secret Service agents on Friday shot and arrested a man who approached a security checkpoint armed with a gun. The White House compound was briefly on lockdown.
Dessert included exotic fruit mousses ...
petit fours ...
And drip brew coffee.
Many of the guests earlier attended dinners at embassies, though I prefer a good Saturday night restaurant meal, and to that end my buddy Shane Harris (a senior correspondent with The Daily Beast) and I went to The Oval Room – also near the White House – and enjoyed a meal of cucumber soup and crispy skinned seared salmon as we dished people and politics. We had a prized corner table. When I booked on OpenTable I requested “the Lyndon Boozer table,” and got it! That is a tip you could use with many DC restaurant reservations.
The OAS building, with its central red tiled patio, glass roof, fountain and array of tropical palm, banana and other plants, has a transporting feel, which was augmented for the ball by event lighting in hues of blue, purple and rose. The upstairs gymnasium-sized Hall of Flags and Heroes, dominated by large Tiffany chandeliers, was made into a tropical dance hall with bars, dessert and coffee buffets, and an orchestra. The café tables were draped with mirrored cloths, the dance floor itself was iridescent.
When the dancing began, the ball’s co-chairs, Jane Cafritz and Samia Farouki, attempted to lure their friends onto the dance floor, with some success. At the outset it was a lot of women dancing with women, which tells us something about gala life and Washington men. Speeches were brief, the supply of Champagne and cocktails endless, and at midnight the party continued. Each guest went home with a box of Jacqueline Mars favorite “Ethel M” chocolates, and she knows her chocolates. 
Mark and Lynn McFadden. Kate Goodall.
On the right, Rania and Graham Wisner.
Adrienne Arsht. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
Belles of the ball: Mezzo-soprano Eliza Bonet and Soprano Ariana Wehr.
Kevin Chaffee with Count Renaud de Viel Castel. David Rubenstein, the Kennedy Center Chairman, and Shane Harris.
Also spotted at the ball: Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, David Rubenstein, Calvin Cafritz and Huda Farouki, spouses of Jane and Samia; Ken and Diane Feinberg, Kevin Chaffee, Glorida Dittus, Rania and Graham Wisner, Nina McLemore, Lucky Roosevelt, Deborah Rutter, Carol Schwartz, Nina Totenberg, Kathy Kemper, Francesca Zambello, Tara Erraught, Ambs. Kirsti Kauppi of Finland, Claudia Fritsche of Lichtenstein, Sergey Kislyak of the Russian Federation, Kim Darroch of the UK, Martin Lousteau of Argentina; Dorothy Kosinski, Alexandra de Borchgrave, Willee Lewis, Adrienne Arsht, Susan Blumenthal, Evelyn DiBona, Marcia Mayo, John Arundel, Kate Goodall, Mark and Lynn McFadden, Michael Olding, Roland Flamini, DJ and Devika Patil, Don Brown, Maha Kaddoura, Karim and Luma Kawar, and so many others. There was not a full guest list provided, but we snapped photos of some of the happy socialites.
ENDNOTE: If you are free on Thursday, May 26, please join me for the monthly Q&A Café. The guest is Julia Reed, with her scrumptious new food and entertaining book, “Julia Reed’s South,” published by Rizzoli. We’re doing this one al fresco, on the lawn of Tudor Place Mansion, with a full lunch catered by Susan Gage and dessert from Georgetown Cupcake. We start the interview at noon. The fee is $40, tickets can be bought here.  On June 3, we’ll be back at The George Town Club, with a noon lunch interview with author Kate Andersen Brower, about her New York Times bestseller, “First Women,” looking at modern First Ladies and asking, of course, what if the next boss of the White House east wing is a man? Reservations: 202-333-9330.
Photographs by Carol Joynt

Follow Carol on twitter @caroljoynt