|As NYC delights in a city-wide cultural celebration of "Vienna: City of Dreams," its grand launch event was the 59th Consecutive Viennese Opera Ball to benefit Carnegie Hall. The Waldorf=Astoria's Grand Ballroom was filled with debutantes, dignitaries, and diplomats who gathered for the proverbial start, not only of the waltzing season, but also to celebrate the rich cultural and warm social connection between Austria and the US. (Not to mention the business connection—the Ball is sponsored by the Austrian-US Chamber of Commerce!)
In keeping with the cultural prominence of the Ball, the City of Vienna delegation was led by Dr. Andreas Mailath-Pokorny, the city’s Councillor of Culture and Science. Some eight hundred guests (inlcuding Carmen Dell’Orefice who swept in in lace and full-length black velvet opera cape) at the legendary Ball were treated to spectacles like “The Evolution of Ballroom Dancing 1814 to 2014,” with special choreography by the pros from “Dancing With the Stars,” Maks and Val Chmerkovskiyand the dynamic Tony Dovolani.
|Where else would you see Sherrill Milnes—legendary dramatic operatic baritone—introduce a smart adaptation of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's "The Abduction from the Seraglio" (the very first Opera Mozart wrote in Vienna)? It was done justice by the acting and singing skill of 6 performers from the Metropolitan Opera's roster of stars, from the sweet sounds of soprano Amy Shoremount-Obra to the low tones of bass-baritone Keith Miller, accompanied by music from Peter Duchin and His Orchestra.
One of the Ball’s many highlights were the two Norwegian horses pulling an antique carriage right onto the Waldorf’s Grand Ballroom floor! How does one get these majestic animals up to the 3rd floor of the Waldorf? Through the use of the “secret” elevator FDR used to take his limo to his suite in the Waldorf, which helped keep hidden his use of crutches due to advanced but unspoken polio. This year, the live horse-and-carriage was utilized and integrated into the opera as the abducted and bound damsel-in-distress trails the carriage! Those being nearly whisked by horsetail included Clive Gillinson Executive & Artistic Director of Carnegie Hall, and the Ball’s beneficiary who sat “ring-side” as did Joel Bell and Marife Hernandez, she the Former Chief of Protocol of U.S., with Max and Sissy Strauss just two seats away.
|This years’ Viennese Opera Ball coincided with the 200th anniversary of the Congress of Vienna, a seminal peace-brokering conference that redefined Europe after the defeat of Napoleon. The fabled Congress would gather during the day to hammer out the most important political issues of their time, and in the evenings they would put their differences aside to waltz the night away. It is said that "the Congress of Vienna didn’t sit, it waltzed!”
The eight-hour spectacle flies by, largely due to the Ball’s long-time Executive Director (i.e. event "wizard") Marcie Rudell, who prefers to work behind-the-scenes, avoiding all spotlight. But not this time. In a departure from the program, Dr. Mailath-Pokorny turned the tables and called Ms. Rudell out to present her with a special Limited Edition of the Overture of "Die Fledermaus" by Johann Strauss from the archives in Vienna, saying "There is no Viennese Opera Ball without Marcie Rudell!"
|A Viennese choreographer flies over the week of the Ball to turn sixteen Debutante couples into accomplished, if daring, dancers. And once again, the bar has been raised as this year's Debutante Presentation included the choreographed waltz routine, but the young couples in their pure white ball gowns and white tie and tails were transformed in a circle of human swings. The escorts lifted the Debs off the ground and swung them to and fro while moving in a circle. Like everything else about the Ball, this isn’t an ordinary Deb cotillion. These non-professional dancers had to have multiple rehearsals to get their parts right. At the end of their complex piece comes the resounding call for "Alles Walzer!" (Translation: Everyone Dance!) And Waltz everyone did, from Miss Teen USA Cassidy Wolf to senior diplomatic national representatives -- and I do mean Ambassadors -- from, are you ready: Finland, Belgium, Ireland, Chile, Lebanon, Peru, along with EU UN Amb. Thomas Mayr-Harting, Austria's UN Amb. Martin Sajdik, who was recently named President of UN’s ECOSOC, and, of course, Austrian Ambassador Hans Peter Manz.
|At one in the morning, authentic Schuhplattlers (traditional folk dancers popular in the Alpine regions of Bavaria) marched onto the Ballroom floor and shoe-slapped their feet-stomping pieces in raw-leather lederhosen. Guests went on to the Tanz Bar, the post-Ball party in the glamorous rooms adjacent to the Ballroom, for a late-night Austrian supper—from goulash soup to Viennese pastries, all created specially by the Executive Chefs for the VOB. And until 4 a.m., guests have a choice of venues: DJ or Jazz Band with Schuhplattlers.|
|This past Monday night, the Bronx Museum of the Arts held its Spring Gala and Auction, "Greetings from the Bronx" at the Conrad New York on North End Avenue downtown. Among the guests were Arlene and Alan Alda, Elizabeth Cook, Levy Frayda and Ronald Feldman, Donald Rubin, Sarah Sze, Earl and Valerie Washington. The auction included works by Tony Feher, Tom Otterness, Ed Ruscha, and Hank Willis Thompson.|
|Also on Monday night, the School of American Ballet held its 2014 Winter Ball, celebrating the SAB's 80th anniversary on the Promenade of the David H. Koch Theater. They raised more than $1.2 million for scholarships and school programs. The evening was sponsored for the 7th consecutive year by Van Cleef & Arpels. The dinner was followed by a student performance choreographed specially for the occasion. Proceeds from this event enable the SAB to distribute $1.9 million annual in student scholarships as well as support the School's renowned faculty and state-of-the-art facilities at Lincoln Center.
|More than 500 attended the dinner dance including the School's board members and alumni as well as leaders from the New York corporate and social communities. Notable attendees included: Diana DiMenna (Chairman), Julia Koch (Chairman), Serena Lese (Chairman), Noreen Ahmad (Young Patron Chairman), Amanda Brotman (Young Patron Chairman), and Chelsea Zalopany (Young Patron Chairman), Darci Kistler and Peter Martins, Sterling Hyltin, Maria Kowroski, Ask la Cour, Jock Soto, Daniel Ulbricht, Wendy Whelan, Linda and Edward Villella, Mikhail Baryshnikov and Lisa Rinehart, Fe Fendi, Olivia Flatto, Maggy Frances, Stephen L. Green, Martin Harvey, Julie Henderson, David Koch, Frederick R. Koch, Alexandra Lebenthal, Ed Lewis, Gilles Mendel, Teresa Moore, Dailey and Gordon Pattee, Bettina Prentice, Ilona Quasha, Kelly Rutherford, Jean Shafiroff, Timo Weiland, Laura and Will Zeckendorf.|
|This past Tuesday night, the Art Dealers Association of America held their gala preview of their 26th Annual Art Show, benefiting Henry Street Settlement, at the Park Avenue Armory at 67th and Park. The fair presents the nation's leading art dealers and galleries showcasing a range of artwork from cutting-edge, 21st century works, to masterpieces from the 19th and 20th century. This coming Saturday at 6 p.m, Adam Gopnik of the New Yorker will make the keynote lecture "What Makes the Humanities Human; Why Art Is More Than an Investment" in the Tiffany Room of the Park Avenue Armory.|
|Photographs by Patrick McMullan (SAB, Bronx Museum); BFA (ADAA).|