|On the evening of Friday, February 20th at the Waldorf, they celebrated the 60th Anniversary of the Viennese Opera Ball. The occasion also marked the historic signing of the Austrian State Treaty by the US, Great Britain, France and Russia. Among those attending were the Secretary-General of the United Nations, Ban Ki-moon and Mrs. Ban who were personally invited by Austria's Ambassador Martin Sajdik. The Secretary-General joined a roster of diplomats and dignitaries, including United Nations Ambassadors Samantha Power (US), Vitaly Churkin (Russia), Thomas Mayr-Harting (European Union), Harald Braun (Germany), Katalin Bogyay (Hungary), Alvaro Mendonca e Moura (Portugal), and Kairat Abdrakhmanov (Kazakhstan), to name only a few. In the spirit of the anniversary, Ambassadors Power and Churkin sat side-by-side, huddled in conversation and even laughter late into the night.|
|MSNBC's Thomas Roberts and opera icon Sherrill Milnes joined the songstress Alyson Cambridge as co-hosts of the festivities. Men were in white tie or dress uniforms with chests brimming with decorations. There were a number of Austrians attending, including Consul General Georg Heindl, the Vice-Governor and Vice Mayor of Vienna, Ms. Renate Brauner, and Austrian banker Dieter Beintrexler.
This year's Ball benefitted the American Institute of Musical Studies (AIMS) in Graz. Net proceeds from the Ball will sponsor deserving and talented American students at the 2015 AIMS summer program.
|One of the signatures of the Viennese Opera Ball (which is held under the auspices of the US-Austrian Chamber of Commerce) is the horse and carriage featured in the program every year. To mark the 60th anniversary of Austria's sovereignty, Marcie Rudell, the Ball's Executive Producer and Director, added another element: a 4-wheeled (as opposed to 4-legged) mode of transportation, an authentic WWII Willys Jeep. The reason: From 1945 until the Austrian State Treaty was signed 10 years later, "Four Men in a Jeep" was the iconic image of Allied occupation in Vienna. The familiar sight of a sergeant from the US, British, French and Russian Armies sitting together in a Jeep was included in both the 1949 Orson Welles and Joseph Cotton classic, "The Third Man," as well as the 1951 Ralph Meeker "Four in a Jeep." Once the Treaty was signed, Austrians watched as the Jeeps drove out of Vienna, symbolizing Austria's independence.|
|Ms. Rudell enlisted the help of Brigadier General Franz Berndorfer, Military Advisor to the Austrian UN Mission, who in turn got commitments from the Military Advisors to the US (Lieutenant Colonel Gregory Gimenez), British (Colonel Mark Maddick), French (Colonel Christophe Deherre) and Russian (Captain Evgeny Senkin) UN Missions. The Military Advisor to the European Union (Colonel Eugeniusz Szajbel) joined as a fellow Escort with Brigadier General Berndorfer.
These military "descendants" in full dress uniforms all took a turn in the Jeep around the Waldorf's Grand Ballroom floor. One burdensome problem: the laws that govern such things forbid ignition of a motorized vehicle in a building that is not licensed to do so. Solution: The two strong sons of Robert Del Gatto, the Jeep's owner, along with West Point Cadets in their dress grays, pushed the Jeep along! As the Jeep passed Ambassador Churkin and Ambassador Power, they rose to their feet, applauding.
|There was a short ballet choreographed by Tiago Fernandes of the Dance With Me USA Studios (owned by Dancing With the Stars brothers, Maks and Val Chmerkovskiy and Tony Dovolani). Following the Jeep's exit, 4 "men" in vintage US, British, French and Russian WWII uniforms took to the floor. Each danced to a song identified with his homeland: "Chattanooga Choo Choo" (US), "White Cliffs of Dover" (British), "C'est Si Bon" (France), and "The Blue Handkerchief" (Russian).
There were sixteen debutantes and their dashing white-tied Escorts, including Cole Rumbough -- grandson of Dina Merrill and the great-grandson of Marjorie Merriweather Post. The gentlemen were choreographed by Viennese dance master, Heinz Heidenreich, and turned into human "swings" for the Debutantes who circled the dance floor in front of 700+ guests!
|By now the "traditional" horse and carriage is a fixture at the Viennese Opera Ball, but in this Diamond Jubilee year there were two horses and two carriages carrying in the Met Opera stars, Amy Shoremount-Obra (singing the "Jewel Song" from "Faust") and Alyson Cambridge -- who sang her rendition of "Diamonds are a Girl's Best Friend" in tribute to the Diamond Anniversary and was covered with a diamond cowl especially presented by the society-favored designer Zang Toi. Rounding out the trio of Sopranos was Melissa Batallés, who lit up the room with her version of "Glitter and Be Gay."|
|At Midnight, guests lined up in rows on the Ballroom dance floor for the wild Quadrille – an Austrian square dance if ever there was one. At 1AM, guests made there way to the official Tanz Bar parties that continued until 4:00AM in the Jade and Astor rooms, adjacent to the Grand Ballroom, where a late-night Austrian supper—from goulash soup to Viennese pastries awaited. The majority of guests, including many an ambassador and other elder diplomats, boogied till the majestic end of a glittering affair!|
|Last Wednesday night, the Museum of the City of New York hosted its Director's Council Winter Ball at the Pierre. The black tie evening was attended by 450 guests and raised more than $610,000 to benefit the museum.
The committee for the evening were Director's Council Chairs: Mark Gilbertson, Alexia Hamm Ryan, Celerie Kemble, Sara Ayres, Nicole Hanley Mellon, Calvert Moore, Allison Rockefeller, Sloan Overstrom, Tara Rockefeller, Andrew Roosevelt, and Burwell Schorr. Oscar de la Renta and Taffin were the evening's sponsors.
| Photographs by Patrick McMullan (MCNY)|