Monday, October 15, 2018

I love Paris when it sizzles

Supper in the Grand Foyer of the Palais Garnier on the ocassion of a 3-day Patrons trip for the American Friends of the Paris Opera and Ballet.
Monday, October 15, 2018.  Mostly cloudy and chilly with temps ranging (night/day) from the high 40s to the mid-50s, yesterday in New York, and over the weekend too. Perfect early Autumn weather along with some precipitation, with the foliage change still barely visible.

Word comes from Paris from the American Friends of the Paris Opera and Ballet (AFPOB). Where the weather has been “divine.” And where the Patrons of the AFPOB were treated to a beautiful three-day culture-filled experience including the return of the most-ever performed opera in Paris — Meyerbeer's Les Huguenots.

Perhaps it’s always been this way but in the last few years I’ve noticed a growing enthusiasm on the part of Americans I know for Paris. Several New Yorkers I know keep apartments there and visit  frequently, even every few weeks.  Its magic is now a haven for many.

The trip started on one of those beautiful sunny days with an exclusive visit to the Palais du Luxembourg, home of the French Senate, and considered one of the most fascinating palaces of the French Republic. Built to be the residence of Marie de Medici (1615-1645), mother of Louis XIII, and the grandmother of Louis XIV, the palace has also been a museum forerunning the Louvre from 1750-1779 and the site of the 1946 Paris Peace Conference.
The legislative chamber room of the French Senate in Palais du Luxembourg.
Patrons of the American Friends of the Paris Opera & Ballet on the main Staircase of the French Senate: John Kososki, Andrew Martin-Weber, Fiona Martin-Weber, Rene Kern, Hal J. Witt, Jean-Christian Agid, Melite de Foucaud, Marina Couloucoundis, Marie-France Kern, Elisabeth de Kergorlay, Monika Kern, Dr. Fabrizio Mainiero, Carol Kososki, and Senator Joëlle Garriaud-Maylam.
The visit was hosted by French Senator Joëlle Garriaud-Maylam, allowing the guests to visit all the most rarely seen places of the palace. Overlooking the northern extremity of the no-less beautiful Garden of Luxembourg: it comprises two libraries with its rows of unique books; the official residence of Senate President, Mr. Gerard Larcher; the Senate room itself with its tailored built seats for each Senator; the ballroom (which includes one of Napoleon I’s rare seats, and the original copy of France’s constitution); and the chapel, which is also rarely visited. The palace has only been used at the French Senate building for the last 60 years. 
Keira Knightley on opening night at the Palais Garnier.
That evening was the annual black tie evening gala of the Paris Opera Ballet’s season opening night at the Palais Garnier. “It has become in just a few years the evening to attend,” explains Olivia Flatto, Chairman of the American Friends of the Paris Opera & Ballet.

Tout Paris
turned out for this night of ballet, followed by the gourmet dining and dancing in the Rotonde des Abonnés of the Palais Garnier, sumptuously decorated with the colors of the “Thousand and One Nights.” There were opera lovers of course, media personalities and politicians, corporate leaders and singers.

Olivia Flatto and Melite de Foucaud.
Hosted by the Paris Opera General DirectorStéphane Lissner and Director of the Paris Opera Ballet Aurélie Dupont and co-chaired by AFPOB Trustee Marie-France Kern as well as French patron Cyril Karaoglan, the gala welcomed actresses Keira Knightley and Marion Cotillard; the US Ambassador to France and Monaco Jamie McCourt who was joined by the American Friends’ patrons -- AFPOB trustee JC Agid, Lowell hotel owner Dina de Luca Chartouni; Citigroup CEO Michael Corbat and Donna Corbat; AFPOB trustee Marina Couloucondis; BNP Paribas North America CEO Jean-Yves Fillion; AFPOB Executive Director Mélite de Foucaud; Monterrey’s Chairman of the School of Music and Dance Barbara Herrera de Garza, Countess Elisabeth de Kergorlay, AFPOB trustee and General Atlantic Managing Director Marie-France and René Kern and friends Dr. John and Carol Kososki, AFPOB trustee Serena Lese, Dr. Fabrizio Mainiero, Tony award winner Andrew Martin-Weber, Fiona Martin Weber, Eric Mourlot, Kristin Simmons, Mary Stassinopoulos-Carras, Dr. Sam Waksal, AFPOB secretary and Treasurer Hal Witt, Victoria Wyman, and last but not least Composer and Academy award winner Hans Zimmer.
The Grand Staircase of the Palais Garnier on the eve of the Paris Opera Ballet’s season opening gala.
Markus Meytias, Chantal Meytias, Marie-France Kern, Rene Kern, Beth Colocci, Monika Kern, and Michele Colocci.
Shaikha Paula Al Sabah, Farah Diba, Olivia Flatto, Hans Zimmer, and Dina De Luca Chartouni.
Donna Corbat, Dina De Luca Chartouni, Hans Zimmer, Olivia Flatto, Michael Corbat, Eric Mourlot, Kristin Simmons, Shaikha Paula Al Sabah, Serena Lese, Jean-Yves Fillion, Christian Schirm, and Marina Couloucoundis.
Victoria Wyman, Mary Stassinopoulos-Carras, Hal J. Witt, Elisabeth de Kergorlay, Andrew Martin Weber, Barbara Herrera de Garza, John Kososki, Jean Christian Agid, Fabrizio Mainiero, Fiona Martin-Weber, and Carol Kososki.
Monika Kern, Michele Colocci, Melite de Foucaud, Marie-France Kern, Markus Meytias, Chantal Meytias, Beth Colocci, and Rene Kern.
Some of the guests did more than attend the gala night: they were handpicked by ballet dancers to join on stage the performance of Decadance -- a contemporary ballet created in 2000 by Israeli choreographer Ohad Naharin. The following morning’s edition of Le Figaro hailed it as now a “classic.” Also for the Opening Gala, the Decadance version featured Bolero: a bewitching duo created by Ohad Naharin and performed only that night by Aurélie Dupont and Diana Vishneva, Principal dancer at the Mariinsky and until recently at the American Ballet Theater, in costumes specially designed by Karl Lagerfeld for the House of Chanel on this occasion.
The evening was made possible this year by Chanel and Rolex, as well as the House of Champagne Taittinger.
Aurelie Dupont and Diana Vishneva dancing “Bolero” in Decadance by Ohad Nahari.
Decadance by Ohad Naharin.
Défilé du Ballet of the Paris Opera.
On the second day, Ambassador McCourt hosted a special Luncheon in honor of the American Friends of the Paris Opera and Ballet at the US Ambassador’s Residence. French and American Patrons gathered and mingled with a glass of Champagne Pommery America. They included Saint Gobain’s Chairman of the Board Jean-Louis Beffa, co-founder of The Eloise Susanna Gale Foundation; and Vice Chairman Mack Real Estate Group Flavia and Barden Gale, EY EMEA CEO Jean-Pierre Letartre; also Freddy Dressen, Lorenz Baumer, and La Compagnie airline co-founder Jean-Charles Perino; AFPOB Chairman Olivia Flatto and the Paris Opera Deputy Manager Jean-Philippe Thiellay.
US Ambassador Jamie McCourt and Olivia Flatto. Barden and Flavia Gale.
Frank Viau de Caumettes, Catherine Charrier Leflaive, and Jean-Yves Fillion.
Mary Stassinopoulos-Carras, Juan Pablo Molyneux, and Shaikha Paula Al Sabah.
Dina De Luca Chartouni, Lorenz Baumer, and Donna Corbat.
Seated Luncheon at the American Embassy.
The luncheon was only the prelude of a long musical evening marked by Giacomo Meyerbeer’s opera Les Huguenots’ Premiere at the Opéra Bastille, a premiere that was made possible in part thanks to AFPOB.

With more than 1,000 performances on record, the five-hour long Les Huguenots is the most ever programmed lyric work in Paris – yet it had not been performed at the Paris Opera in 82 years. Later in the evening, the American patrons were also invited to join conductor Michelle Mariotti, along with the full cast, which included Ermonela Jaho as Valentine and Karine Deshayes as The Page, as well as the director of the Paris Opera for a late dinner on the stage of Bastille (whose surface is as large as a French aircraft carrier).
Premiere of Giacomo Meyerbeer's Les Huguenots.
On Saturday, September 29th, Patrons discovered the backstage of the Palais Garnier – including the famous Petipa studio located in the Dome to the old machinery called “Cabestans,” and the water reservoir located 5 floors below the stage; as well as to the Foyer de la danse located behind the stage from which the traditional Défilé du Ballet begins.
The visit was followed by an invitation at the Yoshii Galerie for an exhibition in memory of AFPOB patron Eric Mourlot’s late grandfather Fernand, who was “The” lithographer of New York-based artist Françoise Gilot, of Picasso and Matisse, of Roberto Matta and Chagall among many modern artists.

To close this three-day dedicated to culture, music and ballet, and last but not least, to a deep Franco-American friendship, Shaikha Paula Al Sabah hosted the group in the presence of Paris Opera dancers, including the director of the Paris Opera Ballet School and jury member of the Youth America Grand Prix Elisabeth Platel and Paris Opera new Etoile, Valentine Colasante.

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