|Ann Ziff, Renee Fleming & Christine Baranski
All photos Lieba Nesis – click images for full-size views
On Wednesday, October 3, 2018, the best and brightest in New York came out for the Carnegie Hall Opening Night Gala with cocktails beginning at 5:30 PM in the Rohatyn Room in Carnegie Hall. The elite of New York society arrived in droves for an evening where tickets for the cocktail party and concert started at $1,000 and for the dinner and performance began at $1,500. The lead chairmen of the evening were social luminaries Mercedes Bass and Robert and Hope Smith.
|Hope Smith in Naeem Khan|
Hope Smith dazzled in a gold Naeem Khan while Mercedes Bass looked positively elegant in a hot pink Oscar-an assumption on my part since that is her go-to-designer. Robert Smith, who attended Columbia Business School and Cornell University was featured in a 2018 cover story in “Forbes” as the wealthiest African-American.
Smith is board chairman of Carnegie Hall and one of the greatest philanthropists in the world; the only African American who has joined “The Giving Pledge”- a commitment of the world’s wealthiest individuals to give more than half of their wealth to charitable causes. Smith is also one of the friendliest most down-to-earth titans as he laughed when I remarked that he now has something in common with Kylie Jenner (she was also a “Forbes” cover star).
|Left to Right: John Utendahl, Radmila Lolly, Seren Shvo, Michael Shvo, Hope & Robert Smith|
The list of illustrious guests who attend this happening year-after-year is mind-boggling with billionaire and investor Bruce Kovner, an avid art collector and under-the-radar mogul, making one of his few appearances of the year on the New York social circuit with his lovely wife, Suzie.
Fellow tycoon and former Goldman Sachs CEO, Lloyd Blankfein, appearing healthy and spry, said he was helping plan the UJA Wall Street dinner having just booked head of “WeWork” Adam Neumann to speak at the annual gala. Lloyd objected to me calling him Mr. Blankfein commenting that the best advice he could give was always to call people by their first name-I was hoping for a good stock tip.
Some other rarely seen luminaries in the crowd included Sanford Weill, Annette de la Renta, Ann Ziff, Bob Colacello, Henry Kissinger and Christine Baranski (Richard Gere who often attends was an unfortunate no-show). The gala featured vocal superstars Renee Fleming and Audra McDonald who joined Perspectives artist Michael Tilson Thomas and the San Francisco Symphony for an evening featuring favorites from opera and music theater.
The program opened with Gershwin’s “Cuban Overture” which was first performed on August 16, 1932, at an all-Gershwin concert at the Lewisohn Stadium with Albert Coates conducting. At the time, Gershwin commented, “this is the most exciting night I have ever had, first because the Philharmonic orchestra is playing an entire program of my music, and second because the all-time record for the stadium concerts was broken. I have just gotten the figures:17,845 people paid to get in and just about 5,000 were at the closed gate trying to fight their way in – unsuccessfully.”
|Leonidas Kavakos, Galina Novikova, Anya Deutsch, & Clive Gillinson|
Gershwin’s “Summertime” from Porgy and Bess was also featured with Soprano Audra McDonald astounding the crowd with her soaring vocals. Opera star Renee Fleming sang an aria from “Bachianas Brasileiras No. 5” that was similarly haunting as the evening concluded 75 minutes later with Franz Liszt’s joyful “Mephisto Waltz No. 1.”
|Anthony Costanzo & Cecilia Dean|
At the conclusion of the performance there were hired buses to bring well-heeled guests to Cipriani 42nd Street for a dinner they won’t soon forget. The decor was spectacularly elegant with streaming lights hanging from the ceiling as Robert Smith announced that an astounding $5.1 million had been raised.
Guests fraternized enthusiastically throughout the evening as Mercedes Bass remained deep in conversation with Henry Kissinger as guests came to pay their respects to this former statesman. Current politicians Carolyn Maloney and Rebecca Seawright, in vibrant orange and blue, joined socialite
|Jean Shafiroff and Sana Sabbagh|
Jean Shafiroff who was wearing an extraordinary hand-beaded couture Zang Toi gown that was fitted to perfection. When 11 PM struck, most of the guests had left; conserving their energy for the upcoming weeks when the gala season goes into high gear.
– Lieba Nesis