The Metropolitan Opera Opening Night Gala

“The Russians Bring Down the House”

Designer Giovanna Randall in her own design “Honor” & Julie Macklowe in “Honor”
  and Lucia Hwong Gordon in Dennis Basso
(All photos Lieba Nesis – click images for larger versions)

The Metropolitan Opera’s opening night gala is the most anticipated society event of the year and this year’s performance of Onegin more than surpassed the expectations; there was drama, excitement and beauty on this enchanting night – although, perhaps too much drama. I rarely go to a cultural event at Lincoln Center with protesters outside, but this evening there were activists from Queer Nation NY objecting to the Russian conductor, Valery Gergiev, and the Russian soprano, Anna Netrebko, for their continued support of Vladimir Putin despite his antigay legislation. Before the curtain went up, members of Queer Nation NY chanted angrily delaying the performance and eventually being hauled out by security – thank God this is not Russia or they might have been imprisoned. Nevertheless, the opera resumed and a great time was enjoyed by all.

Heather Graham in Naeem Khan

There was such a diverse crowd I nearly gasped when I saw the famous Obama impersonator waiting on line for drinks. There were people from the entertainment industry; Diane Kruger, Brooke Shields, Heather Graham, Jennifer Esposito, Dana Delany, Jill Hennessy, Beth Stern and Mischa Barton; a nice representation from the sports world including Amare Stoudemire and Grant Hill; a flurry of designers such as Oliver Theyskens from Theory, Giancarlo Giammetti from Valentino, Prabal Gurung and Rachel Roy; and every socialite from New York to Greenwich wearing their best and brightest dresses with diamonds omnipresent. Furthermore, the top publicity agents – the king Andrew Saffir from Cinema Society, Peggy Siegal and Couri Hay were present with stylists, models and billionaires sprinkled throughout; this was an amalgam of the elite of the United States along with many in the audience who flew in from Russia and Europe to attend this extravaganza.

Diane Kruger in Prabal Gurung dress with Prabal Gurung

The opera sets were beautiful – subtle yet dazzling with great detail paid to the relevancy of the attire. The opening peasant costumes were light and ethereal with the more intricate gowns and dresses appearing later in the opera when the drama unfolds. Oliver Theyskens from Theory said, “I love the costumes because they are so clearly inspired by the nineteenth century, which is the historical era the opera took place in-it is a pleasure to see.” Fresh from his recent collaboration with Prabal Gurung on Sarah Jessica Parker’s ballet gala dress he was enthused by the praise he received for the design of Parker’s skirt with cadet detailing and painstaking custom work. Prabal Gurung was joined by Diane Kruger, a stylesetter, who wore a red, white and black paneled Gurung dress, which was understated and plain in the sea of sequins and ruffles but gave her a sophisticated high fashion edge.

Amare Stoudemire & Alexis Welch in custom Giambattista Valli

Heather Graham was resplendent in a Naeem Khan gown with green beading against a sheer underlay, while Mischa Barton played it cool in a plain Valentina Kova dress with no makeup or jewelry allowing the beauty of her face to be her main accoutrement. Carson Kressley, the television personality and stylist said, ” [he] loves the fashion at this event because it is old school classic with a great mix of fabulous modern fashionistas. This and the Met Gala are the two biggest society events of the year.”

Dana Delany in Prada & Jill Hennessy in Cynthia Rowley

There were so many different trends in the house it was overwhelming; there were beads and furs, pastels and neons, gowns and minis, black and sheer, flats and heels, ruffles and pleats but it all worked beautifully together creating a richness of environment and feast of colors. Plaudits to Alexis Welch and Tamia Hill, wives of NBA stars Amare Stoudemire and Grant Hill, for appearing in custom couture Giambattista Valli and Zuhair Murad, they looked like fashion veterans and comported themselves with elegance and grace.

The Crowd

The conclusion of the opera, four and a half hours later, was greeted with ovations and cheers. Netrebko and Gergiev, had captivated a very busy crowd for a very long time with hundreds of the less fortunate watching the performance on large outside screens. The magic of this night is hard to commit to paper as so much of its allure lies in the setting of the opera house coupled with the vast crowds and resplendent costumes. Peter Gelb, the general manager of the Metropolitan Opera, has done an amazing job in reinvigorating this cultural institution, including selling more than ten million tickets since the start of his tenure in 2006. The choice he made in allowing the opera to proceed without disruption was commendable and necessary; the unadulterated nature of the opera makes it one of the few enjoyments in our tumultuous society that is worthy of preservation.

-Lieba Nesis

Lieba Nesis

My love of fashion, writing and photography were something that always dominated my lifestyle however it wasn't until I was approached by the editor of Lookonline that I realized I could utilize these three skills in combination.

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