Jean Shafiroff, Denise Rich & Silvia Frieser – Photo courtesy Lawlor Media Group
The 67th Viennese Opera Ball took place on Friday, May 12th, 2023, at The Plaza New York, with cocktails beginning at 8 PM. The late hour was perfect for the habitually tardy and added an aura of excitement to a highly anticipated evening.
Lyris Mansoor, Sheila Hultgren, Nicole Miller & Anna Rothschild – Photo Lieba Nesis
Tickets to the White Tie and Ball Gown affair cost $1,500 and were sold out a week in advance. The Ball, which took place from 8 PM-3 AM encompassed a 4-course meal, opera and dance performances, a presentation of Debutantes and their escorts, a midnight dance Quadrille, an Austrian late-night buffet, and the opportunity to hobnob with the European elite; this is undoubtedly one of the greatest bargains on the gala circuit.
Elena Gibbs, Sue Phillips Olga Ferreira & Tijana Ibrahimovic – Photo Marilyn Kirschner
Let’s not forget the magnificent venue, The Plaza, which was crowded for the 400-person event, which usually gathers at the larger Cipriani 42nd Street but is one of the grandest halls in New York City. And so at 8 PM, ladies and men in their finest threads headed up The Plaza stairs to join for the cocktail hour, which contained A-list photographers and reporters and the glitterati of New York.
Michele Rella, Kim Heirston Evans, Janna Bullock & Svetlana Acquista – Photo Marilyn Kirschner
Political honchos from Mayor Eric Adam’s office, including Commissioner Ed Mermelstein and Kristen Edgreen Kaufman, joined the Executive City of Vienna Councilor Peter Hanke and Director of Vienna Tourism Norbert Kettner to manifest the close ties between the two Cities, whose bond is stronger than ever.
The Debutantes and their escorts – Photo Lieba Nesis
The sign of a great gala is the presence of legendary photographer Patrick McMullan who donned his best threads and showed up with his camera ready to shoot the gentry.
Nathalie Pena Comas & Joyce El-Khoury-Sopranos – Photo Lieba Nesis
McMullan began his storied career in the era of Andy Warhol and continues to photograph with the same enthusiastic ardor as he did decades ago. His “patrician” appearance and other elegant guests transported attendees to the era of Netflix’s “Bridgertons.”
Nadja Sayej & Elton Ilirjani – Photo by Marilyn Kirschner
As guests headed to the red carpet for fun, beautiful birthday girl Janna Bullock was greeted by publicists R Couri Hay, Anna Rothschild, and Norah Lawlor as her family and friends gathered to celebrate.
Jean Shafiroff – Photo by Patrick McMullan/PMC
Honoree and co-chair Jean Shafiroff, in a splendid Malan Breton red gown and statuesque Viennese Opera President Silvia Frieser, gave some brief interviews as they joined hands to celebrate the alliance between the capital of music, Austria, and the capital of everything else, New York, in one of those unforgettable evenings.
Clara Heupgen – Photo by Marilyn Kirschner
Vice chairs Sylvia Hemingway and Peter Thomas Roth helped raise funds for the well-attended evening, with Roth donating a host of his skin care products for the coveted goody bag. Considered the most prestigious and oldest Viennese Ball outside of Vienna, the evening, whose theme was inspired by “Carmen,” contained Sopranos Joyce El-Khoury and Nathalie Pena-Comas, as well as Metropolitan Opera tenor Stephen Costello who wowed the crowd with their spirited performances that had attendees on their feet.
Ballgowns – Photo Marilyn Kirschner
Co-chair Denise Rich thanked the Ball for raising funds for Gabrielle’s Angel Foundation for Cancer Research and the music therapy program at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center under the auspices of the US-Austrian Chamber of Commerce. Austria is renowned for its balls, often called the “fifth season,” where guests engage in ceremonial practices dating back to the 18th Century.
Angelo and Svetlana Acquista – Photo Marilyn Kirschner
Vienna is the epicenter of these festivities, with more than 400 balls each winter currently organized by professional guilds. A bit of this magic was captured in New York as attendees witnessed the presentation of the debutantes and escorts whose perfectly orchestrated entrance and dance moves were spellbinding.
The Quadrille – Photo Lieba Nesis
After the traditional steak dinner, guests patiently waited to participate in the midnight Quadrille-a dance popular in the late 19th Century which featured four couples in a rectangular formation similar to American square dancing.
Gala artistic director Daniel Serafin encapsulated the evening perfectly by declaring “Carmen”- the opera of love, intrigue, and beauty-a natural choice for the city of New York, which has once again welcomed opulence into its famed thoroughfare known as Manhattan.
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