Sunday, February 11, 2018

The 63rd Viennese Opera Ball at the Ziegfeld Ballroom - Royals, Ball Gowns and Dancing until 3am with Prince Charming from West Point

West Point Cadets, Nora Kobrenik, Me, Sissy Sakvarlishvili and More West Point Cadets

I had the absolute pleasure and privilege of attending the 63rd Viennese Opera Ball for the 3rd time last Friday. The ball was held at the Ziegfeld Ballroom under the gracious patronage of H.E. Alexander Van der Bellen, President of the Republic of Austria, and The Honorable Michael Häupl, Governor and Mayor of Vienna.

The Viennese Opera Ball is the oldest white tie charity gala in New York. Since 1955, the Ball in New York has been a representative of Vienna’s cultural legacy, elegance, and glamour in the Big Apple. The Ball operates as a cultural platform and builds bridges to connect present day New York City with 19th Century Vienna, and people of varying heritages, continents and generations, to bring traditional glamour to the city that never sleeps.

Every year the Ball has included a charity to benefit and this year’s patronage went to the music therapy program at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center with support from Gabrielle’s Angel Foundation for Cancer Research.

Led by Silvia Frieser, President and Executive Director, and Daniel Serafin, Artistic Director, with the support of platinum sponsor Silhouette, an Austrian eyewear company, the ball celebrated 12 debutantes and their escorts including Archduchess Isabella von Habsburg of Austria, escorted by Daniel Bak, Eugenia Bullock of New York escorted by Ryan Thomas Roth, son of skin care mogul Peter Thomas Roth, Meredith Baker Schott of New York, escorted by Gerard William Ford III, grandson of Eileen Ford, as they made their formal debut to international society. Miss Bullock wore a Peter Thomas Roth tiara with diamonds from William Goldberg, and a custom gown by Nicole Miller, while Miss Schott wore a tiara by JFINE Diamonds and a gown by Maggie Norris, and Archduchess von Habsburg wore an heirloom gown and tiara.

The event hosted nearly 400 guests including Prince Dimitri of Yugoslavia, Peter Thomas Roth, CEO, Peter Thomas Roth Clinical Skin Care, Nicole Miller, Atıl Kutoğlu, The Official Fashion Designer of the 63rd Viennese Opera Ball, A.E. Köechert, the event’s fine jewelry sponsor, Orange Is the New Black’s Selenis Leyva, Nick Burch, son of Tory Burch, Emma Waldron, Miss Ireland 2010, Janna Bullock, Jean Shafiroff, Christine Schott, Laine Siklos and Emir Bahadir.

It took a while to decide on a gown but I ended up choosing this beautiful blue beauty with gold accents by Aidan. It’s a bit silly but I’m the most me when I put on a gown. There’s something so empowering and exhilarating about walking into a room dressed in a ball gown.

I took one of my good friends Nora Kobrenik again with me to the Viennese Opera Ball. Nora certainly knows how to make an entrance and this time was no exception with her va-va-voom Jessica Rabbit worthy ball gown and jewels. Nora also has a fashion magazine called Tartarus, check out her recap of the Ball here

I ran into so many friends at the Viennese Opera Ball, starting with the super lovely Suni Silvan who I did an awesome photoshoot with years ago. I couldn’t be more excited to catch up with Suni who was dressed in the most gorgeous red gown. Red was in fact a staple color of the evening for a lot of dresses.

Next, we caught up with socialite and philanthropist Jean Shafiroff who was dressed in the most stunning Oscar De La Renta ballgown and white opera gloves. Jean is the epitome of a modern day, glamorous socialite so it's always so exciting to see which cool ballgown she will wear next! 

My sweet Nora brought my Birthday present along with her to the Ball and initially checked it in to give it to me after. She quickly changed her mind in the beginning of the evening and asked me to come down and open it as ‘it would match my look perfectly’. We quickly went downstairs and with a super excited grin I opened each of the beautifully wrapped gifts. The first gift included blue and green earrings which indeed matched my gown perfectly and the second was an equally stunning ring. Seriously Nora how did you know that I would forget jewelry that evening and more so getting me these beautiful accessories that went along with my blue gown so nicely! <3

Here’s a look at the beautiful earrings. Thank so so much for this lovely gift Nora! They made my evening that much more special. 

I was so excited to see legendary PR King R. Couri Hay again at the Viennese Opera Ball. R. Couri Hay and his namesake PR company put together all the great press that evening.

I was equally excited to also run into my friend Adam Weiss, President and CEO of AMW PR. It was so nice to catch up as I haven’t seen Adam in almost a year.

The roster of old friends continued as I ran into Rach Kapur, Editor in Chief of popular website Urban Milan. It was so nice to catch up with Rach as we’ve known each other for a while since meeting at New York Fashion Week years ago.

It didn’t take long for Patrick McMullan to photograph Nora in her epic red dress. It’s a known privilege in NY to be photographed by the famous PMC and I couldn’t be more excited for Nora to get that perfect shot.

I couldn’t help but admire (more like gawk) at the a luxury jewelry presentation from A.E. Köchert which came straight from Vienna. The brand has been around since 1814, making the most exquisite jewels for royals and luxury enthusiasts alike.

The Debutantes and Escorts then made their entrance, led by Choreographer Sandra Stockmayer, who also acts as choreographer for the Vienna Opera Ball and performed the Alles Waltzer before sitting down to enjoy a four-course dinner featuring Austrian specialties.

There was such a palpable energy in the grand ballroom from mingling guests dressed in their best gowns and suits. The spirit of old 19th century Vienna was certainly brought back to life through traditional Viennese music, food, wine and the extra glamorous European guests in attendance.

A series of performances from stars of the Metropolitan Opera included Luca Pisaroni’s rendition of Lolita, Ildar Abdrazakov performing Occhi di fata, George Gagnidze performing Nemico della patria and Angela Meade performing Io son l’umile anciella, before world-renowned conductor Marco Armiliato led the singers through a group performance of La di darem.

The appetizer included a pastrami cured artic chair with horseradish creme fraiche, served with smoked black trout, salsa verde, pickled cucumber & dill and topped with salmon roe.

My favorite was the slow roasted filet mignon with root demi reduction, yukon potato puree with braised cippolini, delicata squash and frizzled onions.

I couldn’t resist getting a photo in the grand ballroom, but was admittedly a bit jealous of all the guests with partners to waltz around the room with. Little did I know that I would be swept off my feet by a handsome cadet named Ryan right after this photo was taken!

Ryan was part of the West Point Cadet Color Guard that had marched into the Grand Ballroom earlier and rose their flags for the National Anthems of the United States and Austria.

Ryan was the most skilled ballroom dancer that I’ve ever met. Even with my left two feet he was able to lead me through the twists and turns of ballroom waltzing. Ignore my pensive look, I was just so nervous initially since I don’t know how to dance, but that quickly wore off as Ryan was the nicest teacher.

We even ended up dancing the famous Midnight Quadrille with all the guests, which is a traditional Viennese royal dance dating back to the 18th century with Emperor Joseph II kicking off the first one. It’s hard to explain what a Quadrille is other than it’s held at 12am and is guided by a speaker who gives commands to the crowd like switching partners, touching hands and lining up in a line to dance.

After the Midnight Quadrille came the after party called ‘Tanz’ with music by Bellatonic, featuring award-winning saxophonist Brent Birckhead and DJ Christophe Lacroix

Out of the three Viennese Opera Balls that I’ve attended this one was by far my favorite. I felt like a modern day Anastasia with a handsome Prince Charming from West Point named Ryan, a fairy-tale kiss on the red carpet and dancing the night away until 3am. Can I please hit rewind to go back? Perhaps until next time…

Thank you R. Couri Hay and team for having me. I couldn't have dreamed of a better evening and the epic story that would follow. Check out more photos below! 

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