Old world glamor, whirlwind dancing, artistic decadence…. All of this and more unfolded at the Viennese Opera Ball in New York City last Friday. Hosted at Cipriani’s 42nd Street location, the annual ball put on by the city of Vienna to celebrate the Austrian-American relationship, resumed in-person in all its beloved splendor after a two year break.
The night started off with a reception: guests dressed in white tie and ball gowns browsed the artwork and other items up for auction. Meanwhile, Cipriani’s signature bellinis were passed around in champagne flutes, and small appetizers drifted through the room on trays. From elegant lighting and crimson curtains to red rose centerpieces at every table, the space was transformed by artful decor touches.
As guests made their way into the dining area for the start of the event, they were greeted by a refreshing endive, parmesan, and avocado appetizer and offered their choice of beverage. Alexander Van der Bellen, the Federal President of Austria, opened the program by welcoming all attendees, introducing the guests of honor, and emphasizing his love of the ball. To him, the ball represents “safeguarding of Austrian culture abroad” and how this event offers “new opportunities and mutually enriching one another” culturally by “celebrat[ing] Austria’s cultural diversity on an international stage.”
Ukrainian Bariton Iurii Samoilov took the stage with a moving tribute to his home country in light of the current war, and delivered a beautiful rendition of The Merry Widow. As guests dined on the second course of risotto with green peas, operatic performances by Donata D’Annunzio Lombardi, Johanna Will, Carolina Lopez, and Matthew White filled the expanse with enchanting melody. A sliced dry aged sirloin with leeks and potato dauphinoise and asparagus was served as a delicious main course, preparing ball-goers for a long night of dancing and festivities ahead.
The dancing portion of the ball kicked off with the introduction of the night’s debutantes and their escorts, who performed a beautiful opening waltz honoring Austria’s beloved, age-old ball traditions. They danced and spun beautifully through the night, and guests were invited later to join in the fun and learn a few basic dances. Couples took the stage with giddy excitement, spinning and ducking while learning about Austrian cultural heritage.
The Viennese Opera Ball, started in 1956 by Austrian immigrants, was based on the Vienna Opera Ball in its namesake city, which began in 1814. One of the only white-tie balls in the US and regarded as one of New York City’s “greatest annual events,” this event has long celebrated Vienna’s history and elegance in the city that never sleeps. This year’s ball, after pausing for two years, reinvigorated the city in its return to a full swing event calendar anticipated this summer and beyond.
In addition to celebrating rich cultural heritage, tonight’s ball supported the music therapy program at the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center and with support from Gabrielle’s Angel Foundation for Cancer Research. Proceeds from the tickets, donations, and auction items contributed to this important cause changing the lives of so many.