If there’s one that marks the Vienna Opera’s annual ball in New York, it’s classic. Where else can New Yorkers wear ball gowns and white tie dress codes?
This year’s event was held at The Plaza New York on May 12, with performances by world-renowned opera stars, including Stephen Costello and Joyce El-Khoury, both leading performers of the Metropolitan Opera, along with Nathalie Peña Comas and Johanna Will.
The ball was co-chaired by New York philanthropist Jean Shafiroff along with Denise Rich, who were both honored to benefit Gabrielle’s Angel Foundation for Cancer Research.
It was night inspired by Carmen, a dramatic opera by French composer Georges Bizet. Shafiroff wore a deep red couture gown designed by Malan Breton, which “kept the night’s theme of Carmen – the opera,” she said.
“The honor was given for the volunteer leadership work I have done for the Vienna Opera Ball for years and it was an honor to do this work,” she said.
Event organizer Silvia Frieser says it’s one of the most glamorous events of the year. “The Vienna State Opera Ball is very important to the Austrian community and to our friends in the US, it’s been going for 67 years, so it’s an important part of New York,” she said.
“We went with the theme of Carmen because we love music, passion and energy, it’s a beautiful opera with beautiful arias, all associated with the color red.”
For the ball, domestic Austrian designers dress some of the VIP guests. “From a fashion perspective, we want to use the ball as a platform to showcase Austrian designers,” adds Frieser.
That’s not to say they all wore red, but they did wear romantic feather dresses, voluminous gowns and sparkly pieces. Maribel Lieberman, New York style icon and founder Mariebelle New York, wore a lavender skirt and blouse by Maggie Norris, with a pastel Emily London headband.
Latin pop singer Sasha Prendes wore a sparkling Jovani silver dress, while Sylvia Hemingway wore an Oscar de la Renta gown.
The style at this gala is a vintage throwback to an era where traditional Dior gowns and classic 1950s style dominated high society galas. In fact, this gala is potentially the only time New Yorkers will be able to wear ball gowns at this level, this time of year, says Marilyn Kirshner, fashion editor and founder The Look Online.
“The dress code, even when it says white tie and ball gowns, is like the hat lunch in Central Park a few weeks ago — it exists in its own bubble, it has nothing to do with the fashion details,” Kirschner said. “It’s just an excuse to dress up in an old-world way, which is actually really nice.”
Dresses tied to the theme of Carmen, which gala artistic director Daniel Serafin explains is “an opera of love, intrigue and beauty, we’re celebrating a night of beauty here in New York,” he said. “Carmen has so much emotion and the eggs are full of emotion.”
Louisa Diaz, founder of the Louisa Diaz Foundation and MAG Gala, wore a blue Jovani feather dress. “This is my first time to attend the Vienna Opera Ball and I love the fashion,” she said. “Everybody is — wow — in their ultimate fashion, and I really see this gala as an opportunity for us ladies to dress up in a way that we don’t usually get to do as much as we want to,” she said.
Although it may feel like an old school traditionsocial media has made balls popular again, as they tap into every person’s inner prince or princess.
“I think this old school, high fashion way of dressing to the nines in ball gowns and white tie is coming back. People want to go out, be excited and experience the gala,” adds Diaz.
This annual white tie charity gala honors the friendship between America and Austria. It was founded in 1954 by a group of Austrian immigrants in New York who wanted to pay tribute to their hometown of Vienna and their new home in New York. Among this year’s debutantes were Sofie Mahlkvist, Reesa Artz, Clara Burtscher, Rachel Borreta, Mei Colby, Thara Eisingerich, Deborah Engelberg and others.
Fashion designers such as Carolyn Sinemus and Nicole Miller were also present.
This ball may be big for New York, but it’s nothing new in Vienna, a city that hosts around 300 balls every year. So, dressing in old-world fashion is nothing new in Europe, of course. But this ball really reflects the ball culture in the Austrian capital.
“I think one of the highlights of the evening is that guests have the opportunity to dress up in ball gowns and white tie,” Shafiroff said. “New Yorkers love fashion on all levels.”
Forbes – Lifestyle