The old world European glamour of yesteryear returned to NYC with the 66th Viennese Opera Ball held at Cipriani 42nd Street on Friday May 13, 2022. Chaired by Denise Rich and Jean Shafiroff, this year’s theme was A Night of Love, with 20,000 red roses (courtesy of Royal Flowers and Luz Flora) decorating the ballroom, “to send peace and love to our guests and to the world. While tonight is a celebration of love and friendship between Austrian-Americans, we are holding space in our hearts for those in Ukraine”, shared President and Executive Director Silvia Frieser. Ukraine’s Iurii Samoilov opened the evening’s program with a touching folk song from his homeland as a reminder of the tragedy happening back home. Samoilov made a heartfelt appeal for guests to donate to the Caritas Ukraine donation table at the Ball; an organization providing humanitarian assistance in the form of clothing, and necessary items to hundreds of people a week in Ukraine.
Just as in Europe, the celebration led with Debutantes (flown in from France, Poland, Dubai and all over America), in tiaras and white gowns, dancing the Polonaise and Alles Walzer with their partners in white tie. Artistic Director Daniel Serafin arranged an operatic concert with Donata D’Annunzio Lombardi, Carolina López Moreno, Johanna Will, and Matthew White. Conductor Vinicius Kattah led the Viennese Opera Ball Orchestra. Ernst Woller, President of the Vienna Provincial Parliament, greeted guests and shared the continuing support of the City of Vienna. Festivities included with a marching color guard by cadets from the United States Military Academy West Point. As tradition the annual Midnight Quadrille enlivened the dance floor until 4am.
This annual white-tie charity gala is older than Vienna’s own and a venerable tradition. There is nothing like this in America with pageantry that could only come from the Habsburg Royal Houses. The evening celebrates the cultural and economic relationships between Austria and America, connecting two continents, two cities and two centuries in one glamorous evening.
Each year, the Ball supports charitable projects of New York and Vienna. This year appropriately benefits the musical therapy program at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center through Denise Rich’s Gabrielle’s Angel Foundation for Cancer Research. While the Viennese Opera Ball is inspired by the famous Vienna Opera Ball in Austria, it is its own American 501 (c)(3) not for profit Foundation and held under the auspices of the U.S. Austrian Chamber of Commerce.
The 66th Viennese Opera Ball was under the gracious patronage of The President of the Republic of Austria, H.E. Alexander Van der Bellen. Junior Chairs were Emily Mohr and Colgate Rumbough, and Junior Vice Chairs were Diana Bocsha and Jolie Vanier.
Austria’s Leo Hillinger Winery donated the wine for the evening, with Hillinger in attendance himself.
Owner of A.E. Köechert jewelry, Wolfgang Koechert, presented a sparkling diamond star at the live auction. The magnificent ‘Sisi’ star was designed as a tribute to Empress Elisabeth (Sisi) of Austria and Queen of Hungary by marriage to Emperor Franz Joseph I, The 18kt white gold star has 1,30ct diamonds and can be worn as a brooch, pendant or hairpin. The Empress’ stars, of which she possessed 27, are amongst the most famous pieces of Austrian jewelry. Alexander Köchert, jeweler to the Imperial and Royal Court, designed and made most of these stars for the empress. A.E. Koechert is one of the oldest jewelers in Austria, founded by Jakob Heinrich Köchert in 1814 and named the ‘Imperial and Royal Court Jeweler’ in 1831.