Soirée de Gala

Last night, the Les Amis de l’Opéra and The American Friends of the Paris Opera & Ballet co-hosted a Soirée de Gala celebrating the New York City Ballet’s opening of the 2008-09 Season in Paris.

The excitement of the evening began on the steps of Palais Garnier when arriving guests making their way into the opera house were greeted by photographers and press covering the soirée. Madame Bernadette Chirac, the Baroness Philippine de Rothschild, Peter Martins, and Charlotte Moss were amongst those in attendance.

The program consisted of four dances celebrating the choreography of George Balanchine, Jerome Robbins and Peter Martins. The first three programs featured only one, two or four dancers at a time dressed in understated costume.

During intermission, the impressive catering firm of Potel & Chabot provided guests with an assortment of beautifully displayed hors d’oeuvres and flutes of Champagne. I am amazed at the skill, ease and efficiency with which this firm served more than 1,000 guests in the short time span of only 20 minutes.

After intermission, the red velvet curtain was raised revealing approximately 20 dancers in elaborate costumes of ivory satin bodices and white crinoline tutus embellished with crystals. All of women had their hair tightly pulled up and adorned in satin. The principle dancers wore jeweled tiaras.

Together, they looked like delicious dollops of meringue uniformly lined up on stage. The audience responded with a unified “aaahhh” of delight, as if a magnificent firework has just been set off in the house. Everyone knew they were in for a special treat and the NYCB did not disappoint them.

They thrilled the audience with a dance choreographed by Balanchine to George Bizet’s Symphony in C Major. At times, there were more than 40 dancers on stage captivating the audience with synchronized movements. For the next 35 minutes, the entire company filtered on and off stage with great spectacle. When the performance ended, the audience expressed appreciation with non-stop applause in unison until a fourth curtain call was taken by the principle dancers.

I needed to be pinched…this was over the top! The fabulous performance, taking place in one of the architectural jewels of Paris, for an audience dressed in ball gowns and black tie was almost too much to absorb. Somehow, I managed!

Afterward, guests enjoyed three-course supper of Soufflé de brochet accompanied by a Mouton Cadet white wine, followed by Boeuf à la Royale topped with grilled foie gras served with truffle ravioli accompanied by Médoc Baron Philippe red wine, and chocolate mousse and vanilla ice cream followed by expresso coffee for dessert.

Tiffany & Company sponsored the dinner. Their participation was marked by silver and white décor and an emblematic Tiffany blue box tied with a white satin ribbon at each place-setting. The box contained a silver “Return to Tiffany” key ring engraved NYC Ballet Paris 2008.

When I first arrived, I checked in and discovered that I was seated in the Grand Foyer just outside the Grand Ballroom. I was a little disappointed. I wanted to have been seated in newly restored ballroom. When dinner began, however, I realized that I was just a couple tables away from Madame Chirac and other VIPs who were also seated in the Foyer. What luck!

And, I’m not quite sure how to fit this in, but I’m going to put it under the category of “An Interesting Note on Protocol.”

For two and a half hours during supper not a single person stirred from their seat. After dessert was served, Madame Chirac and her companion stood up, quietly walked through the hall and departed by elevator. Not a single person stirred.

Then, Baroness Rothschild and her companion stood up, quietly walked through the hall and departed by elevator. Not a single person stirred.

That is, until the elevator doors closed. At that moment, it was like a quiet orchestrated stampede to the main staircase. In less than 15 minutes, more than 650 supper guests left the Palais.

As I taxied home, I watched the twinkling lights of the Eiffel Tower in the distance. It marked the perfect end to a perfect night


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