Almost every social group and profession in Austria, from
confectioners to firefighters and pharmacists to refugees, holds
its own ball, but the Opera Ball is the most elite, with a
presidential opening and top-class music and ballet.
"It's an event where the opera can present itself. It's an
important platform," opera director Dominique Meyer told
But each year, the fine classical performances of the Vienna
Philharmonic and State Ballet are overshadowed in the Austrian
media by the paid celebrity guests invited by Viennese
millionaire mall developer Richard Lugner.
Lugner's past guests have included singer Geri Halliwell and
actors Larry Hagman and Pamela Anderson. This year, reality-TV
star Kardashian is his main guest.
"Dancing is not my thing," she said at an autograph and question
session on Thursday when asked whether she was having waltz
lessons. Asked how she kept in shape, she replied: "Armenian
genes and squats."
The 144 debutants and debutantes who will open the ball, on the
other hand, have spent weeks in intensive rehearsals for a
performance that lasts just three or four minutes but has a huge
audience on television at home and abroad.
PROTESTS AND HIGH PRICES
"I'm actually addicted to dancing," said debutante Goreglyad,
who works as a commercial producer in Moscow.
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"I figured it was about time to stop being a debutante, but
where to stop? It had to be the highest point, the Opera Ball,"
she told Reuters during a get-together at a vineyard in the
The tradition so admired by viewers from afar is not universally
appreciated in Vienna. In past years, it has attracted large
protests against its perceived decadence, as well as against
some of the guests.
But much of the protesters' attention has switched to the
so-called Academics' Ball organised by the far-right Freedom Party (FPOe).
Opera Ball organiser Desiree Treichl-Stuergkh said she had hired
some former Opera Ball protesters as DJs as part of a careful
Treichl-Stuergkh said she was careful to maintain traditions
treasured by guests able to afford prices that range from 250 euros
($340) for a regular ticket to 1,850 euros for a box - and that's
before even a single glass of champagne.
She said the event was still a rite of passage for modern
debutantes, even if it is no longer the formal entree into society
it once was.
"Today a young girl of 18 has done almost everything," she said,
"apart from opening the Opera Ball."
(Additional reporting by Derek Brooks;
Editing by Michael Roddy and Tom Heneghan)
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