"Everything waltzes!" - everything like before? Not quite. On Thursday evening, 5,000 guests celebrated a lavish party to the rhythm of the waltz at the Vienna Opera Ball. The top social event in the Alpine republic was canceled twice due to the corona pandemic. Now prominent and less prominent visitors crowded back into the State Opera, which had been converted into a ballroom.
What was new was that this time part of the proceeds will be donated to social causes. The State Opera expects several hundred thousand euros for people in need. But that didn't stop the Communist Youth of Austria from demonstrating in the vicinity of the State Opera under the militant motto "Eat the Rich!" to demonstrate. But everything remained peaceful.
Hollywood star Jane Fonda as a guest
As always, among the guests was the Austrian entrepreneur and socialite Richard "Mörtel" Lugner with his star guest Jane Fonda. The 85-year-old two-time Oscar winner – she received an unknown but proud sum for her one-and-a-half-day appearance alongside Lugner – wore a long-sleeved white dress with cream-colored floral ornaments during her guest appearance in the 90-year-old's box.
After initial skepticism, she was impressed by what was happening on the floor. "That kind of dancing doesn't exist in my country," she said. "I love it," she told the German Press Agency. In the ORF she said that she actually intended to appear in trousers because she had expected an opera instead of a ball. So she had to borrow her white robe. "I'm Cinderella," she joked. "By midnight everything is gone: my dress, my jewellery".
Protest banner: "You dance, we burn"
After the festive entry of 144 young couples to a polonaise by Frédéric Chopin, the American applauded, obviously very enthusiastic about the opulent picture, which is reminiscent of old imperial times. Later, the Hollywood icon warmly hugged a young couple with Down syndrome who had helped move in. After about three hours at the opera it was over. In the flashbulbs of the photographers, the 85-year-old left the box around midnight immediately after the end of her contract with Lugner.
The climate activist Fonda had already made it clear the day before that she understood all the protests of the younger generation very well. In any case, a like-minded person - the Austrian climate activist Lena Schilling - used the red carpet in front of the opera for a political statement. Dressed in evening robes and tails, she and a companion held a banner with the inscription "You dance, we burn" into the cameras.
Linder does not drink alcohol at the ball
The event is considered the social highlight of the ball season in Vienna. The appointment was mandatory for Federal President Alexander Van der Bellen and Chancellor Karl Nehammer, but according to her husband, Chancellor's wife Katharina preferred a date for the start of construction of a water pipeline in Tanzania that she was supporting.
The German finance minister Christian Lindner (FDP) was one of the prominent guests. He had been invited by his Austrian colleague Magnus Brunner. "People have fun. And especially after the pandemic, what counts is that you come together and celebrate freedom," said Lindner on ORF. According to the FDP politician, he did not drink alcohol at the ball because he was fasting. "So I'm the cheapest possible guest for the Austrian Minister of Finance."
Vienna Opera Ball also as a charity event
Also present were the US actor Chris Noth ("Sex and the City") and the Austrian actor Felix Kammerer, leading actor in the Oscar-nominated World War II drama "Nothing New in the West". Physics Nobel Prize winner Anton Zeilinger watched the opening from the President's box.
The most expensive box at the Opera Ball costs 23,600 euros and can accommodate six to eight guests. For the 65th Vienna Opera Ball, the admission prices for the normal running ticket have been increased from 315 to 350 euros. The difference - as well as part of the prices for food and drinks - are to be donated. On top of that, the painter Georg Baselitz created a work for this charitable purpose on behalf of the State Opera, which is to be auctioned for at least 150,000 euros on February 22nd.
Vienna is a ball capital. The Chamber of Commerce expected a new record of 550,000 tickets sold for around 450 balls this season. Sales should be up to 170 million euros.