Another Night at the Opera * Eau de Nicole * Winter Getaway

At the Metropolitan Opera’s premiere of its stylish production of Berlioz’s comedic opera, “Benvenuto Cellini” (it was part of the Met’s celebration of the 200th anniversary of the composer’s birth), the ladies took to such black finery as is their wont. Annette de la Renta wore black and dripped in giant pearls; Mercedes Kellogg wore a blush pink blouse under a perfectly cut black jacket and skirt; Cecile Zilkha was in a black evening jacket with gold beaded sleeves, and Beverly Sills appeared in a long black velvet dress covered with buttons running down the side. Henry Kissinger and John Richardson went for black, too, in smart dinner jackets.

This story first appeared in the December 10, 2003 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

After seeing this opera at Covent Garden in 1853, Queen Victoria wrote in her diary that it was “one of the most absurd and unattractive operas I suppose anyone could have composed.” That Victoria. Most of the Met’s audience found the romantic score and visually stunning production intriguing, but at almost four hours, a bit long.

How do you say save the date and stop the presses en français? The American Friends of Blerancourt want tout le monde to know that their big 2004 dinner will take place on Jan. 7 in New York at the landmark Harold Pratt House on Park Avenue, now the seat of the Council on Foreign Relations, whose ubereminent members are the crème de la crème of awesome figures and powerful types in government, politics and philanthropy.

The dinner’s guest of honor will be Paul LeClerc, the distinguished director of the New York Public Library who will be lauded for his many efforts for and writings on France, as well as his years directing the public library, hear hear!

Liz Rohatyn, chairman emeritus of the library, whose husband, Felix, of song and story, is a former ambassador to France, will be the honorary chairman and the word is that the dinner committee is “already at work.” They also hope to have a brunch off the Connecticut shore, a private visit to the library followed by cocktails and the glamorous dinner.

Continuing a tradition of fine eating, the dinner will be cooked by the famous chef Gabriel Kreuther of the restaurant Atelier at the Ritz-Carlton New York. This is the dinner the Friends have every spring — last year it was in New Orleans — and now it has evolved into a whole weekend celebration on June 6, 7 and 8.

What in the heck is Blerancourt, exactly, I can hear you asking. This chateau is the former home in France of American heiress Anne Morgan, the daughter of J.P., who worked so hard to support the French during World War II. She donated it to the French government and it is now a national museum. The Friends, founded by American Mary-Sargent “Didi” d’Anglejan, now the chairman, is spearheading the present work on the expansion and restoration of the Historical Pavilion, which they plan to open in 2006.

Has Karl Lagerfeld heard that Nicole Kidman, who is set to be the new face of Chanel No.5, makes her own perfume in her spare time? Did anyone know that Nicole has spare time? She was in town last night for the premiere of her new film, “Cold Mountain,” but aside from that, has been busy in the kitchen mixing up batches of fragrant oils of exotic flowers and pouring them into pretty bottles for Christmas presents for her close friends. She’s even taking requests if you can believe it.

“I’m very big on smells,” she says. “I made a perfume for Queen Latifah because she said she loved how I smell, so I made up my oils and sent them to her.”

She’s also busy making plans for her parents’ 40th anniversary party this holiday season in Australia, as you read this. She says she cooks, cleans and once learned to give massages. “I’m actually a very good masseuse. I learned when I was 17 as a backup plan in case the acting failed.”

You will be thrilled to hear she’s studying Italian and even claims to be considering going back to school to become a doctor, lawyer, or philosopher if her film roles dry up. I wouldn’t count on it, dearie.

Meanwhile she and Lenny Kravitz are busy backtracking on reports they are making marriage plans. He says it’s not happening and Nicole wishes that her ex-husband, Tom Cruise, would keep his mouth shut about it. She doesn’t want another relationship played out in the public arena. Speaking of Tom’s recent comments on Larry King, she says, “I don’t talk about it. I wish he didn’t, but he does.” Tom also is talking about wanting to buy a house and move to London with his love, Penélope Cruz. He even has discussed the possibility of sending his and Nicole’s two children to school there. Only time will tell.

’Tis the season for escaping the cold reality of winter and jumping on the jet or the yacht and heading for the beautiful resort of Casa de Campo in the Dominican Republic. Once again the sun and the sea, the marina and the restaurants on the piazza and Pete Dye’s newest 18-hole golf course are luring a mishmash of glamorous guests. Kicking off this year’s festivities is the annual Fanjul family charity auction benefiting New Hope Charities held at the Fanjuls’ beachside villa, Casa Grande. The party, which attracts more than 500 people, will be sponsored by Cartier USA. The live auction will be conducted by George Hamilton, who will be soaking up the sun at this paradise retreat in the exclusive resort. Let’s hope he leaves some of the rays for somebody else. Planning to enjoy the breezes and the villas around Casa de Campo will be Deborah Norville and Karl Wellner, Arianna and Dixon Boardman, Serena Boardman, Wendy Vanderbilt and Dr. Frank Petito, Dina Merrill, billionaire shopping tycoon Mel Simon and his wife, Bren, as well as George and Carol McFadden, who will be hosting a post-New Year’s birthday bash at the new marina’s elegant Yacht Club. Other guests include Madrid’s grande dame, Maritine March, who will spend this yearly getaway at her beachfront haunt; Spanish banker Alfonso Fierro, his wife, Marita, and those three chic sisters from Portugal, Claudine Periera, Nadine Bolander and Barbara the Marquesa de Paul, all of whom have rented houses with their families. Coming all the way from London will be that ever-elegant couple, Dru and Minnie Montagu, who will entertain a full house, and the lovely Marina Livanos. Patty and Gustavo Cisneros also will be entertaining a group of family and friends at their beautiful compound, Casa Bonita. Who’s left?

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