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The Metropolitan Opera celebrated opening night in the usual splendor: boxes and parterres filled with swells dressed swell and sparkling with jewels. One can only thank heaven for this elegant evening, a beacon in a melee of “social events,” trashy openings and tacky parties in questionable venues filled with dubious “celebs” dressed à la thug and thugess. Help! (Of course, this excludes the lovely folk at Fashion Week and the Emmys, where everyone looked at least showered.)
Among the perfumed pack invading the Met were Kofi Annan, the Secretary General of the United Nations, there with Mrs. Annan. He almost took the play away from the dazzlers on the Met’s stage, surrounded and peppered with questions. (Quo vadis, Security Council?) Annan gets high marks for graciousness. After all, there’s only so much you can show and tell.
Everyone thought “Oh my, aren’t the singing stars Mirella Freni and Placido Domingo brilliant tonight?” Placido sang in every stage act from three operas — “Fedora” (with Freni), “Samson et Dalila” and “Otello” (with Renee Fleming). The artists joined the guests, that is the guests who paid $2,500 each for the reception, performance and black-tie cast supper on the Vilar Grand Tier. There to sup, 600 strong on lobster with Louis sauce, veal scallopini with prosciutto and three berry cake with ginger ice cream — all purveyed by Glorious Food — on tables covered with fuchsia- and mango-striped organza, centered with French hurricane lamps and surrounded by a wreath of red, coral and terra-cotta roses — all purveyed by Bill Tansey Designs.
Cécile Zilkha is the special events chairman of the Met and the dynamo who masterminds opening night and all those glamorous evenings that add so much lucre to the Met’s coffers. Cécile, floating in a black chiffon and organza skirt with feathers and paillettes, may be one of the world’s greatest greeters, and herewith just some of the guests she greeted on the first night of the Met 2002-2003 seasons: the French Ambassador François Bujon de l’Estang and Mrs. Bujon de l’Estang, our Ambassador to the United Nations and Mrs. John Negroponte, Ambassador Wolfgang Ischinger and Mrs. Jutta Falke Ischinger, Cardinal Edward Egan, Lee (Mrs. Walter) Annenberg, Lauren and John Veronis, Princess Firyal of Jordan and Lionel Pincus, Richard Gilder, Marie Josée and Henry Kravis, Lord and Lady Black, Allison and Leonard Stern, Mercedes and Sid Bass, Luella and Frank Bennack, Annette and Oscar de la Renta, the Nicholas Bradys, the Hon. Thomas Kean, Anna Moffo, Nancy Kissinger, Lucky Roosevelt, Beverly Sills, Rise Stevens and last but not least, her proud husband, Ezra Zilkha.
When she was finished with them, she greeted such top brass as the chairman of Lincoln Center Bruce Crawford and Mrs. Crawford, Met President Paul Montrose and Mrs. Montrose, and Met General Manager Joseph Volpe and Mrs. Volpe. Brava, Bravissima. The opening night performance was underwritten by the William T. Morris Foundation and Deutsche Bank underwrote the gala for the second year.
Those who loved and miss Princess Margaret will have a chance to buy a memento from her married life. Her ex-husband Lord Snowden is having a little sale with the blessings of their children, Viscount Linley and Lady Sarah Chatto, at Sotheby’s in London Sept. 30. Snowden’s country estate in Sussex called “Old House” was sold this summer for almost $2 million. You should know that his grandmother created the house by putting three cottages together, in the Jacobean style, and that his uncle, the wonderful designer Oliver Messel — who told me what color to paint my living room ceiling and helped mix the paint himself — left it to him two years before his wedding to Margaret in 1960. They spent a lot of time there, collecting rooms full of little treasures. Snowden, one of the world’s most recognized photographers, now says there is not enough room in his Kensington apartment for everything. All 194 lots will be on display today and tomorrow at the Olympia Exhibition Center in London. Among the things he’s parting with are lovely pieces of Georgian furniture, an oak table with Viscount Linley’s name carved on it, a croquet set and four embroidered baby caps dating from the 18th century which have been in his family for generations. The auction could bring in almost $1 million. As for the family jewels, they’ve gone back to the Tower of London.
Princess Yasmin Aga Khan will fly into New York for the Rita Hayworth Gala, called “The Lady from Shanghai” at the Waldorf Oct. 3. This will mark the 18th year Yasmin has chaired this annual celebration, which pays tribute to her mother, the eternal movie idol Rita Hayworth, while raising millions for the fight against Alzheimer’s disease, from which Hayworth suffered. Deborah Norville will be the evening’s mistress of ceremonies and philanthropist Margo Catsimatides will be honored along with Butch Trucks — love that name — the lead drummer for the Allman Brothers Band. Butch will receive a special caregivers award and he and his band will play all the live-long night.