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Divas Till Dawn * Norwegian Import * Tails of Mikimoto
On Monday night, the Metropolitan Opera presented its wonderful new production of Berlioz’s “Les Troyens,” the epic tale of the fall of Troy and the Trojans at Carthage based on the second and fourth books of Virgil’s classic, “The Aeneid.” Leading the parade of fashionable ladies who help to make this production possible were Cécile Zilkha in a gold brocade jacket over a ruffled black skirt cascading to the floor; Jayne Wrightsman in a black velvet evening coat with exaggerated cuffs embroidered with black jet beads and diamonds falling from her ears; the ever elegant Mercedes Bass in a black velvet column with a black satin bow at the waist and major sapphire earrings and a pin the size of the Trojan horse on the stage, and Bessie de Cuevas of the Rockefeller de Cuevases in black with a silver belt under a beautifully cut ruffled jacket.
“Les Troyens” was done in three acts over five hours. About as long as the Trojan War — but wonderful. During the intermission, there was a supper organized by the Opera Guild, which raised a significant amount of money to keep the singers singing. The chorus, over 100 strong, was in top form and thrilling from start to finish. The opera contains a considerable amount of inventive choreography, not the least of which involved a couple of dancers suspended from the ceiling of the great stage. The orchestra, with James Levine conducting, was splendid, not only while accompanying the singers but during extended musical intervals, as well. The two doomed leading ladies, who both die at their own hands, were nothing short of dazzling. Deborah Voigt, a staple of several Met productions including “Elektra” and “Aida,” dies at the end of the first act. Her appearance was memorable, but Lorraine Hunt Lieberson as Dido, Queen of Carthage, stole the night with her compelling singing and acting. She made her Met debut in 1999 in “The Great Gatsby,” but many saw this as her star-making performance that few will ever forget. Lieberson reminded one of a young Maria Callas and hers is going to be a career to watch and savor.
This modern production by Francesca Zambello, with a set design by Maria Bjornson and costumes by Anita Yavich, both making their Met debuts, was welcomed by the audience — well, most of it — with a standing ovation. Bravo, brava, bravi!
Princess Martha Louise of Norway, the only daughter of King Harald and Queen Sonja, has made it perfectly clear that she and her husband, Ari Behn, one of Norway’s most controversial — make that, notorious — writers and, before he met Martha (we hope), one of its biggest playboys, are moving to New York in the autumn. The two were married last May in one of those fairy-tale weddings held in the legendary Viking capital city of Trondheim and are expecting their first child in April. They spent their honeymoon in New York and decided it would be the perfect place to raise their children. “I have never seen so many baby carriages anywhere,” says the princess. “In Manhattan, a child is not a hindrance. There is hardly a place in the world where babies can have such a sophisticated life as on the Upper East Side with a view of Central Park.” And maybe Princess Martha will be looking for a job here, as she surprised her country last year when she gave up her title, HRH, and her royal allowance. She is a trained physiotherapist and was a big success reading children’s stories on Norwegian television. There will always be room for another princess or two on Fifth Avenue. Just ask the realtors.
As you may have already heard, Karen LeFrak’s beautiful snow white five-year-old Standard poodle, named Mikimoto — after the pearls? — won first place in the nonsporting group at Westminster on Monday night. By the time you read this, he may have walked away with Best in Show. It’s no surprise that she is joining Cornelia Guest, who has 12 dogs and two horses; Lauren Bush, who rescued her dog Angel from a shelter, and noted animal lover Susan Lucci in supporting the black-tie dinner-dance Tails & Tiaras, set for Doubles on March 6. The evening, chaired by Mario Buatta, Wendy Carduner, Karen Clark, Tina Flaherty and Carroll Petrie, will benefit the Animal Medical Center’s Cancer Care Unit, which has formed an alliance with researchers at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center.
The committee, which will start the bidding on such auction items as a leather doggy bag from Cece Cord’s line, Travels with Tiger, and a pet portrait by Constance Coleman, includes such pedigree lovers as Charlotte Ford, Coco and Arie Kopelman, Susan Lucci, Betty and Virgil Sherrill, Allison Stern and Muffie Potter Aston. Not a stray among them.
You read here that Patricia Kluge was about to make her debut on the international wine scene and so she has, celebrating the opening of her Kluge Estates Winery and Vineyard at a sparkling luncheon at the Four Seasons. If you go by her friend Al Gore, Pat’s venture should be an unbridled success. At the luncheon, he all but bubbled over with rave reviews. Along with an A-list of important wine writers, Pat’s family, including her husband, Bill Moses, and her young son, John Kluge Jr., were there to celebrate in a room decorated by florist Olivier Giugni of L’Olivier to resemble Pat’s magnificent private country estate, Albemarle House, near Charlottesville, Va. Guests entered through wrought-iron gates hung with bunches of grapes and the tables were set behind a topiary privet hedge. Her consultant wine maker, the famous Michel Rolland, introduced the Kluge Estate New World Red 2001, describing it as set to become one of America’s most exclusive wines. There was a rousing round of applause.
And that’s not all. This month, Patricia will open her Kluge Estate Farm Shop, where such treats as pastry prepared by chef Serge Torres will be on sale. The shop was designed by David Easton, who also designed Albemarle House — all 50 rooms of it.
Lydia Hearst of the Hearst Hearsts and 19-year-old Annenberg heir Oliver Hammond have been going out in New York for the past month since they met last summer in the Hamptons. The Hearsts and the Hammonds are good friends and their combined family fortune is more than $6 billion. The darling teenagers were at the DIFFA benefit in the Hammerstein Ballroom, as cuddly as can be.