Byline: Aileen Mehle

From time immemorial, or at least since there was a Metropolitan Opera, the opening of this bastion of culture and entertainment has always marked the beginning of New York’s social season. And if we ain’t cultured and social around here, who the heck is?
This opening night may be even more eventful and exciting than most, because the First Couple, Mr. and Mrs. William Jefferson Clinton, are stopping in to sit in the center of the center box whilst Denyce Graves and Placido Domingo sing their corazones out in “Carmen.” It’s not that First Couples, especially First Ladies, haven’t attended an opening night at the Met before, but this is a first time for this particular First Couple. The security, as ever, will be as stupendous as the glamour of the guest list. Why, lordy, lordy, even Cindy Crawford will be there!
To name but a few of the glitterati on hand, the women bedecked and bedizened and haute coutured to the nines, the men black-tied to within an inch of their lives (we can hope): The Hon. Rudolph Giuliani, mayor of the city, who bows to no one in his love for opera, the grander the better; Brooke Astor, New York City’s First Lady, no matter who’s in town; Mr. Treat Williams of the cinema; Barbara Walters of the airwaves; Mike Wallace, likewise; Jane Alexander, the director of the National Endowment for the Arts; Annette (Mrs. Oscar) de la Renta, decorative leader of the local social and philanthropic pack; Ambassador Walter Annenberg and his wife, Ambassador Lee Annenberg, the absolute number-one philanthropists in the country and underwriters of the premiere performance of this production of “Carmen” this past fall; Bill Blass, the fashion designer’s fashion designer; Mr. and Mrs. Gustavo Cisneros of Venezuelan billions; the president of the Metropolitan Opera Bruce Crawford and Mrs. Crawford; Mr. and Mrs. Sid Bass of Texas billions; the Hon. Schyler Chapin, New York City’s cultural commissioner and the Hon. Mr. and Mrs. Conrad Black. He is, of course, the press titan; she is, of course, the political columnist, noted for her brains and her allure.
I am not finished: Also sweeping through the Parterre will be such as the former Secretary General of the United Nations Javier Perez de Cuellar and Mrs. Perez de Cuellar; Mrs. Gilbert Humphrey, the honorary chairman of the Met; the Japanese Ambassador to the United Nations and Mrs. Hisashi Owada; investment banker and opera lover John Veronis and Mrs. Veronis; Charles Ryskamp, the brilliant, retiring head of the Frick Collection; financial titan Henry Kravis and Mrs. Kravis; Selwa (Lucky) Roosevelt, the Washington socialite who was chief of protocol during the Reagan Administration; the financier (Investcorp) Nemir Kirdar and Mrs. Kirdar; Mrs. A. Alfred Taubman, wife of the multimillionaire head of Sotheby’s and then some; Mr. and Mrs. Leon Hess (you have heard of Amerada Hess?); influential Washington lawyer and Clinton intimate Vernon Jordan and Mrs. Jordan, and Gilbert Kahn, the Annenberg heir and philanthropist.
I am still not finished: If you look around you — and when the group is not staring at the stage, they are not definitely staring at each other — you will glimpse such as big Hearst man Frank Bennack and Mrs. Bennack; Texaco chairman and ceo Peter I. Bijur and Mrs. Bijur; president and ceo of Shell Oil Philip J. Carroll and Mrs. Carroll; financier and public servant (well, he is a former Secretary of the Treasury) Nicholas Brady and Mrs. Brady; former New Jersey Governor Thomas Kean and Mrs. Kean; tycoon Leonard Stern and Mrs. Stern; Emily Fisher Landau, one of the Met’s great benefactors; the Metropolitan Opera’s chairman of the board James Kinnear and Mrs. Kinnear; Henry Kissinger, who never needs explaining, and Mrs. Kissinger; the Met’s General Manager, Joseph Volpe and Mrs. Volpe and others too pizzicato to mention.
As ever, the organizer of this dazzling evening is Mrs. Ezra (Cecile) Zilkha, the Met’s director of special events, who, as you keep reading here, could run a country. Does Bill Clinton know this?
As for Ezra Zilkha, on Oct. 8 at the French Consulate in New York he will receive the insignia of “Officier de la Legion d’Honneur” from the French Ambassador to the United States Francois Bujon de l’Estang for his meritorious efforts in fostering friendship between our country and France. Quelle honneur, and it runs in the family!
All of the above herein mentioned will give their undivided attention — do you doubt it? — to the stunning Franco Zeffirelli production detailing the life and times of the Spanish seductress who loved not wisely but too well, conducted by the eminent James Levine in the pit. Before all this there will be a cocktail reception and afterwards a festive cast supper on the Grand Tier Promenade provided by Glorious Food. By that time it is safe to say that the attending swells will be more than ready for hors d’oeuvres varies, paella and chocolate souffle cake with mango sorbet and pistachio ice cream, no? Bill Tansey will cover the supper tables in black and white Toile de Jouy and center them with topiary umbrellas of seasonal greens and hydrangeas with a base of terra-cotta, garnet and pink dahlias. Pretty.
Perhaps after reading this particularly vivid description of the evening, the thought may have crossed your mind that, knowing all, you can just as easily sit at home with a recording of “Carmen” on the hi-fi and a bottle of vino. WHAT, AND GIVE UP SHOWBIZ?

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