Five years and four days after the collapse of Lehman Brothers, the New York City Ballet Fall Gala was a glittering jumble of celebrity (Drew Barrymore, 50 Cent), finery (Chanel, Jar), and economic commentary (Wilbur Ross et alia).
“People are ready to spend money -- they certainly spent a lot at Barneys,” said hedge-fund manager Richard Perry, chairman of Barneys New York, who stood with 850 other guests Thursday night under red and blue hot-air balloons filled with helium and anchored by ropes on the promenade of the David H. Koch Theater. The baskets were filled with red roses.
“I think most people here are pretty well insulated from the economy,” said Wilbur Ross, founder of WL Ross & Co.
Nearby were Emily Blavatnik, whose husband, Len Blavatnik, increased his estimated net worth by $32.6 million Thursday, according to the Bloomberg Billionaire Index, and Bob Diamond, the former Barclays PLC (BARC) chief executive officer who left after the company admitted to manipulating the London interbank offered rate, or Libor, and agreed to pay record fines.
Philip Falcone, whose bankrupt company LightSquared Inc. faces a fight over how to sell its assets, sat with his wife, Lisa Maria Falcone, a board member of the New York City Ballet, and diva Anna Netrebko, who on Monday performed a private concert at the home of Blackstone Group LP (BX) CEO Steve Schwarzman.
“My home is more beautiful; it’s simple,” Netrebko said, seated at her mirror-topped gala table, all the better for reflection. Among the 10 dishes served family-style were shaved black kale, artichoke farrotto, late-summer cavatelli, Arctic char and roast chicken breast.
“The economy will stumble along, probably a little better with the continuation of bond buying,” Ross said. “But in the longer term, I think that’s creating a gigantic problem.”
The New York City Ballet did OK, raising $2.4 million. “Definitely when the 2008 crash happened, everybody saw a dip, and it does seem to be coming back,” said Kathy Brown, the company’s executive director. She attributed the gala’s success to its chairmen. They included Ronald N. Beck, a managing director at Oaktree Capital Management LP, and Darren Walker, president of the Ford Foundation.
“The parties are fine because there’s a whole new group of people who ended up making money out of the crash,” said Alexandra Lebenthal, who said that she’d seen former secretaries of the U.S. Treasury Tim Geithner and Hank Paulson dining at the Loews Regency temporary power-breakfast spot at Park Avenue Summer on Tuesday, where an omelet costs $25 and steel cut oatmeal is $14 (the Loews Regency, under renovation, will re-open Jan. 16, 2014).
“See this ticker,” said Benjamin Millepied, the incoming director of the Paris Opera Ballet, showing a screen on his mobile phone. “I did well on this one today. Don’t write it down!”
Millepied said he likes trading: “I’m intrigued by the psychology, the way people react to the market. There’s a rhythm to it, as with music. I have a friend who is a composer who used to run a currency hedge fund.”
Millepied choreographed “Neverwhere,” with costumes by Iris Van Herpen made of pieces of black acrylic sheet. The material, in petal-like skirts and leg warmer/boots on the women, shimmered. As the dancers moved, the audience could hear the costumes ruffling under Nico Muhly’s music for viola and piano.
Olivier Theyskens designed white muslin dresses with different red marks on the back for Angelin Preljocaj’s “Spectral Evidence.” The music by John Cage was harsh, as were the movements. The ballet had a story line of the Salem witch trial.
“I thought the stagecraft was brilliant,” Ross said, “simulating the burning at the stake and then putting them in the coffin, that was spectacular.”
“It was so cool and creepy,” said novelist Jill Kargman.
The third world premiere was “Capricious Maneuvers,” choreographed by Justin Peck with costumes by Prabal Gurung, including harnesses for the men.
Sarah Jessica Parker, a New York City Ballet board member, came up with the idea to bring in fashion designers to collaborate with choreographers for the gala, starting last year. She wore a Gurung bustier and Theyskens skirt.
“Fashion elevates the energy,” said Lizzie Tisch.
(Amanda Gordon is a writer and photographer for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. Any opinions expressed are their own.)
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