Ravens flying through a winter backdrop transported operagoers into Tchaikovsky’s very Russian story of fiery, futile love, “Eugene Onegin,” in a new production that opened the season at the Metropolitan Opera last night.
The performance, conducted by Valery Gergiev, sometimes felt as long as a flight to St. Petersburg with lots of breaks for scene changes that involved moving a chair or two.
Gala goers, who paid as much as $12,500 a ticket for show and dinner, sat down at 6:30 and stumbled out at around 11 to revive over borscht, salmon kulebiaka and miniature honey cakes in a spacious tent set up next to the Met.
Decorated with winter branches, the space could have served for a dinner party at the palace of Prince Gremin, whom Tatiana marries after Onegin departs for worldly travel.
Anna Netrebko and Mariusz Kwiecien were the stars of the evening, joined by tenor Piotr Beczala as Lenski, the poet whose duel with Onegin ends badly.
Leon Black, chairman of Apollo Global Management, spotted his wife across the room during an intermission and pronounced, “What a beautiful vision.” J. Michael Evans, a Goldman Sachs Group Inc. vice chairman, and many others looked at their wives in the same way.
Jacques Brand, chief executive officer of Deutsche Bank AG (DBK)’s North American unit, said he sends his wife love letters and poems -- and takes her to the opera on date night.
Janice Savin said she and her husband, Chris Williams, write romantic e-mails every day, creating a paper trail that once intrigued an auditor at Williams Capital Group LP, where they both work.
“He suspected there was something going on between us!” Savin said. No duel ensued.
The opera house did receive a challenge from a small group of protesters high up in the Family Circle denouncing Russian President Vladimir Putin’s anti-gay law. Metropolitan Opera security asked them and two others to leave, and they obliged, said Met Opera spokesman Sam Neuman.
“We didn’t know what to expect,” said Peter Gelb, the Met’s general manager. “A few voices can make a lot of noise. Lucky for us, they made their noise respectfully, and it didn’t disrupt the music.”
Or the dinner. Comedian Rachel Dratch sat next to television fashion expert Carson Kressley. Actress Diane Kruger sat with the designer of her dress, Prabal Gurung. William Kentridge had a spot near Netrebko, while Jeff Koons found himself in the boonies for a change.
Also spotted among the 1,120 guests were: designer Nanette Lepore, singer Patti Smith, basketball players Grant Hill and Amar’e Stoudemire, nightclub maven Amy Sacco, Willem Kooyker, chairman of Blenheim Capital Management LLC, Bruce Kovner, chairman of Caxton Alternative Management, and David H. Koch, executive vice president of Koch Industries Inc.
Frederick Iseman, chairman and CEO of CI Capital Partners LLC, said he loved hearing Netrebko in her native tongue and visited with Gergiev backstage during an intermission.
The event raised $6 million.
(Amanda Gordon is a writer and photographer for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. Any opinions expressed are her own.)
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