Scene Last Night: Fred Iseman, White Nights Toast Anna Karenina

Marrinsky Ballet
Valery Gergiev, artistic director and general director of the Mariinsky Theatre, toasting with Elit vodka. Photographer: Amanda Gordon/Bloomberg

After Anna Karenina committed suicide by train at the Metropolitan Opera, Frederick Iseman took to a smaller stage at New York’s Mandarin Oriental.

The Mariinsky Ballet, back in town after a strange hiatus of 11 years, drew a sold-out house with lots of sad-eyed folks standing outside looking for a ticket to Alexei Ratmansky’s production of “Anna Karenina.”

Afterwards, special (and remarkably heat-resistant) patrons revived themselves with chilled pea soup at the Mandarin a few blocks away.

Iseman, the chairman and CEO of CI Capital Partners LLC, hosted the dinner, which benefited the White Nights Foundation, the U.S. fund-raising arm of St. Petersburg’s Mariinsky Theatre.

A dance and opera buff (he paid for “The Nose” last season at the Met), Iseman was the foundation’s 2011 gala chairman.

“One of the most interesting things is to go backstage during a performance, and also to watch rehearsals,” Iseman said. “You feel like nothing after you’ve seen that.”

The Kirov

Later, the guests heard from Valery Gergiev, the Mariinsky’s globetrotting insomniac and leader, who conducted the score by Rodion Shchedrin, a popular composer of Russia’s darker days, when the ballet was still named after the mass-murdering Kirov.

Everyone seemed to adore the fancy settings by Mikael Melbye, which included a rail car on a turntable stage and an enthusiastic fog machine.

Diana Vishneva danced Anna Karenina with an unexpected stage lover: Yuri Smekalov replaced Konstantin Zverev as Vronsky.

For the party, Vishneva exchanged her death-scene blue frock for a long white cotton dress with gray ribbons and painted flowers.

Selwa “Lucky” Roosevelt, a former U.S. chief of protocol and an early supporter of Gergiev, called the performance “mesmerizing.” The director of “Black Swan,” Darren Aronofsky, said the dancing was “bold.”

Other guests included Mortimer Zuckerman, chairman and chief executive officer of Boston Properties Inc., and Lally Weymouth, senior associate editor at the Washington Post.

The White Nights Foundation raises $1 million to $2 million annually to support the Mariinsky Theatre and Gergiev’s tours of the U.S., said Peter Anthony Lusk, a retired investment banker and treasurer of the foundation. Last night’s dinner raised $450,000.

The Mariinsky Ballet will give seven more performances this week at the Metropolitan Opera House as part of the Lincoln Center Festival

(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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