Russian embassy makes up for lost time with the Opera Ball, its dazzling entry onto D.C. social scene
The social Cold War is over: The Russians have finally arrived as major Embassy Row players.
For years they sat on the sidelines as the A-list embassies (France, Britain, Italy) played host to the splashiest Washington parties. So Friday's Opera Ball -- the first ever held at the Russian Embassy -- was a spectacular coming-out for Ambassador Sergey Kislyak and his country.
"I sincerely believe that one of the biggest problems in our relations are misconceptions about each other," he told us. "Culture is by far the best tool to bring people together." Plus, he added, "I adore opera."
The forbidding white building on Wisconsin Avenue NW was transformed into an extravagant Russian tour for 650 guests, who entered through a mock winter forest, with giant photos of historic Russian landmarks projected on the exterior. In the courtyard, ballerinas danced under a gorgeous fake snowfall; inside, a replica of a Russian tea room, singers from the Bolshoi, a chilly room featuring nine-foot-tall ice sculptures and long lines for the icy buffets laden with vodka and Beluga caviar.
Also: 300 miniature cakes resembling Fabergé eggs (that no one could bear to cut into).
Jaws dropped. "Anything that can put a room of jaded Washingtonians into stunned and impressed silence is fantastic," said venture capitalist Jonathan Silver. Over the top? Sure! "Reminds me of Dostoevsky," said Rep. Norman Dicks. "It's one of the most extraordinary parties I've ever seen in Washington -- or anywhere," said Lucky Roosevelt. Ball chair Susan Lehrman (whose husband's family co-founded the Giant Food chain) spent 10 months planning the party, which raised $1.5 million for the opera, but wouldn't tell us how much she spent single-handedly underwriting it -- clearly, though, a lot of rubles.
The Reliable Source
May 23, 2010; 11:59 PM ET
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