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Russian embassy makes up for lost time with the Opera Ball, its dazzling entry onto D.C. social scene

Russia's great social thaw began with the vodka-and-caviar ice room. (Photo by for the Washington National Opera)

The social Cold War is over: The Russians have finally arrived as major Embassy Row players.

Ball chair Susan Lehrman draws a ticket for a door prize from a costumed opera extra as Washington National Opera president Ken Feinberg and Russian Ambassdor Sergey Kislyak look on. (Photo by Russell Hirshon for the Washington National Opera.)

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."

No, really, you can eat them! The miniature cakes that NYC pastry star Sylvia Weinstock crafted like Faberge eggs. (Photo by Russell Hirshon for the Washington National 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.

Guests line up for vodka and Beluga caviar in the ice room (Photo by Russell Hirshon for the Washington National Opera.)

By The Reliable Source  |  May 23, 2010; 11:59 PM ET
Categories:  Parties  
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Not to mention a delightful dinner conversation at the German Embassy. Best to your family and the fun.

Posted by: ChrisW1958 | May 24, 2010 6:30 AM | Report abuse

OMG - what amazing photos! Wish there could be more. But I did laugh at the opera costumed extra picking his nose....out there for all his friends to see!

Posted by: lydandy | May 24, 2010 9:10 AM | Report abuse

That caviar room is really pretty cool.
I guess no one offered Carol Joynt or her new best friends the Salahis a free ticket to this event. So, once again, an open bar tab trumps the major gala of the season in The New York Social Diary.

I went on her site to see if there were more pictures of this party but instead found photos of some strip mall bar opening. Oh, and of course, Tareq and Michale, Joynts's BFF.

News Alert! Oliver Stone appears to be slumming!

Posted by: ManOpener | May 24, 2010 2:00 PM | Report abuse

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