A NYC Tradition Benefits Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center

By Elizabeth Darwen

It was a night to remember. The Viennese Opera Ball was back in the most stylish and sophisticated way in 2022. Filled with beautiful dance performances, fine dining, exquisite clothing, and stunning singing there was no other way to describe it other than magical. The night of pure bliss transcended the great island of Manhattan to a refined and beautiful moment that it had not witnessed in a few years.

Back in a grand way this spring after a long-overdrawn hiatus, the oldest and most prestigious gala outside of Vienna held its annual celebration for the 66th year at Cipriani 42nd Street in New York City under the auspices of the U.S. Austrian Chamber of Commerce.  

The gala benefited the music therapy program at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center with support from Gabrielle’s Angel Foundation for Cancer Research. The Gala chair for the evening was philanthropist Jean Shafiroff. The vice chairs were Sylvia Hemingway and Peter Thomas Roth. A special thank you goes to Ernst Woller, President of the Vienna Provincial Parliament, and the continuous support of the City of Vienna.  

Top opera stars Carolina López Moreno, Iurii Samoilov, Johanna Will, Matthew White, and Donata D’Annunzio Lombardi performed at the 66th Viennese Opera Ball. Iurii Samoilov also performed a moving tribute to his homeland Ukraine, singing a folk song to remind guests of the terrible situation in Ukraine, the importance of remembering what is going on in that part of the world, and to help raise funds during the evening. Conductor Vinicius Kattah led the Viennese Opera Ball Orchestra.  

Notable attendees danced the night away in between a dinner seating, opera performances, and royal and delicate dance numbers that simply took the audiences breath away. Guests included President of the Viennese Opera Ball Silvia Frieser, event chair and philanthropist Jean Shafiroff, Artistic Director of the Viennese Opera Ball Daniel Serafin, President of the Vienna Provincial Parliament Ernst Woller, Peter Thomas Roth, Martin Shafiroff, Winemaker Leo Hillinger, owner of A.E. Köchert Jewelers Wolfgang Koechert, Iurii Samoilov, Carolina López Moreno, Lilah Ramzi of Vogue Magazine, Emily Mohr, Cole Rumbough, Patricia Shiah, Mrs. Brookfield, Ana Stone, Scott Stone, Consuelo Vanderbilt Costin, Maria Fishel, Kenneth Fishel, Maribel Lieberman, Nicole Salmasi, Alice Lutz, Annabel Oreste.  

The evening started with delightful VIP cocktail hour followed by the formal presentation. Guests continuously looked around the room at the stunning gowns and grand suits that were refreshing to witness after being put in closets for so long due to the extended pause of the pandemic. The look was gorgeous. It was a fashion show for the senses that sang out and received high applause from all in the grand hall of Cipriani.

Just as in Europe, the celebration commenced with their Debutantes. The theme of this year’s ball was A Night of Love, with the goal of sending peace and love to their guests and the world, as well as celebrating the love and friendship of Austrian-American friends and connections. Royal Flowers, in collaboration with Luz Flora, donated 20,000 red roses to emphasize the night’s theme. A donation table was set up to collect funds for Caritas Ukraine.

For the first time, the Viennese Opera Ball had a new Austrian wine sponsor, Leo Hillinger Wine. Winemaker Leo Hillinger was also present at the ball. Another event sponsor was Austria,s oldest jewelry designer, A.E. Köchert, and owner Mr. Wolfgang Koechert, who presented the magnificent diamond SiSi star brooch at the live auction.  

Here is to more of the beautiful tradition continuing in the future.  

For more information on the Viennese Opera Ball, visit