Vienna Orchestra Sets the Mood for A Glittering Night Of Formal Society

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Vienna Orchestra Sets the Mood for A Glittering Night Of Formal Society

Dressing up in black tails or a gown, waltzing to the strains of the Vienna Opera Ball Orchestra, sipping on wine while celebrating with a group that includes the ambassador of Austria - this is not a normal night for most twentysomething Koreans.

After a five-year absence, the Vienna Orchestra is returning to Korea for the sixth Vienna Opera Ball in Korea. On Saturday night, 32 Korean young people dressed to the nines will promenade around the Grand Ballroom at Hilton hotel, bow, and start the ball with an opening waltz. The dancing will end at 3 a.m., and Viennese dancers and opera singers will also perform.

"This kind of party is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity," said Choi Won-ho, as he practises his steps. "From a Korean view, this type of event is different."

Some of the dancers are college students, some are working professionals, but none are married. After all, if they were in Austria, the ball would be a way of introducing them to society as eligible bachelors or young ladies.

The tradition of the ball dates back to the 19th century when the young emperor, Franz Joseph, began a series of far-reaching changes to the architecture of Vienna. Among the city-wide alterations, he ordered the construction of a new Court Opera House. The balls held there became a mixture of state ceremony, elegant party, and an occasion for debutantes - 1,000 of them, in their teen years - to be introduced to society. The ball is now recreated around the world.

The Austrian ambassador, Ewald Jaeger, whose wife was a debutante 30 years ago, emphasized that "The Opera Ball is the big social event in Austria."

According to material provided by Wilhelm Nest, Austrian commercial attache, to be selected for the ball one must be attractive, display good behavior - and be at ease with the left-turn waltz. About 30 of the 60 Korean applicants were chosen based on these qualifications, except for expertise in the waltz. Since waltzing is not common in Korea, the Korean debutante have been practicing fiercely for a month.

Present at the ball will be the Austrian business community, embassy staff, officials of the city of Vienna and Lufthansa airlines, and Korean guests, including parents and friends of the participants. Tickets are 190,000 won ($146) including a sit-down dinner. For information, call 02-317-3431 (English service available).

by Joe Yong-hee

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