Korea’s very own night of ballroom magicOnce a year, during Fasching, Austria’s carnival season, the grand Vienna State Opera turns into a ballroom for hundreds of debutantes. It is one of Austria’s most celebrated events, drawing statemen, aristocrats and celebrities.
Korea has its own version of this magical night. Three years ago, Paradise Hotel Busan began hosting the Paradise Vienna Ball with the support of the Austrian Embassy. Just like the soiree in Austria, the ball in Korea includes a waltz of debutantes. Twelve couples from Busan have spent three months practicing for the opening waltz, which they will perform to the accompaniment of the Busan Philharmonic Orchestra.
The event, on Nov. 27 at the Grand Ballroom of Paradise Hotel Busan, includes a cocktail reception, a full course dinner accompanied by Austrian wines and plenty of waltzing to Strauss.
“It’s a highlight of the cultural exchanges between Korean and Austria,” says Yeo Eun-ju, a spokesperson for Paradise Hotel Busan. About 300 people, an international crowd from Seoul and Busan, are expected to attend in elegant gowns and suits.
In Korea, this event actually dates back to the 1990s; it was first hosted by the Shilla hotel.
In 2001, the Seoul Hilton, whose general manager was a German, hosted it once. The Paradise took up the mantle later that same year, in November, and carries on the tradition to this day.
The Vienna State Opera Ball is a tradition that can be traced back to 19th-century European aristocracy.
In 1854, as Emperor Franz Joseph announced plans for Vienna to be the seat of his court, he added, “The new opera house should be used for the performance of operas and ballets, as well as for the celebration of opera balls.”
The new opera house was built on the Ringstrasse between 1863 and 1869. The director of the opera, Franz von Jauner, was the host of the first Opera Ball. It soon became an extravagent creation that celebrated excess. In 1899, a masked ball, the “Opernredouten,” took place as planned in January, but the second one was not authorized because of concerns about the safety of the building.
The galas came to an end, but not permanently. At the end of World War I, although the nation was by then a republic, the people still celebrated an “Opernredouten” on Janurary 29, 1921. More than a decade passed before another opera ball was held, in January of 1935; war intervened again in 1945, when the opera house was destroyed by Allied bombing.
Reconstruction of the opera house began in 1948; it reopened on Nov. 5, 1955, with a performance of Beethoven’s “Fidelio” conducted by Karl Bohm.
In 1956, the first postwar Opera Ball launched as an international event under the patronage of the Austrian president. The newspaper Die Presse said, “Actually, the Opera Ball no longer belongs to Vienna alone but is an integral part of all Europe. It is a night which the entire world envies.”
by Joe Yonghee
For more information, call (051) 749-2223, or (051) 749-2020. Admission is 125,000 won ($117).