The Viennese Opera Ball in New York is an annual society ball that has taken place in New York City each year since 1956. The opening performances of the ball normally comprise four main elements: a presentation of female debutantes and their male partners (generally these participants are ages 16-25), a waltz routine by a troupe of young ballroom dancers (males and females ages 18-30), professional ballet soloists, and professional opera singers. After the opening performances, a live orchestra plays ballroom music while guests dance for the rest of the night (typically music for waltz, tango, swing, etc), and a multi-course dinner is also served.
The Viennese Opera Ball in New York takes its inspiration from the famous Vienna Opera Ball in Austria, but it is an American charity, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, and not administratively tied to the Vienna Opera Ball. For the 2005 and 2006 balls, the beneficiary was Special Olympics, and so Eunice Kennedy Shriver (founder of Special Olympics) attended the 2005 ball and delivered a speech. The MC for the 2006 ball was Ann Curry of NBC's Today show and Dateline. In 2007, Sarah Ferguson, Duchess of York, joined Ann Curry as the co-MC, and the beneficiary was SOS Children's Villages.
The ball normally takes place in late January at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in Manhattan and runs for eight hours straight (8pm-4am). The first 5 hours are devoted to the ball itself, with performances, dinner, dancing, and a midnight quadrille in which anyone from the audience may participate. The latter 3 hours are for the Tanz Bar, an after party were guests can mingle in 3 separate rooms: one entirely devoted to a traditional Viennese dessert bar; a second to live jazz & ballroom music; the third for dancing to a DJ spinning the latest pop and dance tunes. It is considered one of the few 'white-tie' balls still in existence, i.e. the gentlemen come attired in white tie and tailcoats and the ladies wear long floor-length ball gowns and opera gloves.
Debutantes and their male partners (called escorts) rehearse for one week prior to the ball, and they are generally selected by recommendation from Committee members each year. The waltz troupe rehearses for three months prior to the ball, and they are selected from a dance audition held by the Choreographer each year. Opera singers are hired from the Metropolitan Opera, and ballet dancers are flown over from Vienna. The debutante procession is typically led by either the reigning Miss USA or the reigning Miss Universe.
Each year there is a different theme-- in 2005, it was the 'Golden Jubilee' (in honor of the ball's 50th anniversary) and in 2006, it was 'Mozart' (as the night of the ball fell on what would have been Mozart's 250th birthday). In January 2007, the underlying theme for the 52nd annual ball was "Cinderella", complete with a ballet following the story of Cinderella and her night at "the ball" with Prince Charming.