© Fabulorum. José Medio

Are glamour and money happy bedfellows? Does one stand alone without the other? That is certainly and sadly the case when money speaks. Not necessarily the other way around. Be that as it may, occasions of felicitous pairings can produce brilliant outcomes.

I was musing on this as I came across what I consider an instance of felicitous pairing: the 20th. century balls masqués. These parties, mostly centered on a theme, involved meticulous planning, a pinch of a performance, imaginative costumes and the collaboration of artists, designers and musicians.

Count Etienne de Beaumont was a pioneer on that front. Planner of such balls as “The Tales of Perrault”, “The Games Ball” or “The Sea Ball”, where he appeared as a devilfish or manta ray, he then became involved with the Théâtre de la Cigale. There he launched the “soirées de Paris”, avant-garde spectacles in collaboration with the likes of Derain, Picasso, Cocteau and Satie. Viscount de Noailles and his wife, Marie-Laure, patrons and leading members of Parisian society, Baron Alexis de Redé and the self- appointed Marquis of Cuevas, carried the torch of that tradition devising choreographed fantasies, one-off theatrical illusions as if the tragic memory of the Great War forced the imagination into higher flights of fancy.

Two of the last organizers of those extravaganzas, Baron Guy and Marie- Hélène de Rothschild and Carlos de Beistegui, achieved perhaps the most notoriety, as the world was gradually entering into a fascination with celebrities. Beistegui’s “Bal Oriental” in 1951 at Palazzo Labia resonated in the media and became a reference in the mythology of bals masqués. The final chapter of this tradition, “The Surrealist Bal”, given in 1971 by the Rothschilds in their Château de Ferrières, closed this legendary tradition, which has had trouble surviving in a world where glamour has failed to seduce money into more provocative arrangements.