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"A Taste of Home" Gala at Rockefeller Center



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On Monday night at Rockefeller Center, there was such a concentration of famous food stars that the square practically lit itself. The event: an annual fundraiser for the Citymeals-on-Wheels titled "A Taste of Home," where eminent chefs spent the night doling out bite-size bits of 'home-cooking,' Michelin-starred style.

Citymeals-on-Wheels is a program that works to bring meals to New York City's homebound elderly, and in the past year contributors helped to bring over 2 million meals to the elderly across every borough. This year marked the 26th anniversary of the Chefs' Tribute Event, which began as the brainchild of James Beard and Gael Greene despite Beard's passing several months before the inaugural event.

This year's gala focused on family, and quite a few restaurants were represented by several generations of chefs. The Forgiones, of Marc Forgione (NY), An American Place (St. Louis), and Society Café (Las Vegas) were present in full force, with three generations represented. I asked Marc if there was something in his family's genes that could explain such a pattern. "We're all gluttons for punishment," he said. He was handing out lush disks of buffalo tartare littered with red-veined sorrel. When prompted to name his favorite type of tartare, he refused to choose. "Fresh, that's my favorite."

Jean-Georges Vongerichten (Jean-Georges) was manning the booth with his son Cedric (Perry St.), whose upbringing must have been such that he had no choice but to go into the restaurant business. If there's anything to be gathered from the content's of Cedric's fridge, it's that he's no normal eater. "I always have Sambal olek, which is an Indonesian red chili paste," he said. "Cheeses, of course, and sea-eel. Rice, that's ready to be microwaved with the sea-eel, and chocolate." I accused him of acting like my grandmother, who keeps her Hershey's Kisses cold and waxen in the fridge. "Milk chocolate should be chilled!" he insisted.

Whether or not chefs really do have perverse tastes, or whether they love giving snippy answers to over-eager reporters is not entirely clear. Michael Paley of Proof on Main (KY) was serving roasted corn on the cob spritzed with lime and piled high with smoked aioli and Ricotta Salata. In honor of summer, I asked him his favorite vegetable. "Celery," he told me, "I love the leaves, the seeds, the stalks. Its flavor complements things, and I love surprising people." Consider myself surprised--the only positive thing I know about celery is that it supposedly delivers negative calories when all's said and crunched.

Certain chefs were apologetic about their preferences. "I like my chocolate chip cookies crunchy, and my peanut butter cookies chewy," volunteered Aureole's new pastry chef Pierre Poulin. "I'm all mixed up."

Others were not. Tony Esnault of Patina Restaurant (LA) had a wonderful rhubarb strawberry almond crumble, displayed alongside jars of vanilla beans in cream, yet his allegiances lay elsewhere. "Oh, chocolate over vanilla, always. Chocolate's an aphrodisiac," he added, as if that explained everything.

Once I had exhausted of finding out the eating habits of chefs, I moved on to bigger fish. Bill Yosses works at a little restaurant in DC called the White House, and was amiable enough to deflect questions about the Obamas. "A lot of times there's a gap between the myth and reality of the president," he said, "but in his case there is none." According to Yosses, the Obamas do eat very healthily, "He's a very disciplined man." A man who likes steak, doesn't like beets, and likes pie very much. Clearly, a man worth voting for.

As the sun set, the golden fountain glowed with colored lights. A new dance-friendly band took to the stage, and chefs began to abandon their stations and mingle in the crowd, champagne flutes in hand. "I love this event," said a woman working with an assisting catering company. "We help people in need and get amazing food while doing so? It's pretty much everything you need in life."


GALA DRESSING AT THE MET'S OPENING NIGHT

They came from all over the country and they brought all the white ties, tails, top hats, capes, furs, feathers and jewelry they could find. And even if tiaras were scarcer than Vanderbilts in the crowd of 4,000 that celebrated the Metropolitan Opera's 100th birthday, last night's opening qualified as the most glamorous that many could remember.

Rubies, not rhinestones, dangled from more than a few ears at the revival of the five-and-a-half-hour-long ''Les Troyens,'' an evening that began with a 5 oɼlock dinner for 825 opera patrons.

Indeed, diamonds, rubies and pearls were the order of the night. Leonore Annenberg wore a ruby and diamond necklace and matching earrings with her black lace and satin Bill Blass dress. Kitty Carlisle Hart wore diamonds and pearls. Roberta Peters just wore diamonds to highlight her gold lame dress. ''The Met has been my home for 33 years and I've never seen so many dressed-up people on opening night,'' she said. ''It's much nicer than jeans.''

Jeans and other kinds of casual dress were not to be seen. Many of the women who attended had their dresses made specially for the occasion by such well-known fashion designers as Adolfo, Bill Blass, Galanos, Yves Saint Laurent, Givenchy, Fabrice and Philippe Venet.

And the men who escorted them met the challenge with courage, style and wit. Robert L. B. Tobin, one of the Met's longstanding supporters, wore a white tie and a silver brocade vest.

''I haven't seen anything this grand since Callas opened in ''Norma'' at the old Met,'' he said.

Among those who dressed for the occasion were Susan Gutfreund, who swept in wearing an Ungaro silk taffeta dress and Watteau cape with black feathers in her hair Mercedes Kellogg in Givenchy Sybil Harrington in Galanos Alex Gregory Molly Rockefeller in a leopard-print chiffon dress by Mollie Parnis Jane Wrightsman, all in black Elizabeth Rohatyn in strapless satin Howard and Mary Phipps, who continually toasted the occasion during cocktails Anna Moffo and Robert Sarnoff Ris"e Stevens Joan Fontaine Nan Kempner Judy Peabody Jerry Zipkin Frederick Eberstadt, Louise Melhado, Alexandra Whitney, Michael V. Forrestal, Sally Bliss, Beatrice Guthrie, Laurinda de Roulet, Suzie Frankfurt and Peter Sharp.

But to hear those who sit in the dress circle tell it, what they wear is not half as important these days as what they dress to hear.

''I don't go to opening night to look at the people,'' said Francis Goelet, who contributed substantially to the remounting of ''Les Troyens,'' as well as to the original production 10 years ago. ''I go to look at the opera.''

In fact, music was uppermost in the minds of many, specifically the length of the opera they were going to hear. Some people even planned to leave the opera at 10:30 P.M. because of the length of ''Les Troyens.'' ''Well, you know,'' said Roberta Peters, who planned to stay, ''it's not everybody's opera.''

Still, if one listened closely to those who attended last night's affair, one could sense unabashed pleasure in participating in opening night. What emerged was a yearning for a return to the sartorial tradition of earlier times, even some of its splendor.

''There's a tradition of opera in our family,'' said Molly Rockefeller. ''My husband's mother sat in the same seat for 70 years. And I think the old feeling of opening nights is coming back. People want to dress up. And I've gotten so many compliments on my dress, I can't believe it. It's so funny leaving your apartment dressed this way.'' No Time Like the Present

Many of the out-of-towners who came for the event apparently felt that there was no time like the present to really dress. While New Yorkers and the bicoastal personalities stayed within the parameters of traditional gala taste, visitors pulled out all the stops.

Erlene Meredith of Scarsdale wore a chiffon cape trimmed with ostrich over her Michaele Vollbracht gown and basked in the light of the television camera crews as she walked in with Ris"e Stevens.

Marilyn Mennello, who came from Winter Park, Fla., for the occasion, wore a black chiffon dress and walked to her seat with Senator Paula Hawkins of Florida, who wore a Yves Saint Laurent.

And Sam McIntosh, who traveled from Charleston, S.C., did what a few men in the crowd did. He wore a black cape with a velvet collar, a white tie, white pique vest and white kid gloves.

''I've worn this at Covent Garden and everywhere,'' he said. ''My aunt used to work for Bernard Baruch and likes to see that I'm properly attired.''

One man even wore a gold medallion on a ribbon to match his red tie.

''It started out years ago as an elegant launching of the social season,'' Mr. Bliss said. ''Then, in the 1940's, it became a sort of circus. When Rudolf Bing took over, we laid less stress on the dressy aspect but when people go to an extreme of not caring about what they wear that is as bad as overdressing.''

''The opening used to be so crazy,'' recalled Margaret Kahn Ryan, the daughter of Otto Kahn, the legendary president of the Metropolitan Opera Company in the days of Caruso and Toscanini. ''People used to wear tremendous jewlery. They would look round to see what other people were wearing. And they used to drift in late to the opera itself and leave very early. The people who come now are much more serious about opera,'' she concluded.

Still, getting dressed is often more than half the fun if not most of the battle plan. And even those women who said they couldn't have cared less about what they wore took some pains with their appearance. Before dinner began Bess Myerson waited for everyone to be seated, inspected her makeup in a hand mirror, touched the back of her red silk tunic, which kept peeping open and, assured everything was in place, ascended the grand staircase.


GALA DRESSING AT THE MET'S OPENING NIGHT

They came from all over the country and they brought all the white ties, tails, top hats, capes, furs, feathers and jewelry they could find. And even if tiaras were scarcer than Vanderbilts in the crowd of 4,000 that celebrated the Metropolitan Opera's 100th birthday, last night's opening qualified as the most glamorous that many could remember.

Rubies, not rhinestones, dangled from more than a few ears at the revival of the five-and-a-half-hour-long ''Les Troyens,'' an evening that began with a 5 oɼlock dinner for 825 opera patrons.

Indeed, diamonds, rubies and pearls were the order of the night. Leonore Annenberg wore a ruby and diamond necklace and matching earrings with her black lace and satin Bill Blass dress. Kitty Carlisle Hart wore diamonds and pearls. Roberta Peters just wore diamonds to highlight her gold lame dress. ''The Met has been my home for 33 years and I've never seen so many dressed-up people on opening night,'' she said. ''It's much nicer than jeans.''

Jeans and other kinds of casual dress were not to be seen. Many of the women who attended had their dresses made specially for the occasion by such well-known fashion designers as Adolfo, Bill Blass, Galanos, Yves Saint Laurent, Givenchy, Fabrice and Philippe Venet.

And the men who escorted them met the challenge with courage, style and wit. Robert L. B. Tobin, one of the Met's longstanding supporters, wore a white tie and a silver brocade vest.

''I haven't seen anything this grand since Callas opened in ''Norma'' at the old Met,'' he said.

Among those who dressed for the occasion were Susan Gutfreund, who swept in wearing an Ungaro silk taffeta dress and Watteau cape with black feathers in her hair Mercedes Kellogg in Givenchy Sybil Harrington in Galanos Alex Gregory Molly Rockefeller in a leopard-print chiffon dress by Mollie Parnis Jane Wrightsman, all in black Elizabeth Rohatyn in strapless satin Howard and Mary Phipps, who continually toasted the occasion during cocktails Anna Moffo and Robert Sarnoff Ris"e Stevens Joan Fontaine Nan Kempner Judy Peabody Jerry Zipkin Frederick Eberstadt, Louise Melhado, Alexandra Whitney, Michael V. Forrestal, Sally Bliss, Beatrice Guthrie, Laurinda de Roulet, Suzie Frankfurt and Peter Sharp.

But to hear those who sit in the dress circle tell it, what they wear is not half as important these days as what they dress to hear.

''I don't go to opening night to look at the people,'' said Francis Goelet, who contributed substantially to the remounting of ''Les Troyens,'' as well as to the original production 10 years ago. ''I go to look at the opera.''

In fact, music was uppermost in the minds of many, specifically the length of the opera they were going to hear. Some people even planned to leave the opera at 10:30 P.M. because of the length of ''Les Troyens.'' ''Well, you know,'' said Roberta Peters, who planned to stay, ''it's not everybody's opera.''

Still, if one listened closely to those who attended last night's affair, one could sense unabashed pleasure in participating in opening night. What emerged was a yearning for a return to the sartorial tradition of earlier times, even some of its splendor.

''There's a tradition of opera in our family,'' said Molly Rockefeller. ''My husband's mother sat in the same seat for 70 years. And I think the old feeling of opening nights is coming back. People want to dress up. And I've gotten so many compliments on my dress, I can't believe it. It's so funny leaving your apartment dressed this way.'' No Time Like the Present

Many of the out-of-towners who came for the event apparently felt that there was no time like the present to really dress. While New Yorkers and the bicoastal personalities stayed within the parameters of traditional gala taste, visitors pulled out all the stops.

Erlene Meredith of Scarsdale wore a chiffon cape trimmed with ostrich over her Michaele Vollbracht gown and basked in the light of the television camera crews as she walked in with Ris"e Stevens.

Marilyn Mennello, who came from Winter Park, Fla., for the occasion, wore a black chiffon dress and walked to her seat with Senator Paula Hawkins of Florida, who wore a Yves Saint Laurent.

And Sam McIntosh, who traveled from Charleston, S.C., did what a few men in the crowd did. He wore a black cape with a velvet collar, a white tie, white pique vest and white kid gloves.

''I've worn this at Covent Garden and everywhere,'' he said. ''My aunt used to work for Bernard Baruch and likes to see that I'm properly attired.''

One man even wore a gold medallion on a ribbon to match his red tie.

''It started out years ago as an elegant launching of the social season,'' Mr. Bliss said. ''Then, in the 1940's, it became a sort of circus. When Rudolf Bing took over, we laid less stress on the dressy aspect but when people go to an extreme of not caring about what they wear that is as bad as overdressing.''

''The opening used to be so crazy,'' recalled Margaret Kahn Ryan, the daughter of Otto Kahn, the legendary president of the Metropolitan Opera Company in the days of Caruso and Toscanini. ''People used to wear tremendous jewlery. They would look round to see what other people were wearing. And they used to drift in late to the opera itself and leave very early. The people who come now are much more serious about opera,'' she concluded.

Still, getting dressed is often more than half the fun if not most of the battle plan. And even those women who said they couldn't have cared less about what they wore took some pains with their appearance. Before dinner began Bess Myerson waited for everyone to be seated, inspected her makeup in a hand mirror, touched the back of her red silk tunic, which kept peeping open and, assured everything was in place, ascended the grand staircase.


GALA DRESSING AT THE MET'S OPENING NIGHT

They came from all over the country and they brought all the white ties, tails, top hats, capes, furs, feathers and jewelry they could find. And even if tiaras were scarcer than Vanderbilts in the crowd of 4,000 that celebrated the Metropolitan Opera's 100th birthday, last night's opening qualified as the most glamorous that many could remember.

Rubies, not rhinestones, dangled from more than a few ears at the revival of the five-and-a-half-hour-long ''Les Troyens,'' an evening that began with a 5 oɼlock dinner for 825 opera patrons.

Indeed, diamonds, rubies and pearls were the order of the night. Leonore Annenberg wore a ruby and diamond necklace and matching earrings with her black lace and satin Bill Blass dress. Kitty Carlisle Hart wore diamonds and pearls. Roberta Peters just wore diamonds to highlight her gold lame dress. ''The Met has been my home for 33 years and I've never seen so many dressed-up people on opening night,'' she said. ''It's much nicer than jeans.''

Jeans and other kinds of casual dress were not to be seen. Many of the women who attended had their dresses made specially for the occasion by such well-known fashion designers as Adolfo, Bill Blass, Galanos, Yves Saint Laurent, Givenchy, Fabrice and Philippe Venet.

And the men who escorted them met the challenge with courage, style and wit. Robert L. B. Tobin, one of the Met's longstanding supporters, wore a white tie and a silver brocade vest.

''I haven't seen anything this grand since Callas opened in ''Norma'' at the old Met,'' he said.

Among those who dressed for the occasion were Susan Gutfreund, who swept in wearing an Ungaro silk taffeta dress and Watteau cape with black feathers in her hair Mercedes Kellogg in Givenchy Sybil Harrington in Galanos Alex Gregory Molly Rockefeller in a leopard-print chiffon dress by Mollie Parnis Jane Wrightsman, all in black Elizabeth Rohatyn in strapless satin Howard and Mary Phipps, who continually toasted the occasion during cocktails Anna Moffo and Robert Sarnoff Ris"e Stevens Joan Fontaine Nan Kempner Judy Peabody Jerry Zipkin Frederick Eberstadt, Louise Melhado, Alexandra Whitney, Michael V. Forrestal, Sally Bliss, Beatrice Guthrie, Laurinda de Roulet, Suzie Frankfurt and Peter Sharp.

But to hear those who sit in the dress circle tell it, what they wear is not half as important these days as what they dress to hear.

''I don't go to opening night to look at the people,'' said Francis Goelet, who contributed substantially to the remounting of ''Les Troyens,'' as well as to the original production 10 years ago. ''I go to look at the opera.''

In fact, music was uppermost in the minds of many, specifically the length of the opera they were going to hear. Some people even planned to leave the opera at 10:30 P.M. because of the length of ''Les Troyens.'' ''Well, you know,'' said Roberta Peters, who planned to stay, ''it's not everybody's opera.''

Still, if one listened closely to those who attended last night's affair, one could sense unabashed pleasure in participating in opening night. What emerged was a yearning for a return to the sartorial tradition of earlier times, even some of its splendor.

''There's a tradition of opera in our family,'' said Molly Rockefeller. ''My husband's mother sat in the same seat for 70 years. And I think the old feeling of opening nights is coming back. People want to dress up. And I've gotten so many compliments on my dress, I can't believe it. It's so funny leaving your apartment dressed this way.'' No Time Like the Present

Many of the out-of-towners who came for the event apparently felt that there was no time like the present to really dress. While New Yorkers and the bicoastal personalities stayed within the parameters of traditional gala taste, visitors pulled out all the stops.

Erlene Meredith of Scarsdale wore a chiffon cape trimmed with ostrich over her Michaele Vollbracht gown and basked in the light of the television camera crews as she walked in with Ris"e Stevens.

Marilyn Mennello, who came from Winter Park, Fla., for the occasion, wore a black chiffon dress and walked to her seat with Senator Paula Hawkins of Florida, who wore a Yves Saint Laurent.

And Sam McIntosh, who traveled from Charleston, S.C., did what a few men in the crowd did. He wore a black cape with a velvet collar, a white tie, white pique vest and white kid gloves.

''I've worn this at Covent Garden and everywhere,'' he said. ''My aunt used to work for Bernard Baruch and likes to see that I'm properly attired.''

One man even wore a gold medallion on a ribbon to match his red tie.

''It started out years ago as an elegant launching of the social season,'' Mr. Bliss said. ''Then, in the 1940's, it became a sort of circus. When Rudolf Bing took over, we laid less stress on the dressy aspect but when people go to an extreme of not caring about what they wear that is as bad as overdressing.''

''The opening used to be so crazy,'' recalled Margaret Kahn Ryan, the daughter of Otto Kahn, the legendary president of the Metropolitan Opera Company in the days of Caruso and Toscanini. ''People used to wear tremendous jewlery. They would look round to see what other people were wearing. And they used to drift in late to the opera itself and leave very early. The people who come now are much more serious about opera,'' she concluded.

Still, getting dressed is often more than half the fun if not most of the battle plan. And even those women who said they couldn't have cared less about what they wore took some pains with their appearance. Before dinner began Bess Myerson waited for everyone to be seated, inspected her makeup in a hand mirror, touched the back of her red silk tunic, which kept peeping open and, assured everything was in place, ascended the grand staircase.


GALA DRESSING AT THE MET'S OPENING NIGHT

They came from all over the country and they brought all the white ties, tails, top hats, capes, furs, feathers and jewelry they could find. And even if tiaras were scarcer than Vanderbilts in the crowd of 4,000 that celebrated the Metropolitan Opera's 100th birthday, last night's opening qualified as the most glamorous that many could remember.

Rubies, not rhinestones, dangled from more than a few ears at the revival of the five-and-a-half-hour-long ''Les Troyens,'' an evening that began with a 5 oɼlock dinner for 825 opera patrons.

Indeed, diamonds, rubies and pearls were the order of the night. Leonore Annenberg wore a ruby and diamond necklace and matching earrings with her black lace and satin Bill Blass dress. Kitty Carlisle Hart wore diamonds and pearls. Roberta Peters just wore diamonds to highlight her gold lame dress. ''The Met has been my home for 33 years and I've never seen so many dressed-up people on opening night,'' she said. ''It's much nicer than jeans.''

Jeans and other kinds of casual dress were not to be seen. Many of the women who attended had their dresses made specially for the occasion by such well-known fashion designers as Adolfo, Bill Blass, Galanos, Yves Saint Laurent, Givenchy, Fabrice and Philippe Venet.

And the men who escorted them met the challenge with courage, style and wit. Robert L. B. Tobin, one of the Met's longstanding supporters, wore a white tie and a silver brocade vest.

''I haven't seen anything this grand since Callas opened in ''Norma'' at the old Met,'' he said.

Among those who dressed for the occasion were Susan Gutfreund, who swept in wearing an Ungaro silk taffeta dress and Watteau cape with black feathers in her hair Mercedes Kellogg in Givenchy Sybil Harrington in Galanos Alex Gregory Molly Rockefeller in a leopard-print chiffon dress by Mollie Parnis Jane Wrightsman, all in black Elizabeth Rohatyn in strapless satin Howard and Mary Phipps, who continually toasted the occasion during cocktails Anna Moffo and Robert Sarnoff Ris"e Stevens Joan Fontaine Nan Kempner Judy Peabody Jerry Zipkin Frederick Eberstadt, Louise Melhado, Alexandra Whitney, Michael V. Forrestal, Sally Bliss, Beatrice Guthrie, Laurinda de Roulet, Suzie Frankfurt and Peter Sharp.

But to hear those who sit in the dress circle tell it, what they wear is not half as important these days as what they dress to hear.

''I don't go to opening night to look at the people,'' said Francis Goelet, who contributed substantially to the remounting of ''Les Troyens,'' as well as to the original production 10 years ago. ''I go to look at the opera.''

In fact, music was uppermost in the minds of many, specifically the length of the opera they were going to hear. Some people even planned to leave the opera at 10:30 P.M. because of the length of ''Les Troyens.'' ''Well, you know,'' said Roberta Peters, who planned to stay, ''it's not everybody's opera.''

Still, if one listened closely to those who attended last night's affair, one could sense unabashed pleasure in participating in opening night. What emerged was a yearning for a return to the sartorial tradition of earlier times, even some of its splendor.

''There's a tradition of opera in our family,'' said Molly Rockefeller. ''My husband's mother sat in the same seat for 70 years. And I think the old feeling of opening nights is coming back. People want to dress up. And I've gotten so many compliments on my dress, I can't believe it. It's so funny leaving your apartment dressed this way.'' No Time Like the Present

Many of the out-of-towners who came for the event apparently felt that there was no time like the present to really dress. While New Yorkers and the bicoastal personalities stayed within the parameters of traditional gala taste, visitors pulled out all the stops.

Erlene Meredith of Scarsdale wore a chiffon cape trimmed with ostrich over her Michaele Vollbracht gown and basked in the light of the television camera crews as she walked in with Ris"e Stevens.

Marilyn Mennello, who came from Winter Park, Fla., for the occasion, wore a black chiffon dress and walked to her seat with Senator Paula Hawkins of Florida, who wore a Yves Saint Laurent.

And Sam McIntosh, who traveled from Charleston, S.C., did what a few men in the crowd did. He wore a black cape with a velvet collar, a white tie, white pique vest and white kid gloves.

''I've worn this at Covent Garden and everywhere,'' he said. ''My aunt used to work for Bernard Baruch and likes to see that I'm properly attired.''

One man even wore a gold medallion on a ribbon to match his red tie.

''It started out years ago as an elegant launching of the social season,'' Mr. Bliss said. ''Then, in the 1940's, it became a sort of circus. When Rudolf Bing took over, we laid less stress on the dressy aspect but when people go to an extreme of not caring about what they wear that is as bad as overdressing.''

''The opening used to be so crazy,'' recalled Margaret Kahn Ryan, the daughter of Otto Kahn, the legendary president of the Metropolitan Opera Company in the days of Caruso and Toscanini. ''People used to wear tremendous jewlery. They would look round to see what other people were wearing. And they used to drift in late to the opera itself and leave very early. The people who come now are much more serious about opera,'' she concluded.

Still, getting dressed is often more than half the fun if not most of the battle plan. And even those women who said they couldn't have cared less about what they wore took some pains with their appearance. Before dinner began Bess Myerson waited for everyone to be seated, inspected her makeup in a hand mirror, touched the back of her red silk tunic, which kept peeping open and, assured everything was in place, ascended the grand staircase.


GALA DRESSING AT THE MET'S OPENING NIGHT

They came from all over the country and they brought all the white ties, tails, top hats, capes, furs, feathers and jewelry they could find. And even if tiaras were scarcer than Vanderbilts in the crowd of 4,000 that celebrated the Metropolitan Opera's 100th birthday, last night's opening qualified as the most glamorous that many could remember.

Rubies, not rhinestones, dangled from more than a few ears at the revival of the five-and-a-half-hour-long ''Les Troyens,'' an evening that began with a 5 oɼlock dinner for 825 opera patrons.

Indeed, diamonds, rubies and pearls were the order of the night. Leonore Annenberg wore a ruby and diamond necklace and matching earrings with her black lace and satin Bill Blass dress. Kitty Carlisle Hart wore diamonds and pearls. Roberta Peters just wore diamonds to highlight her gold lame dress. ''The Met has been my home for 33 years and I've never seen so many dressed-up people on opening night,'' she said. ''It's much nicer than jeans.''

Jeans and other kinds of casual dress were not to be seen. Many of the women who attended had their dresses made specially for the occasion by such well-known fashion designers as Adolfo, Bill Blass, Galanos, Yves Saint Laurent, Givenchy, Fabrice and Philippe Venet.

And the men who escorted them met the challenge with courage, style and wit. Robert L. B. Tobin, one of the Met's longstanding supporters, wore a white tie and a silver brocade vest.

''I haven't seen anything this grand since Callas opened in ''Norma'' at the old Met,'' he said.

Among those who dressed for the occasion were Susan Gutfreund, who swept in wearing an Ungaro silk taffeta dress and Watteau cape with black feathers in her hair Mercedes Kellogg in Givenchy Sybil Harrington in Galanos Alex Gregory Molly Rockefeller in a leopard-print chiffon dress by Mollie Parnis Jane Wrightsman, all in black Elizabeth Rohatyn in strapless satin Howard and Mary Phipps, who continually toasted the occasion during cocktails Anna Moffo and Robert Sarnoff Ris"e Stevens Joan Fontaine Nan Kempner Judy Peabody Jerry Zipkin Frederick Eberstadt, Louise Melhado, Alexandra Whitney, Michael V. Forrestal, Sally Bliss, Beatrice Guthrie, Laurinda de Roulet, Suzie Frankfurt and Peter Sharp.

But to hear those who sit in the dress circle tell it, what they wear is not half as important these days as what they dress to hear.

''I don't go to opening night to look at the people,'' said Francis Goelet, who contributed substantially to the remounting of ''Les Troyens,'' as well as to the original production 10 years ago. ''I go to look at the opera.''

In fact, music was uppermost in the minds of many, specifically the length of the opera they were going to hear. Some people even planned to leave the opera at 10:30 P.M. because of the length of ''Les Troyens.'' ''Well, you know,'' said Roberta Peters, who planned to stay, ''it's not everybody's opera.''

Still, if one listened closely to those who attended last night's affair, one could sense unabashed pleasure in participating in opening night. What emerged was a yearning for a return to the sartorial tradition of earlier times, even some of its splendor.

''There's a tradition of opera in our family,'' said Molly Rockefeller. ''My husband's mother sat in the same seat for 70 years. And I think the old feeling of opening nights is coming back. People want to dress up. And I've gotten so many compliments on my dress, I can't believe it. It's so funny leaving your apartment dressed this way.'' No Time Like the Present

Many of the out-of-towners who came for the event apparently felt that there was no time like the present to really dress. While New Yorkers and the bicoastal personalities stayed within the parameters of traditional gala taste, visitors pulled out all the stops.

Erlene Meredith of Scarsdale wore a chiffon cape trimmed with ostrich over her Michaele Vollbracht gown and basked in the light of the television camera crews as she walked in with Ris"e Stevens.

Marilyn Mennello, who came from Winter Park, Fla., for the occasion, wore a black chiffon dress and walked to her seat with Senator Paula Hawkins of Florida, who wore a Yves Saint Laurent.

And Sam McIntosh, who traveled from Charleston, S.C., did what a few men in the crowd did. He wore a black cape with a velvet collar, a white tie, white pique vest and white kid gloves.

''I've worn this at Covent Garden and everywhere,'' he said. ''My aunt used to work for Bernard Baruch and likes to see that I'm properly attired.''

One man even wore a gold medallion on a ribbon to match his red tie.

''It started out years ago as an elegant launching of the social season,'' Mr. Bliss said. ''Then, in the 1940's, it became a sort of circus. When Rudolf Bing took over, we laid less stress on the dressy aspect but when people go to an extreme of not caring about what they wear that is as bad as overdressing.''

''The opening used to be so crazy,'' recalled Margaret Kahn Ryan, the daughter of Otto Kahn, the legendary president of the Metropolitan Opera Company in the days of Caruso and Toscanini. ''People used to wear tremendous jewlery. They would look round to see what other people were wearing. And they used to drift in late to the opera itself and leave very early. The people who come now are much more serious about opera,'' she concluded.

Still, getting dressed is often more than half the fun if not most of the battle plan. And even those women who said they couldn't have cared less about what they wore took some pains with their appearance. Before dinner began Bess Myerson waited for everyone to be seated, inspected her makeup in a hand mirror, touched the back of her red silk tunic, which kept peeping open and, assured everything was in place, ascended the grand staircase.


GALA DRESSING AT THE MET'S OPENING NIGHT

They came from all over the country and they brought all the white ties, tails, top hats, capes, furs, feathers and jewelry they could find. And even if tiaras were scarcer than Vanderbilts in the crowd of 4,000 that celebrated the Metropolitan Opera's 100th birthday, last night's opening qualified as the most glamorous that many could remember.

Rubies, not rhinestones, dangled from more than a few ears at the revival of the five-and-a-half-hour-long ''Les Troyens,'' an evening that began with a 5 oɼlock dinner for 825 opera patrons.

Indeed, diamonds, rubies and pearls were the order of the night. Leonore Annenberg wore a ruby and diamond necklace and matching earrings with her black lace and satin Bill Blass dress. Kitty Carlisle Hart wore diamonds and pearls. Roberta Peters just wore diamonds to highlight her gold lame dress. ''The Met has been my home for 33 years and I've never seen so many dressed-up people on opening night,'' she said. ''It's much nicer than jeans.''

Jeans and other kinds of casual dress were not to be seen. Many of the women who attended had their dresses made specially for the occasion by such well-known fashion designers as Adolfo, Bill Blass, Galanos, Yves Saint Laurent, Givenchy, Fabrice and Philippe Venet.

And the men who escorted them met the challenge with courage, style and wit. Robert L. B. Tobin, one of the Met's longstanding supporters, wore a white tie and a silver brocade vest.

''I haven't seen anything this grand since Callas opened in ''Norma'' at the old Met,'' he said.

Among those who dressed for the occasion were Susan Gutfreund, who swept in wearing an Ungaro silk taffeta dress and Watteau cape with black feathers in her hair Mercedes Kellogg in Givenchy Sybil Harrington in Galanos Alex Gregory Molly Rockefeller in a leopard-print chiffon dress by Mollie Parnis Jane Wrightsman, all in black Elizabeth Rohatyn in strapless satin Howard and Mary Phipps, who continually toasted the occasion during cocktails Anna Moffo and Robert Sarnoff Ris"e Stevens Joan Fontaine Nan Kempner Judy Peabody Jerry Zipkin Frederick Eberstadt, Louise Melhado, Alexandra Whitney, Michael V. Forrestal, Sally Bliss, Beatrice Guthrie, Laurinda de Roulet, Suzie Frankfurt and Peter Sharp.

But to hear those who sit in the dress circle tell it, what they wear is not half as important these days as what they dress to hear.

''I don't go to opening night to look at the people,'' said Francis Goelet, who contributed substantially to the remounting of ''Les Troyens,'' as well as to the original production 10 years ago. ''I go to look at the opera.''

In fact, music was uppermost in the minds of many, specifically the length of the opera they were going to hear. Some people even planned to leave the opera at 10:30 P.M. because of the length of ''Les Troyens.'' ''Well, you know,'' said Roberta Peters, who planned to stay, ''it's not everybody's opera.''

Still, if one listened closely to those who attended last night's affair, one could sense unabashed pleasure in participating in opening night. What emerged was a yearning for a return to the sartorial tradition of earlier times, even some of its splendor.

''There's a tradition of opera in our family,'' said Molly Rockefeller. ''My husband's mother sat in the same seat for 70 years. And I think the old feeling of opening nights is coming back. People want to dress up. And I've gotten so many compliments on my dress, I can't believe it. It's so funny leaving your apartment dressed this way.'' No Time Like the Present

Many of the out-of-towners who came for the event apparently felt that there was no time like the present to really dress. While New Yorkers and the bicoastal personalities stayed within the parameters of traditional gala taste, visitors pulled out all the stops.

Erlene Meredith of Scarsdale wore a chiffon cape trimmed with ostrich over her Michaele Vollbracht gown and basked in the light of the television camera crews as she walked in with Ris"e Stevens.

Marilyn Mennello, who came from Winter Park, Fla., for the occasion, wore a black chiffon dress and walked to her seat with Senator Paula Hawkins of Florida, who wore a Yves Saint Laurent.

And Sam McIntosh, who traveled from Charleston, S.C., did what a few men in the crowd did. He wore a black cape with a velvet collar, a white tie, white pique vest and white kid gloves.

''I've worn this at Covent Garden and everywhere,'' he said. ''My aunt used to work for Bernard Baruch and likes to see that I'm properly attired.''

One man even wore a gold medallion on a ribbon to match his red tie.

''It started out years ago as an elegant launching of the social season,'' Mr. Bliss said. ''Then, in the 1940's, it became a sort of circus. When Rudolf Bing took over, we laid less stress on the dressy aspect but when people go to an extreme of not caring about what they wear that is as bad as overdressing.''

''The opening used to be so crazy,'' recalled Margaret Kahn Ryan, the daughter of Otto Kahn, the legendary president of the Metropolitan Opera Company in the days of Caruso and Toscanini. ''People used to wear tremendous jewlery. They would look round to see what other people were wearing. And they used to drift in late to the opera itself and leave very early. The people who come now are much more serious about opera,'' she concluded.

Still, getting dressed is often more than half the fun if not most of the battle plan. And even those women who said they couldn't have cared less about what they wore took some pains with their appearance. Before dinner began Bess Myerson waited for everyone to be seated, inspected her makeup in a hand mirror, touched the back of her red silk tunic, which kept peeping open and, assured everything was in place, ascended the grand staircase.


GALA DRESSING AT THE MET'S OPENING NIGHT

They came from all over the country and they brought all the white ties, tails, top hats, capes, furs, feathers and jewelry they could find. And even if tiaras were scarcer than Vanderbilts in the crowd of 4,000 that celebrated the Metropolitan Opera's 100th birthday, last night's opening qualified as the most glamorous that many could remember.

Rubies, not rhinestones, dangled from more than a few ears at the revival of the five-and-a-half-hour-long ''Les Troyens,'' an evening that began with a 5 oɼlock dinner for 825 opera patrons.

Indeed, diamonds, rubies and pearls were the order of the night. Leonore Annenberg wore a ruby and diamond necklace and matching earrings with her black lace and satin Bill Blass dress. Kitty Carlisle Hart wore diamonds and pearls. Roberta Peters just wore diamonds to highlight her gold lame dress. ''The Met has been my home for 33 years and I've never seen so many dressed-up people on opening night,'' she said. ''It's much nicer than jeans.''

Jeans and other kinds of casual dress were not to be seen. Many of the women who attended had their dresses made specially for the occasion by such well-known fashion designers as Adolfo, Bill Blass, Galanos, Yves Saint Laurent, Givenchy, Fabrice and Philippe Venet.

And the men who escorted them met the challenge with courage, style and wit. Robert L. B. Tobin, one of the Met's longstanding supporters, wore a white tie and a silver brocade vest.

''I haven't seen anything this grand since Callas opened in ''Norma'' at the old Met,'' he said.

Among those who dressed for the occasion were Susan Gutfreund, who swept in wearing an Ungaro silk taffeta dress and Watteau cape with black feathers in her hair Mercedes Kellogg in Givenchy Sybil Harrington in Galanos Alex Gregory Molly Rockefeller in a leopard-print chiffon dress by Mollie Parnis Jane Wrightsman, all in black Elizabeth Rohatyn in strapless satin Howard and Mary Phipps, who continually toasted the occasion during cocktails Anna Moffo and Robert Sarnoff Ris"e Stevens Joan Fontaine Nan Kempner Judy Peabody Jerry Zipkin Frederick Eberstadt, Louise Melhado, Alexandra Whitney, Michael V. Forrestal, Sally Bliss, Beatrice Guthrie, Laurinda de Roulet, Suzie Frankfurt and Peter Sharp.

But to hear those who sit in the dress circle tell it, what they wear is not half as important these days as what they dress to hear.

''I don't go to opening night to look at the people,'' said Francis Goelet, who contributed substantially to the remounting of ''Les Troyens,'' as well as to the original production 10 years ago. ''I go to look at the opera.''

In fact, music was uppermost in the minds of many, specifically the length of the opera they were going to hear. Some people even planned to leave the opera at 10:30 P.M. because of the length of ''Les Troyens.'' ''Well, you know,'' said Roberta Peters, who planned to stay, ''it's not everybody's opera.''

Still, if one listened closely to those who attended last night's affair, one could sense unabashed pleasure in participating in opening night. What emerged was a yearning for a return to the sartorial tradition of earlier times, even some of its splendor.

''There's a tradition of opera in our family,'' said Molly Rockefeller. ''My husband's mother sat in the same seat for 70 years. And I think the old feeling of opening nights is coming back. People want to dress up. And I've gotten so many compliments on my dress, I can't believe it. It's so funny leaving your apartment dressed this way.'' No Time Like the Present

Many of the out-of-towners who came for the event apparently felt that there was no time like the present to really dress. While New Yorkers and the bicoastal personalities stayed within the parameters of traditional gala taste, visitors pulled out all the stops.

Erlene Meredith of Scarsdale wore a chiffon cape trimmed with ostrich over her Michaele Vollbracht gown and basked in the light of the television camera crews as she walked in with Ris"e Stevens.

Marilyn Mennello, who came from Winter Park, Fla., for the occasion, wore a black chiffon dress and walked to her seat with Senator Paula Hawkins of Florida, who wore a Yves Saint Laurent.

And Sam McIntosh, who traveled from Charleston, S.C., did what a few men in the crowd did. He wore a black cape with a velvet collar, a white tie, white pique vest and white kid gloves.

''I've worn this at Covent Garden and everywhere,'' he said. ''My aunt used to work for Bernard Baruch and likes to see that I'm properly attired.''

One man even wore a gold medallion on a ribbon to match his red tie.

''It started out years ago as an elegant launching of the social season,'' Mr. Bliss said. ''Then, in the 1940's, it became a sort of circus. When Rudolf Bing took over, we laid less stress on the dressy aspect but when people go to an extreme of not caring about what they wear that is as bad as overdressing.''

''The opening used to be so crazy,'' recalled Margaret Kahn Ryan, the daughter of Otto Kahn, the legendary president of the Metropolitan Opera Company in the days of Caruso and Toscanini. ''People used to wear tremendous jewlery. They would look round to see what other people were wearing. And they used to drift in late to the opera itself and leave very early. The people who come now are much more serious about opera,'' she concluded.

Still, getting dressed is often more than half the fun if not most of the battle plan. And even those women who said they couldn't have cared less about what they wore took some pains with their appearance. Before dinner began Bess Myerson waited for everyone to be seated, inspected her makeup in a hand mirror, touched the back of her red silk tunic, which kept peeping open and, assured everything was in place, ascended the grand staircase.


GALA DRESSING AT THE MET'S OPENING NIGHT

They came from all over the country and they brought all the white ties, tails, top hats, capes, furs, feathers and jewelry they could find. And even if tiaras were scarcer than Vanderbilts in the crowd of 4,000 that celebrated the Metropolitan Opera's 100th birthday, last night's opening qualified as the most glamorous that many could remember.

Rubies, not rhinestones, dangled from more than a few ears at the revival of the five-and-a-half-hour-long ''Les Troyens,'' an evening that began with a 5 oɼlock dinner for 825 opera patrons.

Indeed, diamonds, rubies and pearls were the order of the night. Leonore Annenberg wore a ruby and diamond necklace and matching earrings with her black lace and satin Bill Blass dress. Kitty Carlisle Hart wore diamonds and pearls. Roberta Peters just wore diamonds to highlight her gold lame dress. ''The Met has been my home for 33 years and I've never seen so many dressed-up people on opening night,'' she said. ''It's much nicer than jeans.''

Jeans and other kinds of casual dress were not to be seen. Many of the women who attended had their dresses made specially for the occasion by such well-known fashion designers as Adolfo, Bill Blass, Galanos, Yves Saint Laurent, Givenchy, Fabrice and Philippe Venet.

And the men who escorted them met the challenge with courage, style and wit. Robert L. B. Tobin, one of the Met's longstanding supporters, wore a white tie and a silver brocade vest.

''I haven't seen anything this grand since Callas opened in ''Norma'' at the old Met,'' he said.

Among those who dressed for the occasion were Susan Gutfreund, who swept in wearing an Ungaro silk taffeta dress and Watteau cape with black feathers in her hair Mercedes Kellogg in Givenchy Sybil Harrington in Galanos Alex Gregory Molly Rockefeller in a leopard-print chiffon dress by Mollie Parnis Jane Wrightsman, all in black Elizabeth Rohatyn in strapless satin Howard and Mary Phipps, who continually toasted the occasion during cocktails Anna Moffo and Robert Sarnoff Ris"e Stevens Joan Fontaine Nan Kempner Judy Peabody Jerry Zipkin Frederick Eberstadt, Louise Melhado, Alexandra Whitney, Michael V. Forrestal, Sally Bliss, Beatrice Guthrie, Laurinda de Roulet, Suzie Frankfurt and Peter Sharp.

But to hear those who sit in the dress circle tell it, what they wear is not half as important these days as what they dress to hear.

''I don't go to opening night to look at the people,'' said Francis Goelet, who contributed substantially to the remounting of ''Les Troyens,'' as well as to the original production 10 years ago. ''I go to look at the opera.''

In fact, music was uppermost in the minds of many, specifically the length of the opera they were going to hear. Some people even planned to leave the opera at 10:30 P.M. because of the length of ''Les Troyens.'' ''Well, you know,'' said Roberta Peters, who planned to stay, ''it's not everybody's opera.''

Still, if one listened closely to those who attended last night's affair, one could sense unabashed pleasure in participating in opening night. What emerged was a yearning for a return to the sartorial tradition of earlier times, even some of its splendor.

''There's a tradition of opera in our family,'' said Molly Rockefeller. ''My husband's mother sat in the same seat for 70 years. And I think the old feeling of opening nights is coming back. People want to dress up. And I've gotten so many compliments on my dress, I can't believe it. It's so funny leaving your apartment dressed this way.'' No Time Like the Present

Many of the out-of-towners who came for the event apparently felt that there was no time like the present to really dress. While New Yorkers and the bicoastal personalities stayed within the parameters of traditional gala taste, visitors pulled out all the stops.

Erlene Meredith of Scarsdale wore a chiffon cape trimmed with ostrich over her Michaele Vollbracht gown and basked in the light of the television camera crews as she walked in with Ris"e Stevens.

Marilyn Mennello, who came from Winter Park, Fla., for the occasion, wore a black chiffon dress and walked to her seat with Senator Paula Hawkins of Florida, who wore a Yves Saint Laurent.

And Sam McIntosh, who traveled from Charleston, S.C., did what a few men in the crowd did. He wore a black cape with a velvet collar, a white tie, white pique vest and white kid gloves.

''I've worn this at Covent Garden and everywhere,'' he said. ''My aunt used to work for Bernard Baruch and likes to see that I'm properly attired.''

One man even wore a gold medallion on a ribbon to match his red tie.

''It started out years ago as an elegant launching of the social season,'' Mr. Bliss said. ''Then, in the 1940's, it became a sort of circus. When Rudolf Bing took over, we laid less stress on the dressy aspect but when people go to an extreme of not caring about what they wear that is as bad as overdressing.''

''The opening used to be so crazy,'' recalled Margaret Kahn Ryan, the daughter of Otto Kahn, the legendary president of the Metropolitan Opera Company in the days of Caruso and Toscanini. ''People used to wear tremendous jewlery. They would look round to see what other people were wearing. And they used to drift in late to the opera itself and leave very early. The people who come now are much more serious about opera,'' she concluded.

Still, getting dressed is often more than half the fun if not most of the battle plan. And even those women who said they couldn't have cared less about what they wore took some pains with their appearance. Before dinner began Bess Myerson waited for everyone to be seated, inspected her makeup in a hand mirror, touched the back of her red silk tunic, which kept peeping open and, assured everything was in place, ascended the grand staircase.


GALA DRESSING AT THE MET'S OPENING NIGHT

They came from all over the country and they brought all the white ties, tails, top hats, capes, furs, feathers and jewelry they could find. And even if tiaras were scarcer than Vanderbilts in the crowd of 4,000 that celebrated the Metropolitan Opera's 100th birthday, last night's opening qualified as the most glamorous that many could remember.

Rubies, not rhinestones, dangled from more than a few ears at the revival of the five-and-a-half-hour-long ''Les Troyens,'' an evening that began with a 5 oɼlock dinner for 825 opera patrons.

Indeed, diamonds, rubies and pearls were the order of the night. Leonore Annenberg wore a ruby and diamond necklace and matching earrings with her black lace and satin Bill Blass dress. Kitty Carlisle Hart wore diamonds and pearls. Roberta Peters just wore diamonds to highlight her gold lame dress. ''The Met has been my home for 33 years and I've never seen so many dressed-up people on opening night,'' she said. ''It's much nicer than jeans.''

Jeans and other kinds of casual dress were not to be seen. Many of the women who attended had their dresses made specially for the occasion by such well-known fashion designers as Adolfo, Bill Blass, Galanos, Yves Saint Laurent, Givenchy, Fabrice and Philippe Venet.

And the men who escorted them met the challenge with courage, style and wit. Robert L. B. Tobin, one of the Met's longstanding supporters, wore a white tie and a silver brocade vest.

''I haven't seen anything this grand since Callas opened in ''Norma'' at the old Met,'' he said.

Among those who dressed for the occasion were Susan Gutfreund, who swept in wearing an Ungaro silk taffeta dress and Watteau cape with black feathers in her hair Mercedes Kellogg in Givenchy Sybil Harrington in Galanos Alex Gregory Molly Rockefeller in a leopard-print chiffon dress by Mollie Parnis Jane Wrightsman, all in black Elizabeth Rohatyn in strapless satin Howard and Mary Phipps, who continually toasted the occasion during cocktails Anna Moffo and Robert Sarnoff Ris"e Stevens Joan Fontaine Nan Kempner Judy Peabody Jerry Zipkin Frederick Eberstadt, Louise Melhado, Alexandra Whitney, Michael V. Forrestal, Sally Bliss, Beatrice Guthrie, Laurinda de Roulet, Suzie Frankfurt and Peter Sharp.

But to hear those who sit in the dress circle tell it, what they wear is not half as important these days as what they dress to hear.

''I don't go to opening night to look at the people,'' said Francis Goelet, who contributed substantially to the remounting of ''Les Troyens,'' as well as to the original production 10 years ago. ''I go to look at the opera.''

In fact, music was uppermost in the minds of many, specifically the length of the opera they were going to hear. Some people even planned to leave the opera at 10:30 P.M. because of the length of ''Les Troyens.'' ''Well, you know,'' said Roberta Peters, who planned to stay, ''it's not everybody's opera.''

Still, if one listened closely to those who attended last night's affair, one could sense unabashed pleasure in participating in opening night. What emerged was a yearning for a return to the sartorial tradition of earlier times, even some of its splendor.

''There's a tradition of opera in our family,'' said Molly Rockefeller. ''My husband's mother sat in the same seat for 70 years. And I think the old feeling of opening nights is coming back. People want to dress up. And I've gotten so many compliments on my dress, I can't believe it. It's so funny leaving your apartment dressed this way.'' No Time Like the Present

Many of the out-of-towners who came for the event apparently felt that there was no time like the present to really dress. While New Yorkers and the bicoastal personalities stayed within the parameters of traditional gala taste, visitors pulled out all the stops.

Erlene Meredith of Scarsdale wore a chiffon cape trimmed with ostrich over her Michaele Vollbracht gown and basked in the light of the television camera crews as she walked in with Ris"e Stevens.

Marilyn Mennello, who came from Winter Park, Fla., for the occasion, wore a black chiffon dress and walked to her seat with Senator Paula Hawkins of Florida, who wore a Yves Saint Laurent.

And Sam McIntosh, who traveled from Charleston, S.C., did what a few men in the crowd did. He wore a black cape with a velvet collar, a white tie, white pique vest and white kid gloves.

''I've worn this at Covent Garden and everywhere,'' he said. ''My aunt used to work for Bernard Baruch and likes to see that I'm properly attired.''

One man even wore a gold medallion on a ribbon to match his red tie.

''It started out years ago as an elegant launching of the social season,'' Mr. Bliss said. ''Then, in the 1940's, it became a sort of circus. When Rudolf Bing took over, we laid less stress on the dressy aspect but when people go to an extreme of not caring about what they wear that is as bad as overdressing.''

''The opening used to be so crazy,'' recalled Margaret Kahn Ryan, the daughter of Otto Kahn, the legendary president of the Metropolitan Opera Company in the days of Caruso and Toscanini. ''People used to wear tremendous jewlery. They would look round to see what other people were wearing. And they used to drift in late to the opera itself and leave very early. The people who come now are much more serious about opera,'' she concluded.

Still, getting dressed is often more than half the fun if not most of the battle plan. And even those women who said they couldn't have cared less about what they wore took some pains with their appearance. Before dinner began Bess Myerson waited for everyone to be seated, inspected her makeup in a hand mirror, touched the back of her red silk tunic, which kept peeping open and, assured everything was in place, ascended the grand staircase.


GALA DRESSING AT THE MET'S OPENING NIGHT

They came from all over the country and they brought all the white ties, tails, top hats, capes, furs, feathers and jewelry they could find. And even if tiaras were scarcer than Vanderbilts in the crowd of 4,000 that celebrated the Metropolitan Opera's 100th birthday, last night's opening qualified as the most glamorous that many could remember.

Rubies, not rhinestones, dangled from more than a few ears at the revival of the five-and-a-half-hour-long ''Les Troyens,'' an evening that began with a 5 oɼlock dinner for 825 opera patrons.

Indeed, diamonds, rubies and pearls were the order of the night. Leonore Annenberg wore a ruby and diamond necklace and matching earrings with her black lace and satin Bill Blass dress. Kitty Carlisle Hart wore diamonds and pearls. Roberta Peters just wore diamonds to highlight her gold lame dress. ''The Met has been my home for 33 years and I've never seen so many dressed-up people on opening night,'' she said. ''It's much nicer than jeans.''

Jeans and other kinds of casual dress were not to be seen. Many of the women who attended had their dresses made specially for the occasion by such well-known fashion designers as Adolfo, Bill Blass, Galanos, Yves Saint Laurent, Givenchy, Fabrice and Philippe Venet.

And the men who escorted them met the challenge with courage, style and wit. Robert L. B. Tobin, one of the Met's longstanding supporters, wore a white tie and a silver brocade vest.

''I haven't seen anything this grand since Callas opened in ''Norma'' at the old Met,'' he said.

Among those who dressed for the occasion were Susan Gutfreund, who swept in wearing an Ungaro silk taffeta dress and Watteau cape with black feathers in her hair Mercedes Kellogg in Givenchy Sybil Harrington in Galanos Alex Gregory Molly Rockefeller in a leopard-print chiffon dress by Mollie Parnis Jane Wrightsman, all in black Elizabeth Rohatyn in strapless satin Howard and Mary Phipps, who continually toasted the occasion during cocktails Anna Moffo and Robert Sarnoff Ris"e Stevens Joan Fontaine Nan Kempner Judy Peabody Jerry Zipkin Frederick Eberstadt, Louise Melhado, Alexandra Whitney, Michael V. Forrestal, Sally Bliss, Beatrice Guthrie, Laurinda de Roulet, Suzie Frankfurt and Peter Sharp.

But to hear those who sit in the dress circle tell it, what they wear is not half as important these days as what they dress to hear.

''I don't go to opening night to look at the people,'' said Francis Goelet, who contributed substantially to the remounting of ''Les Troyens,'' as well as to the original production 10 years ago. ''I go to look at the opera.''

In fact, music was uppermost in the minds of many, specifically the length of the opera they were going to hear. Some people even planned to leave the opera at 10:30 P.M. because of the length of ''Les Troyens.'' ''Well, you know,'' said Roberta Peters, who planned to stay, ''it's not everybody's opera.''

Still, if one listened closely to those who attended last night's affair, one could sense unabashed pleasure in participating in opening night. What emerged was a yearning for a return to the sartorial tradition of earlier times, even some of its splendor.

''There's a tradition of opera in our family,'' said Molly Rockefeller. ''My husband's mother sat in the same seat for 70 years. And I think the old feeling of opening nights is coming back. People want to dress up. And I've gotten so many compliments on my dress, I can't believe it. It's so funny leaving your apartment dressed this way.'' No Time Like the Present

Many of the out-of-towners who came for the event apparently felt that there was no time like the present to really dress. While New Yorkers and the bicoastal personalities stayed within the parameters of traditional gala taste, visitors pulled out all the stops.

Erlene Meredith of Scarsdale wore a chiffon cape trimmed with ostrich over her Michaele Vollbracht gown and basked in the light of the television camera crews as she walked in with Ris"e Stevens.

Marilyn Mennello, who came from Winter Park, Fla., for the occasion, wore a black chiffon dress and walked to her seat with Senator Paula Hawkins of Florida, who wore a Yves Saint Laurent.

And Sam McIntosh, who traveled from Charleston, S.C., did what a few men in the crowd did. He wore a black cape with a velvet collar, a white tie, white pique vest and white kid gloves.

''I've worn this at Covent Garden and everywhere,'' he said. ''My aunt used to work for Bernard Baruch and likes to see that I'm properly attired.''

One man even wore a gold medallion on a ribbon to match his red tie.

''It started out years ago as an elegant launching of the social season,'' Mr. Bliss said. ''Then, in the 1940's, it became a sort of circus. When Rudolf Bing took over, we laid less stress on the dressy aspect but when people go to an extreme of not caring about what they wear that is as bad as overdressing.''

''The opening used to be so crazy,'' recalled Margaret Kahn Ryan, the daughter of Otto Kahn, the legendary president of the Metropolitan Opera Company in the days of Caruso and Toscanini. ''People used to wear tremendous jewlery. They would look round to see what other people were wearing. And they used to drift in late to the opera itself and leave very early. The people who come now are much more serious about opera,'' she concluded.

Still, getting dressed is often more than half the fun if not most of the battle plan. And even those women who said they couldn't have cared less about what they wore took some pains with their appearance. Before dinner began Bess Myerson waited for everyone to be seated, inspected her makeup in a hand mirror, touched the back of her red silk tunic, which kept peeping open and, assured everything was in place, ascended the grand staircase.



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