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Ann Conway

18th Century Lives Again at the Amadeus Ball

February 03, 1987|ANN CONWAY

She may have looked as if she had stepped out of an 18th-Century dream, but breathtaking Kit Toth stepped out of a 20th-Century van when she arrived at the Amadeus Ball, the celebration honoring Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart at the Newporter Resort on Friday night.

The wired silk poufs on her Erte-inspired gown prevented the Newport socialite from ensconcing herself in the sleek, family BMW. So, she made the trip from Big Canyon in a van borrowed from her maid. "I rode over on my knees!" she announced, fluttering her fan at the thought.

Assisting her alight from the van was husband Stephen, co-chair with Kit of the event. He also donned 18th-Century garb and a powdered-wig for the ball, a benefit for the Mozart Camerata chamber orchestra. "I haven't had this much hair in years ," he said.

And so it went for most of the more than 200 guests who attended the $125-per-person gala. Bumping panier bustles and sporting powdery rings-around-the-collar, the somewhere-in-time crowd moved among the palms and heat-spewing warmers in the hotel's outdoor arbor area and later in its mirrored (a la Versailles) ballroom tipping champagne, taking note of decolletage, dining, dancing and rhapsodizing over Mozart.

"The greatest composer ever born," said Sylvia Popov, pausing for a breather in the ballroom. (Popov, a Hungarian who opted for Hungarian dress, had tucked a white carnation in her cleavage. "This gown just shows toooooo much," she declared.) "Think of the magnitude and volume of his work. The quality. I listen to him in my car. In my home. It is important to listen to Mozart hundreds of times. The music is so complex; it takes years to go into it. You discover more each time. . . ."

'We've Got the Dream'

Before leading his orchestra in three Mozart selections after the sit-down quail and torte dinner, Camerata founder and conductor Ami Porat said he wanted his orchestra to become "world class. I want to change the tone I hear people use when they say: 'A chamber orchestra in Orange County?' to 'A chamber orchestra in Orange County!' We've got the resources, the dream, the desire. . . ."

Porat, who plays double bass, studied at the Juilliard School in New York, where he completed its four-year bachelor's program in two. He came to California, where he received a master's degree in conducting from Cal State Fullerton and a doctorate in musical performance from the University of Southern California. "I got straight A's at Fullerton. But at USC I had a professor who didn't believe in A's. So, I got a B and had someone let the air out of his tires."

Porat founded the Camerata in 1980. "Only last May, this Amadeus ball was an idea in my head. And look where we are tonight!"

Arriving guests were greeted by a bellowing, flag-pole-thumping announcer, Glen Hodson, catering manager of the Newporter. "And nowwwwwww, the king and queen of Vienna!" Hodson screamed at the crowd, changing titles and countries at will. "Ooooh, he's my favorite part," whispered one guest, tittering over Hodson's stab at decorum.

Clouds and Icicles

Once inside the ballroom, many guests seemed overcome by the mirror-reflected decor. Blue and white balloons with silver Mylar streamers hung from the acoustical ceiling. "I wanted the feeling of clouds and icicles over Vienna," said decor chairman Susan Bartlett. "When they had chamber parties in court during this period, the town was covered with snow and icicles. And then I thought, why not sky? So, I threw in the blue balloons!"

Bartlett also procured the table favors, dainty lace hankies for the ladies and red-rose boutonnieres for the men. Towering floral centerpieces, designed and created by Bartlett, contained Jack Frost mums, Dutch iris, white orchids and daisies.

The Beverly Hills Cotillion Dancers began the evening with a formal promenade and minuet. When Kit Toth took the microphone to welcome guests and thank the committee, she mentioned her white wig. "That's what working on a ball for a few months will do to you," she said.

Assisting the Toths on the committee were vice chairwomen Ruby Lloyd and Dina von Burger and Rebecca Busby, Lois Cornwall, Ruth Ding (whose husband Dr. Lock Gee Ding wore authentic Ching dynasty dress), Eve Foussard, Barbara Harris, Sigrid Hecht, Judy Hemley, Lillie Hinde, Nancy Perry Hodson, Susan Jarvie, Ruth Jensen, Ellen Kaylin and Dori de Kruif.

Also on the committee were Kathy McLarand, Mary Ann Miller, Jo Anne Mix, Popov, Eleanor Saale, Ann Blake Satin, Gloria Gae Schick, Diane Slemons, Roseanne Valdes, Dawn Washer and Linda Winslow. The Murray Korda Strings played during the reception. Murray Korda's Monseigneur Orchestra played for dancing. The ball was sponsored by the Camerata board. Board director Lorne Huycke was master of ceremonies.

As yet untallied proceeds are to be used to underwrite the Camerata's 1987 concert series.

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