Scenes From an Italian Opera Opening: Joel, LeeLee, Others Take in ‘Tosca’ at the Met

billy Scenes From an Italian Opera Opening: Joel, LeeLee, Others Take in Tosca at the Met“We lost Meryl Streep,” a PR girl told The Observer when we arrived to the opening night of the Metropolitan Opera on Monday, Sept. 21, for a staging of Tosca, which Ms. Streep was expected to attend, but, alas, did not.  

Perhaps it had something to do with how the opera has evolved socially since the days when Countess Olenska and Newland Archer could use the occasion to gaze at one another across the theatre. Does the opening night still matter as much in New York society as it once did?

“No,” said singer Billy Joel, who arrived with a date, a pretty brunette by the name of Deborah Dampiere, who was wearing a floor-length Badgley Mischka gown. “I still think people want to go because it’s the beginning of the fall and it’s a thing to do but I think those days of La Belle Epoque are over.”

Reporters were interested in the opera of Mr. Joel’s personal life and inquired about the state of his divorce proceedings from Katie Lee Joel, right in front of his date. His publicist protested, but the singer answered. “It’s a free country, she can ask whatever she wants,” he told the publicist. “How are the divorce proceedings going? I don’t know. Ask my lawyer.”

“For now, I’m enjoying dating this lovely lady,” he later added.

Designer Jason Wu arrived with Julie Macklowe, wife of real estate developer William Macklowe and portfolio manager at Macklowe Asset Management. Ms. Macklowe was wearing one of Mr. Wu’s ruffled mini-dresses from the Spring ’10 collection, which he showed just last week.

“Straight off the runway!” bragged Mr. Wu. “Hot off the presses!” added Ms. Macklowe and they both laughed. This was Mr. Wu’s first time at the Met Opera, but not Ms. Macklowe’s.

“I think listening to beautiful music is a long trend,” Ms. Macklowe said of the opera tradition. “It’s an art just like fashion, but it’s always more about the production than actually seeing and being seen.”

Gravel-voiced actor Harvey Fierstein actually seemed to know something about the opera. He went to the old Metropolitan Opera House on Broadway as a child and in the late 70s, worked in the coat room downstairs at Lincoln Center to see Beverly Sills perform her last show in New York. “I wanted to see it, but I couldn’t afford a ticket,” said Mr. Fierstein.

“I wish more people would figure out that opera is wonderful, that it’s not scary,” he said. And what makes it so scary?  “It’s PBS! It’s PBS. But it’s not true. I mean everyone dies in this opera. There’s blood everywhere. It’s wonderful.”

Next came two, very tall, pregnant ladies in alarming high heels: model Karolina Kurkova and actress Leelee Sobieski, who is engaged to designer Adam Kimmel.

Ms. Sobieski, wearing a knee-length red Hermes dress and rubbing her belly, said she is keeping the sex of the baby a secret, the wedding might be in the spring and in the meantime, she is eating lots of ice cream and mac ‘n’ cheese. “I like little-kid food,” she said.

Actor Ed Norton snuck in behind Ms. Sobieski but did not stop to talk to the Transom. Neither did designer Diane von Furstenberg, who was wearing a glittery teal number and arrived husband, Barry Diller. “No, no. We’ve got to go,” she said. Mr. Diller lovingly patted her backside as they entered the opera house.  

Designer Zac Posen was supposed to attend with actress Mischa Barton, but by 6:45, the national anthem music had been played and the show had started. Mr. Posen eventually came and ran inside and Ms. Barton arrived separately, closer to the intermission.