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il Ballo del Doge

palazzo Pisani Moretta

A lot has been written about il Ballo del Doge in Venice. It is put on by costume designer Antonia Sauter and was celebrated for the 18th time this year.

Pisani Moretta, the palace in which the event is taking place, is gorgeous and the costumes, worn by the guests and mostly created in Mrs. Sauter’s Atelier in Venice, are the best and most beautiful anywhere to be seen during Carnevale – no doubt!

The artists are also of high caliber and the performances well worth watching.

Now then, why am I not in complete awe like so many of my fellow reviewers?!

Maybe, because of the incredible high expectations, created by labels such as Vanity Fair’s “the most exclusive ball  in the world”. And indeed, my expectations were high, justifiably I think, for the price of 600 Euros for a few hours of a post-dinner event.

I decided to skip the dinner, which would have added another 600 Euros to the bill, and also the half hour VIP event prior, which came for the price of another 300 Euros. I am not sure, what could happen that would make 30 minutes worth 300 Euros – that is 10 Euros a minute – so I can’t comment if it would have been money well spent.

Either way, arriving at quarter past midnight – the post-dinner part was supposed to start at 11pm – we still found ourselves in the setting of the dinner debris as part of the stage for the post-dinner performance.

While not being able to comment on the quality of the food, seeing the labels of the wines, which were served, I can safely say that I don’t regret not having spent 600 Euros on the dinner though.

The performers were of really good quality, but the moderator, while definitely cute and dazzling, could have benefitted from a little more practice.

The other point of confusion for me was the arrangement of the performances. While good – I have to repeat myself again – I wasn’t sure, why people dressed to the nines want to stand around for 1.5 hours and watch 5 back to back performances covering opera, magic and burlesque.

Entertainment is a crucial part of any event, but to make the guests mere onlookers seemed to underutilize the tremendous effort people put into their appearances, clearly meant to be looked at, not just for only watching others.

Downstairs, where the actual party was supposed to happen, a very mediocre DJ was playing outdated music. And no, relabeling it retro or classic, wouldn’t do the trick here…

And this assessment is not just based on my opinion. The dance floor, while packed, wasn’t throbbing with happy dancers, but because there was no other place to stand. To be fair, the clothes require about 5 times more space per person than anyone usually would, and the lack of room is a natural side effect.

The animation dancers were ok, but the almost naked male unicorn on stilts with fur over the crucial parts got a little stale after crossing the dance floor for the 3rd time – some people did seem to enjoy the petting though…

Other challenges in my opinion were that certain drinks ran out at 1pm, the bathrooms were in pretty rough shape and had no attendants, and that the party was declared over by 3.15 instead of the advertised 4am.

All in all, it was a worthwhile experience though and the price is justified for what was on display. With some tweaking, good could also have been great – after 18 years smaller glitches should have been ironed out by now. Or maybe the attention to detail is getting lost after the initial excitement. Either way, while definitely an impressive show, I am not sure, if it is best in the world. I am glad, I went, but I don’t think I need to go back next year.

However, for amazingly stunning costumes, Antonia Sauter Atelier will definitely be my first choice! And please remember, this is just my assessment, I am incredible picky and even though, in my opinion not everything was perfect, il Ballo del Doge is worth a visit, at least once, to have seen it – I am glad I did!