The practicality of using the ball as a networking event has become challenging, as evidenced by this year’s Opera Ball guest list. Many companies have private boxes, but the large international business crowd is noticeably absent. As one Austrian manager explains, “We only have the board members in the boxes.” Notably, there are no international guests in the Siemens box, where Siemens boss, Patricia Neumann, will make her Opera Ball debut in an intimate circle.
Privately, there’s discontentment about this situation. There’s a desire to invite more significant figures and international managing stars to the prestigious opera ball in Vienna, but current circumstances hinder this. Flaunting is considered inappropriate, especially in the current tense economic climate with potential recession and inflation. Moreover, strict company compliance guidelines restrict many managers and board members from being invited to such events. Gifts, for instance, are off-limits – many companies enforce a limit of 100 or even 50 euros.
A senior manager from an international company states, “Nobody dares to bring prominent people from abroad anymore. No one wants to be associated with such large expenditures. Nobody can explain it conclusively anymore.” The only exception might be Richard Lugner, if you own the company, the high expenses are a different matter. However, a renowned real estate investor who wishes to stay anonymous says, “Only the family is sitting in my box this year. It’s easier this way, we keep it subtle.”
Social media channels and online media forums where people frequently post have significantly impacted the past’s invitation policy. There is sharp commentary and ruthless ridicule. If envy and resentment can flourish in such an unfiltered manner online, it can affect the perception of these events.
Despite high prices for boxes, champagne, and sausages, a new “modesty” is evident in companies’ invitation policy. The Austrian economy will likely remain subdued this year. Board members are inviting their executive suite or national partners from other companies, which allows them to share the box’s cost. This arrangement seems to work well for justification. It can’t be any more at the moment.
European female ministers as “plus one”
Austrian politicians have invited guests and counterparts from several European countries to the Opera Ball this year. In the Federal President’s box, Alexander Van der Bellen will be joined by Montenegro’s president Jakov Milatović and his wife Milena. Van der Bellen will be accompanied by his wife Doris Schmidauer. Federal Chancellor Karl Nehammer will be accompanied by four women, including his wife Katharina, and party colleagues Susan Raab and Karoline Edtstadler. The Chancellor’s guest of honor is Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kalla. Europe Minister Edtstadler will also be welcoming Liechtenstein’s government councilor for foreign affairs, Dominique Hasler as a “plus one”.
Other government members will also be in prominent company. Minister of Economic Affairs Martin Kocher will be accompanied by his Kosovar counterpart Rosetta Hajdari. Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg will be joined by Belgium’s Foreign Minister Hadja Lahbib and her Finnish counterpart Elina Valtonen. The Green government team is also not missing out: only State Secretary Andrea Mayer will be at the “Ball of Balls” – albeit without a guest.