here to listen to Paola talk about this festival
This is an excerpt from the book Celebrating Women.
The Radetsky March trumpets the processions and the VIPs arrive in
the Festsaal hall. First come military guests in uniforms, then
masked women, then older members of the Rudolfina union, University
professors and deacons, the “opening committee” of students
and their girlfriends whom we watched in rehearsal, and finally, the
State Opera Ballet dancers, one of whom is, I notice, clad in a Biedermeier
The fraternity students, whose dates wear pure white debutante gowns
and carry nosegays, perform the Chit Chat Polka perfectly.
The State Opera Ballet corps takes my breath away. And then, Alles
Waltzes! Three thousand guests take the floor.
The masked women approach the men
who catch their fancies, exciting romantic mysteries everywhere. Flattered
and laughing, the men waltz away with them.
Harald Willenig watches and smiles,
“There are a lot of married couples who started their relationship
at the Rudolfina Redoute.” Just before midnight, I talk with
Wolfgang Ortner, the conductor. He first played at the Rudolfina Redoute
in 1964. Fifteen years ago, he progressed to the main room, where
he now leads the full orchestra. “Not much is different from
38 years ago” he reminisces, “Women wear masks, people
are happy, it’s ladies’ choice until midnight.”
Wolfgang hurries off to conduct the orchestra for the Demaskierungsquadrille.
Simone Rueff instructs the guests to line up facing their partners.
Technically, two couples dance a quadrille, but there is barely space
to move. Everyone is laughing and somehow, amid the revelry, the women
slide their masks to the back of their necks. The elastic bands create
tiny black necklaces. Their identities are revealed.