Just as a woman’s beauty is enhanced by a pearl necklace, the Principality shines with an array of festivities and balls that have studded its history. We remember some of the highlights.
The magic began in 1925, when the Société des Bains de Mer organised its first four balls. The events were designed and produced by Jean-Gabriel Domergue, a painter and engraver from Bordeaux and relative of Toulouse-Lautrec, as this poster bears witness. Made for the Bal de l’Or (Golden Ball), it invites guests to dress up to the nines: “The ladies will wear outfits dominated by Gold, accompanied if possible by a sparkling evening hairstyle…”. In 1930 the Société des Bains de Mer partnered with the Comité des fêtes de Monaco (Monaco Festival Committee) to organise the Fête de l‘Elégance, which took place in the Jardins des Boulingrins and Place du Casino. The floats and models’ costumes, showcasing fashion, furs, flowers and perfumes, were designed by Gazan. The event ended in the Casino, whose Atrium and Salle Garnier were decorated with motifs inspired by underwater flora and fauna.
A whirlwind of stunning dresses and jewellery
Finally, 1954 saw the debut of the Bal de la Rose (Rose Ball), created by Henry Astric, the then artistic director of the Société des Bains de Mer. It was a major gamble at a time when dances such as the samba and mambo were more fashionable than the waltz, for all its period charm. Yet the stage had been set for this iconic ball held in the Sporting d’Hiver, with two key ingredients: the rose theme, and one hundred violins. The Nuit de Paris followed in 1961, an evening that paid tribute to the charms of the French capital and the Crazy Horse cabaret. In 1966 Monte-Carlo invited guests to travel back in time for the Bal du Second Empire, part of the year-long festivities marking the Centenary of Monte-Carlo. Collaborators included the host, Hélène Rochas, and interior designer André Levasseur, who designed the double staircase allowing guests direct access to the terraces from the Salle Garnier.
The royal couple and guests
In the late 1960s the spotlight turned on the Casino de Monte-Carlo and its spaces. In 1968 it hosted the Grand Bal Paré 1900 for the inaugural reopening of the Salon de l’Europe in the presence of the royal couple, and in 1969, the second Bal Paré, christened the Bal des Têtes, was held to inaugurate the Salle des Amériques. The 560 guests, representing European high society, dressed up as figures such as Bacchus, the Empress of Iran, and Catherine the Great of Russia. That same year, Elizabeth Taylor caused a stir by wearing the largest diamond in the world to the Bal des Scorpions at the Hôtel Hermitage. To this day the Principality continues to host extraordinary festivities, such as those in honour of the 150th anniversary of Monte-Carlo Société des Bains de Mer in 2013, when Place du Casino was transformed into a Mediterranean garden by landscape architect Jean Mus for an alfresco dinner prepared by chef Alain Ducasse.