Malibu Seen / By Kim Devore

A Malibu mystery woman joins a member of the local contingent at this year’s masquerade blow-out to benefit Save Venice. Photo by Save Venice


There was magic on the Adriatic once again, as Save Venice threw its big splashy biannual fundraiser. The four-day celebration was held in Italy’s most beautiful city. Malibu designers Hutton Wilkinson and Erika Brunson wouldn’t miss the spectacular festivities, which began with traditional Bellinis and classic Cecchetti at Museo Diocesano d’Arte Sacra.

After catching up with old friends, the gang made its way to Basilica San Marco to see the results of its generous donations at work. The restoration of the Bellini’s organ shutters was just one of Save Venice’s glorious projects. There was just enough time to catch a catnap before heading to the lavish Ball des Bijoux at Palazzo Polignac-Decazes on the Grand Canal. There, we were greeted by a merry band of Renaissance musicians in full regalia. Revelers went all out for the costume ball, donning jewels, masks and gorgeous gowns.

The following day our tour continued with a peak at the restoration in progress on Paolo Veronese’s 16th-century decorative cycle in the church of San Sebastiano. Later in the day, Alessandro Favoretto Rubelli welcomed us to his Palazzo Corner Spinelli where we got a special look at his extraordinary handiwork in room after room filled with sumptuous fabrics and over-the-top opera costumes.

The preview was an appropriate warm-up for our next event, which took us to the Teatro La Fenice. We donned 16th century costumes, corsets, cloaks and tricorn hats at the Calvachina Ball, which was held at the city’s storied opera house. There we admired the gold and lapis hand-painted ceiling, which was lovingly restored by Save Venice after a devastating fire nearly destroyed it.

The ball was created by Matteo Corvino and featured performances, dancing and an endless Venetian feast. There was an impressive acrobatic show, which concluded with an accomplished rider prancing off stage on the back of a beautiful stallion. The evening’s theme was “Beauty and the Beast” or “Le Belle e Il Bestie,” since it was co-sponsored by our French counterpart, Comite Francais pour la Sauvegarde de Venise.

It was an incredible two days, but the Save Venice crew was just getting started.

The following night we sailed into the elegant salons of Il Ridotto San Moise where we dined on local specialties and were treated to an unforgettable night of opera and music. It looked like a scene from Casanova as fabulously costumed counts and courtesans wrapped up the evening playing 18th century games of chance.

Although every moment was unforgettable, organizers saved the best for last. In keeping with tradition, we wrapped up our Venetian adventure in grand style on the Grand Canal at the one and only Palazzo Pisani Moretta.

Hutton and his entire contingent came dressed as a regal Chinese delegation donning elaborately embroidered silk robes and enormous headdresses straight from the days of Marco Polo.

Others came as ambassadors from India, Persia and Turkey, making up an eye-popping parade. The place was adorned with rich, Rubelli fabrics and bowls of exotic herbs and spices filled the air. Surrounded by smoky antique mirrors with their ornate gilded frames, we dinned under a Tiepolo ceiling by the light of a thousand candles. Despite the authenticity of the evening, we couldn’t help but whip out our cell phones to capture images of friends and family dolled up and decked out as never before. As always, the masquerade ball is like stepping into fantasyland with extraordinary memories to last a lifetime. There is no better way to enjoy a city that is one of the rarest jewels on earth. Best of all, it is a magnificent way to save the city. Thanks to the dedication of Save Venice, this precious gem with its priceless art and architecture will continue to amaze and inspire for generations to come.

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