The Masquerade Ball: From Venice to New Orleans

masquerade ball

Photo by Simo on Flickr

When I hear the words 'masquerade ball' I picture mystery, intrigue, and romance. I envision women in elaborate dresses, their faces hidden by feathered masks. I see elegant men wearing the finest of threads, appearance disguised by tooled leather covering their face. There is debauchery, of course. There is always a bit of debauchery in my Masquerade Ball fantasies. What are Masquerade Balls like in real life and where can you find yourself an opportunity to attend one?
Masquerade Balls have always been associated with Carnival. Historically, the Carnival was a celebration of excess before Lent, a Catholic holiday which requires fasting. The Masquerade Ball first took place in Venice, Italy and consisted of nobles holding an elaborate festival of dancing and overindulgence while remaining anonymous behind a mask. It was a chance for the wealthy to see and be seen, compete with each for the most unique costume, and be entertained with performances by actors and musicians.

The Masquerade Ball is still being celebrated in Venice today and there are a few venues that allow the general public to join in the festivities if you find yourself in this city of canals. First off, you'll need a costume. Costumes can be rented at various shops throughout the city of Venice and some hotels will even be able to assist in your search. There are also shops such as Tragicomica, a traditional mask making shop that will also rent you a costume. The masks available range from simple and traditional Carnival masks to intricate and detailed ball masks. Any will be suitable, but remember that there is nothing wrong with being over the top at a Masquerade Ball! At the ball, you can expect sumptuous food and drink, lavish gilt decorations, and a formal party executed like no other you may have ever experienced. To truly get in touch with the roots of the Masquerade Ball, a visit to Venice should be on your bucket list.

New Orleans has a few options for you to attend a Masquerade Ball during their Carnival celebration. These balls are mainly private and invitation-only events organized by Krewes. There are some masquerade balls that the general public is able to purchase tickets for and attend such as the Krewe of Orpheus's Orpheuscapade. For those in New Orleans' society, to receive an invitation to a Masquerade Ball is a great honor. The mystery of the ball is part of their allure and I would love to be a fly on the wall to see the magnificent gowns, masks, and festivities at one of the private Masquerade Balls! The New Orleans Masquerade Balls channel much of the spirit of the original Venetian Masquerade Balls in that attendants are expected to come in their finest costumes and enjoy the rich and festive atmosphere.

Whether you have the opportunity to be on a New Orleans Masquerade Ball guest list or attend a ball in Venice, the experience will be a visual treat and provide memories to last the rest of your life.

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