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Vienna set to party like it's 1899

U.S. actress Mira Sorvino grimaces during a news conference in Vienna February 6, 2013. Attending this year's Vienna Opera Ball will be a dr
U.S. actress Mira Sorvino grimaces during a news conference in Vienna February 6, 2013. Attending this year's Vienna Opera Ball will be a dr

By Michael Shields

VIENNA (Reuters) - Attending this year's Vienna Opera Ball will be a dream come true for Oscar-winning U.S. actress Mira Sorvino, she said on Wednesday as the Austrian capital put the finishing touches on it most glittering social event.

"I feel like I'm going to be in a fairy tale ball, like Cinderella walking into the ball," she told reporters.

"I just hope I am able to do the waltz correctly."

Reports about which big names were coming and what they would wear to Thursday's dance have saturated Austrian media for days. The posh affair - boxes cost up to 18,500 euros ($25,000) each - gets live television coverage that last year drew 1.6 million viewers in a country of 8.4 million.

German fashion designer Harald Gloeoeckler plans to arrive in a carriage drawn by six horses and with six footmen in rococo costumes, he told the Heute newspaper.

"The Opera Ball stands for radiance and glamour like no other event in the world except perhaps the Oscars. It takes place in a wonderful city and traditional location. And no prizes are awarded, so no one has to fear going empty-handed. You simply have to be there," he said.

The dress code for the sold-out ball is white tie and tails for men, long evening gowns for women.

Sorvino is the guest of Vienna construction magnate and socialite Richard Lugner, 80, who invites famous people each year to accompany him to the opulent event. He is also bringing in Italian film actress Gina Lollobrigida this year.

Paris Hilton, Dita von Teese and Sophia Loren have all been Lugner's dates in the past, but Hollywood star Lindsay Lohan and actress Bo Derek snubbed him after failing to agree terms.

He raised eyebrows in 2011 by inviting Karima el Mahroug, the teenage dancer known by her stage name Ruby Rubacuori (Ruby Heartstealer) at the center of a political storm around Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi.

Actress Hilary Swank will be the guest of an Austrian investment company, media have reported.

The ball has been held in the Opera since 1877, when Emperor Franz Joseph dropped his resistance to having dances in the building that opened on the famed Ring road in 1869, but was interrupted during the First and Second World War eras.

Supermodels, captains of industry and government ministers rub elbows at the event, which gives them the chance to show off awards and medals as they waltz to the music of the Vienna Philharmonic.

But new anti-corruption laws passed last year prevent politicians and government officials from accepting corporate invitations to the event.

Austrian media have estimated that Patricia Schalko, friend of real estate tycoon Georg Stumpf, paid 150,000 euros for an Elie Saab dress that she told the newspaper Oesterreich had been hand sewn by 100 seamstresses.

(Reporting by Michael Shields)

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