VIENNA - The 56th Vienna Opera ball opened late Thursday with a heady mix of culture, glamour and politics, the Austrian capital shaken not stirred as a James Bond mingled with the celebrity guests.

French maestro Georges Pretre, 87, and Romanian soprano Angela Gheorghiu provided the artistic openers at this year’s Opera Ball, the highlight of Vienna’s ball season.

“For opera singers Vienna is a sort of Mecca,” explained Gheorghiu, who performed in front of an enthusiastic crowd of 7,000 at the Vienna State Opera building festooned with at least 50,000 flowers. She received ovations — including from the 144 debutante couples all dolled up in full evening wear — for her interpretations ranging from an aria from Bizet’s “Carmen” to “I could have danced all night” from Lerner and Loewe’s “My Fair Lady”.