Tänze Bilder Sinfonien

Choreography George Balanchine, Alexei Ratmansky, Martin Schläpfer

Premiere

26. June 2021
Saturday
2 intermissions
Ordering tickets

Cast 26.06.2021

Symphony in Three Movements

Musical Direction Robert Reimer
Komponist Igor Strawinski
Choreography George Balanchine
Lighting Design Mark Stanley
Staging Ben Huys

Pictures at an Exhibition

Komponist Modest Mussorgski
Choreography Alexei Ratmansky
Costume Design Adeline André
Lighting Design Mark Stanley
Projection Design Wendall K. Harrington nach Wassily Kandinsky
Piano Alina Bercu

Sinfonie Nr. 15 (Uraufführung)

Musical Direction Robert Reimer
Komponist Dmitri Schostakowitsch
Choreography Martin Schläpfer
Scenery and Costume Design Keso Dekker
Lighting Design Robert Eisenstein

Details

Balanchine – Ratmansky – Schläpfer: three masters of contemporary ballet come together with works set to music by Russian and Soviet composers. They are linked by their roots: in the case of the choreographers, through danse d’école, which forms the basis for an art of ballet for the present time; and in the case of the composers, Stravinsky, Mussorgsky and Shostakovich, through the musical culture of their home country, from which their paths were to lead them in such different directions.

In his 1874 work »Pictures at an Exhibition«, Modest Mussorgsky, the most radical representative of the group known as »The Five«, expressed an overflowing fullness of life and visionary sound images. The urbane and cosmopolitan Igor Stravinsky, who had a highly developed capacity for constantly changing the musical face he presented to the world, reacted to the horrors of the Second World War with his »Symphony in Three Movements«, created between 1942 and 1945. The great social and political questions of the 20th century are reflected in the works of Dmitri Shostakovich, which are balanced on a knife edge between conformity and protest in a system that had no respect for artistic freedom and simply used art as a means of propaganda. His 15th Symphony, which was first performed in Moscow in 1972, appears to be a cheerful scherzo at the outset, but the apparently light-hearted humour soon tips over into the grotesque, with joyful fanfares changing into threatening scenarios and virtuosic figures into a breathless frenzy. Like beacons, quotations from other musical works, ripped out of their context, flare up in a musical climate which moves inexorably, with sounds of grief and mourning, towards a deeply disturbing epilogue.

George Balanchine and his hugely important artistic partner Igor Stravinsky had already talked about a choreography for »Symphony in Three Movements« in the 1940s. However, it wasn’t until 1972 that Balanchine finally set a ballet to this symphony; it was one of several works he choreographed for the New York Stravinsky Festival, a major homage to the composer’s life after Stravinsky had passed away in 1971. The »Symphony in Three Movements« is a perfect example of Balanchine’s art: his elegant athleticism, virtuosic step sequences and complex spatial formations, which are derived entirely from the music, are fully in accordance with the principle that »composers combine notes, choreographers combine movements«.

Alexei Ratmansky, a world star of classical dance, is now for the first time entrusting a work to the Wiener Staatsballett. Like Balanchine, Ratmansky’s path led him from St. Petersburg to New York, where he was appointed Artist in Residence at the American Ballet Theatre in 2009, having brought the Moscow Bolshoi Ballet to new glory as its Director since 2004. His extensive work has led him in two directions. On the one hand, there are his attempted reconstructions, based on intensive study of source material, which shed new light on the Russian classics of the 19th century. On the other hand, Ratmansky is very much a creative spirit. His own works include »Pictures at an Exhibition«, which was premiered in 2014 by the New York City Ballet. In the design by Wendall K. Harrington, which with Wassily Kandinsky’s colour study »Squares with Concentric Circles« brings to life a work by the Russian pioneer of abstract art, ten dancers displaying natural movements take the forms, steps and positions of classical ballet in a new, invigorated direction.

»Every ballet evening is also about the music, and I have great things in mind for the great Wiener Staatsoper Orchestra.« It was with these words that Martin Schläpfer justified his choice of Shostakovich’s 15th Symphony, with which he and his ensemble are once again immersing themselves in an intensive creative process following the world premiere of »4«. For Schläpfer himself, however, this is also about a further exploration of the energies, imaginative ideas and movement inspirations that can be derived from Shostakovich’s music. For many months before the start of the project, Martin Schläpfer has been focusing on associations such as »creeping mysteriously closer, everywhere and nowhere, unapproachable, unfathomable, fleeing, leaping, untameable«. With a piece of music which is not only the closing point of Shostakovich’s œuvre as a composer of symphonies, but also a summary of his entire life – with all its joy and sadness, its hopes and rejections, its lightness and its vulnerability – these create the fundamental impulses for a new dance work which places the artists of the Wiener Staatsballett – and therefore humanity itself – at the centre.