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Wiener Staatsoper Premieres

»As an art form, ballet is a wonderful cosmos of the most divergent aesthetics, working methods and forms – it is so vast it is almost impossible to know all of it. This fascinates me and as a result I’m looking to program out work in as horizontal a manner as possible. That means: no separation, no niche thinking that only focuses on certain aspects of the repertoire and continues to reinforce divisions, but instead planning where works of classical modernism, modern dance and world premieres enjoy equal status with romantic story ballets and neoclassical pieces.« Martin Schläpfer

In his third season as ballet director and chief choreographer of the Vienna State Ballet, Martin Schläpfer is again interested in linking and interacting with the past and the present, the classical and the modern. The audience as well as the dancers of the ensemble are thus invited to manifold explorations that move between tradition and new facets of the art form ballet.

At the Vienna State Opera, the premiere season pens with Martin Schläpfer’s world premiere of the ballet classic Sleeping Beauty. Following his successful choreographic interpretation of Swan Lake with Ballett am Rhein in 2018, Schläpfer now takes on a second of Tchaikovsky’s three major ballets.

The second premiere at the Vienna State Opera features two works, which are staged with the Vienna State Ballet for the first time: Heinz Spoerli’s signature work Goldberg-Variations meets Ohad Naharin’s Tabula Rasa, Johann Sebastian Bach encounters Arvo Pärt.

The repertoire at the Vienna State Opera combines the story ballets Onegin, La Fille mal gardée and Don Quixote with three other productions that focus on dance art of the 20th and 21st centuries. Liebeslieder, Im siebten Himmel and Die Jahreszeiten present choreographers whose signatures are integral parts of the Vienna State Ballet, but also forge new relationships with the ensemble.

The dance world had waited a long time for Martin Schläpfer to tackle one of Piotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s great ballet scores. In 2018, he finally presented his version of Swan Lake in Düsseldorf, aimed »for the dark heart of the fairy tale« and created »a great evening of ballet«, as the Berlin Tagesspiegel wrote about the world premiere. He now follows this up with his version of Sleeping Beauty together with the Vienna State Ballet, in a stage design by Florian Etti and with costumes by Catherine Voeffray.

The choreography of Sleeping Beauty by Marius Petipa, which premiered at the Mariinsky Theatre in St. Petersburg on January 15, 1890, is generally regarded as the most perfect creation in the entire Russian ballet repertoire. At the same time, however, Tchaikovsky’s score presents many complex questions and remains open for new interpretations, not least because of the fairy tale on which it is based: a story about growing up, a girl developing into a woman, the intrusion of a fairy world in the everyday life of a royal court, the battle between light and darkness, of time against evil.

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»Whoever moves expresses himself. Without words. Who dances tells a story. Their own. Understandable for others, across all language barriers. Dance is something cosmopolitan, something multicultural. Dancing means letting go and letting in at the same time and allows people to experience themselves differently. Dance is an amplifier for the full range of feelings. Because in dancing, feelings and body form a symbiosis that gets by without words and yet finds its own language.« Heinz Spoerli

In 1742, Johann Sebastian Bach gave his Goldberg Variations the simple title Piano exercise consisting of one aria with various variations – and it is a fascinating compendium of variations, canons and fugues. In 1993, the Swiss choreographer Heinz Spoerli accepted the challenge of meeting Bach’s Opus summum for the piano with dance – and created one of his major works: a dance drama built out of music-making with the body about human beings, their joys and fears, loneliness and desires, allegiances and quarrels, youth and age.

Goldberg-Variationen presents an 80-minute panorama of life which is juxtaposed here with a ballet choreographed by Ohad Naharin – also performed by the Vienna State Ballet for the first time – Tabula Rasa, to the eponymous piece by the composer Arvo Pärt. The Israeli’s works are declarations of love to the body in movement full of freedom, strength, eroticism and wildness, but also of purity, tenderness and vulnerability. The term »tabula rasa« comes from an ancient philosophical idea and describes human beings as a »blank page«. Ohad Naharin takes one of these and writes on it his explorations of the self and the body in the form of touching, kinetic-meditative experiences.

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