Saturday, February 11, 2012

Wiener Blut

I should have known better than to think a 2011 ballet setting of Brecht and Weil's "Seven Deadly Sins" costarring Patty LuPone would be good, but I'm glad I didn't. The piece I went for was banal for variously uninteresting reasons, but the rest of the New York City Ballet program at Lincoln Center this afternoon was all Balanchine, and all joy.  Especially transporting was the closer, "Vienna Waltzes" from 1977. Before ending with the first dance suite from "Der Rosenkavalier" it's all older Strausses and Léhar, starting with "Geschichten vom Wienerwald." Indeed, the marvelous set starts as the Wienerwald, changing gradually into a grand ballroom by way of a Jugendstil studio which seems to grow out of the roots of the trees as their scrim rises. (I'm not describing it well; it was magic.) And the sheer pleasure in movement of the dances!

After the faux profundity of the blandly unpretty "Sins" (Brecht would have wept), the joy in beauty of these dances was a revelation (Brecht would have sighed and said he told you so). For me it was also a trip back to Vienna, which for a long time was an important part of my view of the world. In the sooty years of Austria's political neutrality before the cold war ended and Austria joined the EU, I was a sort of spiritual Mitteleuropäer, proud to know where every scene of "The Third Man" was filmed. Waltzing imperial Vienna was a fata morgana for tourists. I was oriented by the world depicted in the the k.-u.-k., occupation and Austrian stamps I bought at a shop in the Opernpassage, the giddy interwar movies at the Bellaria Kino and the blunt and ineffective efforts at Vergangenheitsbewältigung at the Burgtheater, and Greene's world was mine. Funny how much that's fallen into disuse, but nice that it's still there. The moment the zither twanged in "Geshichten vom Wienerwald," I was lost, and found. [pic]

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Nike said...
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