Ballet double feature: Verklungene Feste and Josephs Legende

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John Neumeier’s powerful double feature Verklungene Feste and Josephs Legende appears twice on the December schedule of the Vienna State Opera. There is much to learn about these two great works of ballet before experiencing them yourself.

Verklungene Feste, that is Bygone Celebrations, is set in 1830 at an opulent Parisian residence and is a tale of an elderly aristocrat who sponsors a revival of courtly dances from the early eighteenth century. Thus Verklungene Feste is a ballet about ballet, and we witness the transition from baroque dances to “modern” ballet.

Verklungene Feste had its premiere in Munich on 5 April 1941. Originally choreographed by Pia and Pino Mlakar, the work was comprised of reconstructions of baroque dances and newly composed romantic ballet. The music is an orchestration by Richard Strauss of baroque cembalo music. Indeed, the work has been interpreted as Strauss’s acceptance of the ephemerality of music and dance and of the futility of trying to resurrect the past.

The second part of the evening is dedicated to another classic by Richard Strauss – Jospehs Legende. This work had its premiere in 1914 in Paris, and was Strauss’s first and only collaboration with Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes.

The ballet centers around the story of Joseph from the Torah and the Old Testament narratives. This work however was distinguished from previous and future versions in a number of ways, most notably of which is that Joseph is reimagined as a dancer.

Through dancing, Joseph is overcome with a vision of an angel and pursues his godly salvation instead of the earthly delights laid before him. Neumeier’s choreography strikes at the heart of this tension, laying bare the sensuality of Joseph’s story in a way that, far from debasing or reveling in it, seeks to understand its subtle eroticism. The entire story comes to a head as Joseph must face a brutal punishment for a crime not his own.

Once again, the minimalism and subtlety of the performance contrasts strongly with the grand locales and themes explored within it. In the end, this only serves to underlie the most beautiful and moving elements of Josephs Legende: fate, sexuality, and the harshness of life in the world of the Old Testament.

Book Your Tickets for the Ballet Double Feature Today

With only two performances in December, this unique opportunity to see a modern master reinterpret some of the best work Richard Strauss ever produced is not to be missed. Book your tickets now and guarantee you’ll get the best seats possible.

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