Three amazing choreographers and a few more famous composers: such a combination really ought to bring ballet lovers into Seventh Heaven – or Im siebten Himmel, as the title of the ballet performance at Vienna State Opera goes. With the music of the Strauss family, Gustav Mahler and Georges Bizet and the choreography of modern-day masters of dance like Martin Schläpfer, Marco Goecke and Georges Balanchine, the Austrian capital promises to become the ballet centre of the world for an evening.
The programme opens with “Marsch, Walzer, Polka”, the 2006 ballet by Martin Schläpfer, built around the beloved tunes of Johann Strauss (father and son) and Josef Strauss. The performance at Vienna State Opera this season is special: Especially for it, Schläpfer has added the “Neue Pizzicato Polka” op. 449 and refreshed the choreography with input from avant-garde artist Susanne Bisovsky.
Next comes “Uraufführung” (Fly paper bird) by Marco Goecke, a new piece crafted especially for this triple performance. It rests on the Adagietto from Gustav Mahler's Fifth Symphony, a work that celebrates the composer's budding love to his future wife, Alma Schindler. He proclaimed he was “in seventh heaven” at the time of writing this work. In line with the emotional charge of the music, Goecke's typical style of flutters, trembles, and vibrations presents a uniquely visceral and intimate ballet experience. Thanks to the expressive music and engaging dance, in heaven everything is fine.
The evening wraps with “Symphony in C” by Georges Bizet. Its choreography is a nod to classical dance by the incomparable Georges Balanchine. Originally created in 1947, the work was the dance master's homage to his own ballet education in the style of the St Petersburg School. A splendid combination of solo, pas de deux, and ensemble performances, “Symphony in C” revels in the joy that Bizet's music and Balanchine's youthful dance routines create. If there is a ballet heaven indeed, Im siebten Himmel at Wiener Staatsoper certainly would qualify.