Schlagobers

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Schlagobers (Whipped Cream), Op. 70, is a ballet in two acts with a libretto and score by Richard Strauss. Composed in 1921/22, it was given its première at the Vienna State Opera on 9 May 1924.[1]

Background[edit]

While serving as co-director of the Vienna Staatsoper with Franz Schalk from 1919 until 1924, Strauss sought to revive the fortunes of the resident ballet company, struggling after the collapse of the Austro-Hungarian monarchy. He recruited choreographer Heinrich Kröller (1880-1930) from the Berlin State Opera and collaborated with him on a series of productions, restaging his earlier work for the Ballets Russes Josephslegende (1922), and rearranging the music of Schumann, François Couperin, Beethoven, and Gluck for, respectively, Karneval (1922), Ballettsoirée (1923), Die Ruinen von Athen (1924), and Don Juan (1924). Most ambitious was Schlagobers, premiered during the official celebrations for the composer's sixtieth birthday.[2]

Scenario[edit]

A group of children celebrate their confirmation in a Konditorei or Viennese cake shop, where many of the confections come alive, with marzipan marches and cocoa dances. Having overindulged, one boy falls ill and hallucinates, leading to the party of Princess Pralinée, a trio of amorous liquors, and a riot of cakes pacified by beer.[3]

The scenario is somewhat reminiscent of The Nutcracker, which remained unperformed in the West until 1929.[4]

Music[edit]

Strauss' score employs a thematic-developmental treatment of motifs and was, according to contemporary critic Julius Korngold, "too elaborately artistic, too massive and heavily developed, and not dancerly enough... The light whipped cream is whisked in a gaudy bowl."[5][6]

Premiere[edit]

Kröller's choreography may be partially reconstructed from surviving drawings and dance notation, while sketches of many of the 287 costumes and sets created by the house designers have survived.[7] The extravagance of the production, costing some four billion Kronen – a contemporary new staging of Wagner's Rienzi cost by contrast only two hundred million – led to it being dubbed the Milliardenballett or "billionaire's ballet", and at a time of food-shortages and hyperinflation, may in part explain its troubled reception.[8] Strauss observed, in response to the poor reviews, "I cannot bear the tragedy of the present time. I want to create joy."[9]

Political subtext[edit]

While in the final version the three amorous liquors are Marianne Chartreuse, Ladislaw Slivovitz, and Boris Wutki, representatives of France, Poland and Russia, the original intent was to have the German Michel Schnapps instead winning Marianne's hand, a symbol of political reconciliation or even resurgent German virility, written out after the Occupation of the Ruhr. Also in earlier sketches, red banners were waved amidst the riotous proletarian cakes, with the Revolution Polka conducted by matzos.[10]

Recordings[edit]

There is a recording of the full ballet by the Tokyo Metropolitan Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Hiroshi Wakasugi, on the Denon label.[11]

The composer also recorded the waltzes from the ballet, with the Vienna Philharmonic.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Gilliam, Bryan (2001). Sadie, Stanley, ed. The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians 24. Oxford University Press. p. 517. 
  2. ^ Heisler, Wayne (2005). "'To drive away all cloudy thoughts': Heinrich Kröller's and Richard Strauss's 1923 Ballettsoirée and Interwar Viennese Cultural Politics". The Musical Quarterly (Oxford University Press) 88 (4): 595 f. 
  3. ^ Heisler, Wayne (2006). "Kitsch and the Ballet Schlagobers". The Opera Quarterly (Oxford University Press) 22 (1): 38, 40, 57. doi:10.1093/oq/kbi113. 
  4. ^ Heisler 2009, p. 140.
  5. ^ Heisler 2009, pp. 153 f.
  6. ^ Del Mar, Norman (2009) [1969]. Richard Strauss: A Critical Commentary on His Life and Works II. Faber and Faber. pp. 222–234. 
  7. ^ Heisler 2009, pp. 127 f.
  8. ^ Heisler 2009, p. 147.
  9. ^ Kennedy, Michael (2006). Richard Strauss: Man, Musician, Enigma. Cambridge University Press. p. 226. 
  10. ^ Heisler 2009, pp. 140–142.
  11. ^ Kennedy, Michael (January 1990). "R. Strauss. Schlagobers, Op. 70.". Gramophone: 61.