Richard Strauss contributed music to several ballets during his career, collaborating with prominent dance artists of his time. His ballets include an unfinished Die Insel Kythere (The Island of Cythera), 1900], inspired by French Rococo paintings; Josephslegende (The Legend of Joseph, 1914), choreographed by Leonide Massine for the Ballets Russes; a 1923 Ballettsoiree with dances by Heinrich Kroeller, showcasing the Vienna Ballet and including Strauss's arrangements of music by Francois Couperin; Schlagobers (Whipped Cream, 1924), a "Comic Viennese Ballet" choreographed by Kroeller; and Verklungene Feste: Tanzvisionen aus Zwei Jahrhunderten (Faded Celebrations: Dance Visions from Two Centuries, 1941), premiered in Munich with meta-historical dances by the dancer-choreographer team Pia and Pino Mlakar. In The Ballet Collaborations of Richard Strauss, Heisler considers Strauss's ballet scores alongside story, mise-en-scene, and choreography, revealing Strauss's shift from a parodic conception of classical dance in the years leading up to World War I to a belated obsession with Romantic-era ballet in its aftermath. Heisler explores issues central to Strauss's relationship to modernism: his mining in Die Insel Kythere (1900) of the decorative aspects of dance, suggesting a shared sensibility with fin-de-siecle Jugendstil and a critique of Romanticism; the dynamics of collective creation and Strauss's penchant for parody in relation to Josephslegende (1914); his stance on interwar cultural politics through the 1923 Ballettsoiree and Schlagobers (1924); and Verklungene Feste (1941) as this composer's autumnal meditation on the conceit of music and dance as vehicles for transcendence. The Ballet Collaborations of Richard Strauss is a richly interdisciplinary study that promises to nuance the popular, critical, and academic reception of this ever-popular composer. Wayne Heisler Jr. is Assistant Professor and Coordinator of Historical and Cultural Studies in Music at The College of New Jersey.
The Ballet Collaborations of Richard Strauss
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