In Meistersignaturen (Master Signatures) the Wiener Staatsballett presents four lengthy contemporary and neoclassical works from celebrated choreographers, who are renowned for their distinctive styles and unmistakable hallmarks. While Balanchine and Van Dantzig continue to inspire and influence young choreographers, Neumeier and Bubeníček are still creating up to the present day. The program contains some of their best known works well executed by the various talented dancers of the Wiener Staatsballett, resulting in an enjoyable and varied evening of virtuosic dance.

Papava and Kimoto in Le Souffle De L'Esprit © Wiener Staatsballett / Michael Pöhn
Papava and Kimoto in Le Souffle De L'Esprit
© Wiener Staatsballett / Michael Pöhn

The evening opens with Le Souffle de l'Esprit, a contemporary piece by Czech dancer and choreographer Jiří Bubeníček. Inspired by Leonardo da Vinci’s paintings, of which a selection are projected on the back cloth, it is a celebration of life as well as a good-bye. A stream of light and airy group dances, pas des deux and solo’s smoothly alternate each other, creating a pleasant flow. Minor criticism is that the dancers, and couples in particular, seem to be dancing next to each other rather than with each other, but their ability to pass on  the spirit and liveliness of this piece makes up for this. By the time the energetic male trio at the core of the piece starts, you are filled with energy and lust for life. This is in sharp contrast with a short dying scene that follows. Based on a past event in Bubeníček's personal life, when shortly before a premiere his parents withheld his grandmother’s death from him, it is a beautiful belated good-bye to his grandmother.

Gabdullen, Papava and Cherevychko in Vaslav © Wiener Staatsballett / Michael Pöhn
Gabdullen, Papava and Cherevychko in Vaslav
© Wiener Staatsballett / Michael Pöhn

Dancer and choreographer Vaslav Nijinsky is an inspiration to many, as well as to John Neumeier. The director and chief choreographer of the Hamburg Ballet created a short ballet under the name Vaslaw in 1979. This neoclassical and aesthetic piece contains references to Nijinsky’s choreographies. It shows the dancer slowly sinking into madness, while the other dancers remain isolated from his world. Denys Cherevychko is intriguing in the lead role, and the four couples are a pleasure to watch, yet their presence seems irrelevant and the piece fails to leave a strong impression.

A program like this would be unthinkable without a choreography from Balanchine. The evening features his exuberant and pure dance piece Allegro Brillante, being performed on the Viennese stage for the first time. It has the characteristic blue backdrop, simple costumes and above all the rich vocabulary of classical movements and musicality that makes a Balanchine work so exciting to watch. This 13 minute piece with numerous leaps and turns is demanding for both the ensemble and soloists, but the dancers conquered it. Olga Esina and Vladimir Shishov shone brightly in the pas des deux, showing of their brilliant technique and stage presence.

Polakova and Lazik in Vier Letzte Lieder © Wiener Staatsballett / Michael Pöhn
Polakova and Lazik in Vier Letzte Lieder
© Wiener Staatsballett / Michael Pöhn

The evening concludes with Vier Letzte Lieder. Dutch choreographer Rudi van Dantzig is known for his thoughtful and dramatic choreographic language, in which he blends classical ballet with more theatrical influences to express deep inner emotions, injustice and hidden
sorrow. In 1979, two years after the Dutch premiere, Vier Letzte Lieder was performed in Vienna for the first time. It is a delight to see it back on the stage of the Vienna State Opera Ballet once again. It is one of Rudi van Dantzig most performed works, and for good reason. Performed to the composition of Richard Strauss of the same name, and accompanied by the sublime voice of Olga Bezsmertna, it shows four couples being haunted by the angel of death. Every aspect of this work contributes to creating a melancholic and intense atmosphere. On a backdrop of a minimalistic dark landscape and in simple costumes with autumnal colors, each couple performs a virtuoso and emotionally intense duet. They are uniformly good, showing long lines accompanied by longingly extended arms and sorrowful facial expressions. Vier Letzte Lieder proves to be a gripping and memorable work and
a perfect end to the program.

Meistersignaturen gives the audience the opportunity to discover the unique styles of four well-known choreographers, as well as showing the versatility and talent of the dancers of the Wiener Staatsballett. The program will be performed in June and October on the stage of the Vienna State Opera, and a live-stream will soon be available on their website.

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