Vienna State Opera 7 April 2024 - The Lady with the Camellias |

The Lady with the Camellias

Vienna State Opera, Vienna, Austria
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Important Info
Type: Ballet
City: Vienna, Austria
Starts at: 18:30

In addition to Stuttgart Ballet and Hamburg Ballet, by whom the work was first seen in Vienna in a guest performance in 2014, only a small number of companies carefully chosen by John Neumeier have been permitted to dance Lady of the Camellias. From 2024 the Vienna State Ballet will join them, and this large-scale production will not only enrich its repertoire with a Neumeier treasure but also one of the great story ballets. 

An estate is being auctioned off. These are what remains of the glittering possessions of one of the most glamorous women in 19th century Paris: the courtesan Marguerite Gautier. Armand Duval is among those in attendance. As the business of the auction continues before a crowd of curious onlookers, he is overcome with memories, for he was the man with whom Marguerite discovered true love. They spent one long summer together, enjoying a life of bliss in the country, far away from the Parisian demi-monde. However, Armand’s family honour was at risk. And without knowing that his father was forcing Marguerite to do so, he had to watch as his lover returned to her old life – and that ultimately ruined everything.

When Alexandre Dumas fils published his semi-autobiographical novel La dame aux camélias in 1848, he not only achieved his greatest success, but also created one of the stage’s most moving stories. Giuseppe Verdi would premiere his opera based on the novel, La traviata, at Venice’s Teatro La Fenice five years later, actresses including Sarah Bernhardt, Eleonora Duse and Käthe Dorsch went on to triumph in the stage play that Dumas adapted himself, and Greta Garbo would play Marguerite on film. Frederick Ashton was the first choreographer to stage the story in 1963, and in his ballet Marguerite and Armand he created a work for two outstanding performers: Margot Fonteyn and Rudolf Nureyev. Five years later, Stuttgart Ballet presented an equally spectacular cast in John Neumeier’s Lady of the Camellias: a full-length narrative ballet created for Marcia Haydée, Egon Madsen, Brigit Keil, Richard Cragun, Reid Anderson and many others. To this day it remains not only one of his most moving works, but – with its dramatic construction, the clarity and intensity of its characterisation, and the subtle images and splendid costumes of Jürgen Rose’s designs which sympathetically evoke the flair of 19th century Paris – it is a masterpiece of recent dance history.

The choreographer reveals Armand Duval’s passionate relationship with Marguerite Gautier retrospectively. The couple meet for the first time in a play-within-a-play, but Marguerite also sees her own life disturbingly reflected in the ancient love story that is presented in ballet form: the tragedy of Manon Lescaut and Chevalier Des Grieux. Neumeier skilfully employs a filmic dramaturgy, overlaying lightly drawn "exterior" scenes of Parisian society with "interiors" that focus on the emotional states of his characters, in which his dances reveal every possible psychological nuance: full of elegance and carefree joy, immersed in passion and lust for life, erupting into existential drama and affecting the audience deeply with fragility in the face of death.

In Frédéric Chopin, Neumeier found the ideal musical partner to bring both great virtuosity and a melancholy sense of loss to his depiction of the superficiality of Paris’s high society and of human passion. The largo from Chopin’s B minor sonata forms the recurrent leitmotif in a score of piano works (including both concertos, together with other pieces for piano and orchestra) for which two pianists join forces in a Chopin marathon whose demands go far beyond a conventional recital.

The ballet The Lady of the Camellias was first performed in 1978 in Stuttgart, then choreographer John Neumeier made a second edition for his own troupe in Hamburg. The ballet is based on the story of Marguerite Gaultier, whose prototype was the famous Parisian courtesan Marie Duplessis, at one time the beloved of the writer Dumas-son, whose novel The Lady of the Camellias became a source of inspiration for many theatrical figures. Soon after its creation, this story interested Verdi - this is how the most popular opera La Traviata appeared. Later, the selfless harlot got into ballet - a lover of psychological plot productions, Neumeier was not the first to make Margarita and her lover Armand Duval dance.

John Neumeier's ballet The Lady of the Camellias based on the novel of the same name by Alexander Dumas, the son, is dedicated to Marcia. Before John took over as director of the Hamburg Ballet in 1973, he danced and staged his ballets in Stuttgart side by side with the troupe's prima ballerina Marcia Heide. This unique ballerina (her real name is Marcia Salaverri Pereira da Silva) was born in 1939 in Brazil, studied dance in Rio de Janeiro, then in London with Tatyana Leskova and in Paris with Lyubov Egorova and Olga Preobrazhenskaya.

Premiere of this production: 02 February 1852, Théâtre du Vaudeville, Paris, France

La Dame aux Camélias (The Lady with the Camellias) is a novel by Alexandre Dumas fils, first published in 1848 and subsequently adapted by Dumas for the stage.

Venue Info

Vienna State Opera - Vienna
Location   Opernring 2

The Vienna State Opera is one of the leading opera houses in the world. Its past is steeped in tradition. Its present is alive with richly varied performances and events. Each season, the schedule features 350 performances of more than 60 different operas and ballets. The members of the Vienna Philharmonic are recruited from the Vienna State Opera's orchestra. The building is also the home of the Vienna State Ballet, and it hosts the annual Vienna Opera Ball during the carnival season.

The 1,709-seat Renaissance Revival venue was the first major building on the Vienna Ring Road. It was built from 1861 to 1869 following plans by August Sicard von Sicardsburg and Eduard van der Nüll, and designs by Josef Hlávka. The opera house was inaugurated as the "Vienna Court Opera" (Wiener Hofoper) in the presence of Emperor Franz Joseph I and Empress Elisabeth of Austria. It became known by its current name after the establishment of the First Austrian Republic in 1921. The Vienna State Opera is the successor of the Vienna Court Opera, the original construction site chosen and paid for by Emperor Franz Joseph in 1861.

The opera house was the first major building on the Vienna Ringstrasse commissioned by the Viennese "city expansion fund". Work commenced on the house in 1861 and was completed in 1869, following plans drawn up by architects August Sicard von Sicardsburg and Eduard van der Nüll. It was built in the Neo-Renaissance style by the renowned Czech architect and contractor Josef Hlávka.

Gustav Mahler was one of the many conductors who have worked in Vienna. During his tenure (1897–1907), Mahler cultivated a new generation of singers, such as Anna Bahr-Mildenburg and Selma Kurz, and recruited a stage designer who replaced the lavish historical stage decors with sparse stage scenery corresponding to modernistic, Jugendstil tastes. Mahler also introduced the practice of dimming the lighting in the theatre during performances, which was initially not appreciated by the audience. However, Mahler's reforms were maintained by his successors.

Herbert von Karajan introduced the practice of performing operas exclusively in their original language instead of being translated into German. He also strengthened the ensemble and regular principal singers and introduced the policy of predominantly engaging guest singers. He began a collaboration with La Scala in Milan, in which both productions and orchestrations were shared. This created an opening for the prominent members of the Viennese ensemble to appear in Milan, especially to perform works by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Richard Strauss.

Ballet companies merge

At the beginning of the 2005–2006 season, the ballet companies of the Staatsoper and the Vienna Volksoper were merged under the direction of Gyula Harangozó.

From the 2010–2011 season a new company was formed called Wiener Staatsballet, Vienna State Ballet, under the direction of former Paris Opera Ballet principal dancer Manuel Legris. Legris eliminated Harangozós's policy of presenting nothing but traditional narrative ballets with guest artists in the leading roles, concentrated on establishing a strong in-house ensemble and restored evenings of mixed bill programs, featuring works of George Balanchine, Jerome Robbins, Jiří Kylián, William Forsythe, and many contemporary choreographers, as well as a reduced schedule of the classic ballets.

Opera ball

For many decades, the opera house has been the venue of the Vienna Opera Ball. It is an internationally renowned event, which takes place annually on the last Thursday in Fasching. Those in attendance often include visitors from around the world, especially prominent names in business and politics. The opera ball receives media coverage from a range of outlets.

Important Info
Type: Ballet
City: Vienna, Austria
Starts at: 18:30
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