BWW Review: Alexei Ratmansky's WHIPPED CREAM at ABT
A few years ago I bought a recording of Schlagobers, which had been written by the venerable Richard Strauss for the Vienna State Opera Ballet in 1924. I had a difficult time listening to the music-it didn't gel, nor did it leave any imprint on my mind. I suppose there was a reason for it not having many recordings-compare this with Rosenkavalier. I remember doing some research on this project: Strauss was serving as co-director of the Vienna State Opera with Franz Schalk and wanted to raise the prestige of the ballet wing after it had been decimated in the First World War. As a devoted admirer of Diaghilev company, for which he had once written Josephslegende, Strauss went about composing and writing his own libretto for what was to become Schlagobers, choreographed by Heinrich Kröller, who devised a mass spectacle that required 287 costumes at a cost of four billion kronnen, becoming known as the "billionaire's ballet." And at a time when inflation was climbing minute by minute.
The libretto was very interesting: Three liquors, representative of France, Poland and Russia, matzo balls, German manhood, a children's confirmation, Princess Praline, Princess Teaflower, a candy shop. I was thinking of that old expression: "He also threw in the kitchen sink."
Jack Anderson wrote in the New York Times on January 29, 1981: "Schlagobers, which takes its name from a type of whipped cream pastry, has not been revived much since then. It's easy to see why. The music is not top-drawer Strauss. However, the ballet's principal problems have to do with the scenario. What is wrong with Schlagobers is that it is artistically indigestible. It is so excessive, so unabashedly gluttonous and gooey, that one is repelled, rather than charmed, by it. Perhaps we're better off with The Nutcracker after all."
So what does a brainy, talented choreographer like Alexei Ratmansky do? He whips it up into his own version, a crazy, delightful, if at times, simplistic ballet called, appropriately after the German translation, Whipped Cream. There's really nothing wrong with it: beautiful sets and costumes by Mark Ryden, extraordinarily talented dancers like Herman Cornejo, Gilliam Murphy, James Whiteside and Cassandra Trenary in the principal roles, outstanding orchestral accompaniment under the direction of David LaMarche and a finale to end all finales (even if it did remind me of Ashton's Sylvia), guaranteed to send you home screaming bravo.