CULTURE: GENERAL INFORMATION
If the Austrian folk traditions originate from the union between pagan rites of the Germanic area and Catholic fervor typical of Latin countries, even the official culture is affected by this mixture of different components, in which it is possible to distinguish Italian influences (in all fields), French (art and literature), Slavs (literature) and Flemish (art and music). The bond with the German world, which cannot however be ignored, is particularly strong in the literary field (to the point that before the Reformation not even one can speak of an autonomous Austrian literature), in music and theater. The patronage of the imperial court contributed to the cosmopolitanism of Vienna, which for centuries attracted artists from all over Europe: the original nucleus around which the most renowned museums of the capital arose, including the Kunsthistorisches Museum, comes from the Habsburg collections; the Nationalbibliothek itself, housed in the new wing of the Hofburg, owes its most precious specimens to the love for the books of Frederick III and Maximilian I. But the royal house has left no trace of its magnificence only in Vienna: since Frederick III settled there, the old town (Altstadt) of Graz has been enriched with buildings so valuable that UNESCO in 2001 it declared them a World Heritage Site. Other Austrian sites considered worthy of this recognition are the historic center of Salzburg, mainly in Baroque style, where Mozart’s birthplace is also located; Schonbrunn Castle in Vienna which houses the oldest zoological garden on the continent in its park; the Sommering Railway, built in 1854, and the Wachau area, both in Lower Austria and considered excellent combinations of human work and nature.
CULTURE: DANCE AND BALLET
According to pharmacylib, the development of ballet in Austria is linked to the historical events of the capital. In Vienna, even before the opening of the public theaters, the royal palace and the summer residences of the princes (where carnival masquerades, such as the Wirthschaft, stage masquerade for dance in use since 1573, were very popular) hosted the first performances of ballets, linked to the name of great Italian choreographers: F. Legnano, active at the court of Charles V, C. Negri and the Ventura, masters at the imperial court. To these we owe the aforementioned masquerades, the first ballets on horseback (Rossballett) and real theatrical ballets, born from the custom of having a performance at court end with the “license”, or greeting of homage from the company, and the first to be interpreted by professional dancers. With the establishment of permanent theaters (mid-18th century) and with the creative contribution of great choreographers, Vienna became the center of dance for the entire German world. The city, already oriented towards the new pantomime style from the works of the Austrian choreographer FA Hilverding and G. Angiolini, welcomed Noverre, who right here reached (1767-74) the peak of his career choreographing, as maître de ballet of the Empress Maria Theresa, over 50 ballets (including many of his masterpieces). P. Lodi, S. Viganò and later the Cerrito and the Taglioni were active on the Viennese stage; the Elssler, born in a suburb of the capital, here was formed and debuted before bringing the world his great art; the choreographer J. Hassreiter presented (1888) at the Hofoper in Vienna the most beautiful German ballet of the century, Die Puppenfee (The fairy dolls); I. Duncan appeared at the Künstlerhaus (1902) in a performance that has remained memorable; the Bohemian H. Kroeller worked at the Hoftheater (1923-27) showing with his Straussian choreographies (for example, Schlagobers, 1924) of wanting to safeguard the traditional values of academic ballet while adopting a more modern form of expression. After him, Margaretha Wallmann (1934-39), a pupil of Mary Wigman, and Erika Hanka (1942-55) took over the management of the highest Viennese company. The latter ensured the company’s survival and its relaunch after the war. After the second world war Aurel Milloss, called to the Staatsoper by H. von Karajan, took care of the reprise of the repertoire and presented new creations. In the two periods of his direction (1961-66 and 1971-74) two important events positively marked the Viennese choreographic scene: the staging of Swan Lake, by Rudolf Nureev, who was also its protagonist (1964), and that of the Nutcracker (1973), in the version of Bolšoj, edited by Juri Grigorovič. From 1976 to 1991 the academy was directed by Gerhard Brunner, critic and scholar of ballet, who promoted the opening of the company to the trends of neoclassical dance with works by John Neumeier (b.1942), Jirì Kyliàn (b.1947)) and Rudi van Dantzig (b.1933). This line was also followed by Helena Tchernikova, who took over from Brunner at the helm of the academy in 1991. Renato Zanella, appointed director of the company in 1996, has accentuated the trend towards the representation of works by contemporary authors, with the aim of giving the company a recognizable artistic identity. The modern current is identified in Austria with two fundamental figures: Grethe Wiesenthal (1855-1970), who with her sisters Elsa and Berte gave new scenic life to the romantic tradition of the Viennese waltz,, a pupil of Dalcroze, considered in her youth one of the most interesting personalities of modern dance, then became a distinguished pedagogue and for a long time director of the Academy of Music and Performing Arts.