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1. See various 1999 and 2000 New York Times waltz related articles below (non-commercial, educational use only); these are very helpful for anyone planning on visiting Vienna for both dancing and general places of interest.



August 15, 1999, Sunday
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ON THE DANCE FLOOR; Vienna Hop

 

The taffeta waltz skirt is back, without the Johann Strauss formality, a casual look the designer Claire McCardell pioneered in the 40's. Today's full skirts rustle over the dance floor beneath laid-back tank tops and sweaters. Designs by Steven Stolman of Southampton, whose $325 skirts are built on a waistband, were the rage at the town's recent hospital benefit. Other designers use drawstring waists (center left), a bit risky for exuberant dancing.


July 25, 1999, Sunday
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MUSIC; Waltz Power Still Leaves Highbrows A Bit Dizzy

By BERNARD HOLLAND

''WALZEN,'' as any bibulous Viennese will tell you, is ''to twirl.'' The word means more than ''rotate,'' less than ''wanken,'' or downright stagger. Drop the umlaut, and we have what Johann Strauss the Younger and his father had Europe doing for a good part of the 19th century.

Waltzes had existed under other names during the century before. Mozart might call them ''Landler''; Schubert gave waltzes their proper name and created a body of piano music stunning both for its simplicity and for its subtlety. Weber, Liszt and Berlioz raised them to the title of high art. Tchaikovsky and another Strauss, Richard, made a twirling, almost staggering, three-in-a-bar ballroom dance a form to set next to the rondo or the passacaglia.

The power of categories is endlessly fascinating. The wonderfully inventive ''Blue Danube'' and ''Emperor Waltz'' are heaped with love and yet gingerly segregated from the mainstream of concert music. The Vienna Philharmonic gathers them together for its famous New Year's concerts. Pops concerts schedule them next to ''Autumn Leaves.'' They also pop up as encores at symphonic concerts, after the serious business of the evening is over.

Yet Tchaikovsky's waltzes from ''Sleeping Beauty'' or the Serenade for Strings, wonderful pieces but certainly no more so than ''Vienna Blood,'' are raised to the status of ''serious'' classical music, and are there, I suggest, by virtue of their placement. Setting has more to do with our perception of art than you might think. Take Duke Ellington out of a smoky bar or a college dance, put him in a symphony hall, and suddenly we hear a sophisticated modernist rivaling a Dutilleux or a Ligeti. I suspect that Ravel's ''Gaspard de la Nuit'' in late-hour performances at Tramps would create the same effect in reverse.

We are in the centennial year of Strauss Jr.'s death in 1899. A famous photograph taken some years before pictures him and Brahms standing cordially together on some leafy veranda. Is the operative caption (from left to right) ''ridiculous meets sublime''? I think not. One time-capsule game often played is to choose the handful of pieces that would best tell listeners in some distant future what 19th-century music was all about. These might not be the best pieces; more important would be the character and flavor in the message conveyed.

There would necessarily be Beethoven and Schubert, and leaving out Wagner and Chopin would be difficult indeed. My mind keeps coming back to the overture Strauss wrote for ''Die Fledermaus,'' the most durable and ubiquitous of his stage pieces. Housed in this music are generosity, elegance and unfettered freedom of spirit, all shaped with exquisite technique. As the waltz form grew, it developed into sequences of dances, and in the ''Fledermaus'' music, which is not all waltz-time by any means, the transition from one idea to the next is calculated with a naturalness few other composers have come close to. We must have our ''Tristan und Isolde'' to represent the dark basement of the Romantic and post-Romantic soul, but for an era's exuberance and originality we could do worse than Johann Strauss.

If we hold popular music to its literal meaning, we define it according to its impact on large numbers of people. A sub theme of this definition is the inherent power to affect what these large numbers of people do and think. It also leads to another theorem: that anything appealing to so many must be of questionable quality. There is an element of political fear in the dismissal of popular music, because what moves the minds and hearts of the majority threatens the balance of society.

Indeed, polite society's response to the waltz craze in the early 1800's sounds suspiciously similar to the Bible-quoting cries of horror against the rotating (walzend, wankend) hips of a certain Elvis Presley 40 years ago. Strauss and Presley got young people going in a way that scared the pants off their elders. Strauss's contemporaries didn't like the fact that waltzes legitimized young people's touching each other in public. But I wonder whether the whirling, barely controlled movement of the waltz, with its eccentrically and perhaps suggestively accented second beat, made them even more uncomfortable.

LOOK up some of the comments of the time. One pamphlet proved that waltzing was the culprit in a generation's weakness of body and mind. Found in The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians is a 1799 account of the waltz at its loosest: ''The dancers grasped the long dress of their partners so that it would not drag and be trodden upon, and lifted it high, holding them in this cloak which brought both bodies under one cover, as closely as possible against them and in this way the whirling continued in the most indecent positions; the supporting hand lay firmly on the breasts, at each movement making little lustful pressures; the girls went wild and looked as if they would drop.''

Now that was dirty dancing, making the solo gyrations of the rock-and-roll era look mildly autoerotic. Strauss and Presley were wildly different: the first a cultured harmonist who grew along with his fame. ''Jailhouse Rock,'' ''That's All Right'' and ''All Shook Up'' had an astonishing introductory force, later dissipated in maundering, off-key renditions of ''Love Me Tender.'' What Strauss and Presley shared was an uncommon hold on the public, and music so unsettling to the populace is to be kept as far from high art as possible.


September 12, 1999, Sunday
Travel Desk

WHAT'S DOING IN; Vienna


By PAUL HOFMANN

Since January, Vienna has been giddily commemorating the Waltz King, Johann Strauss Jr., who died 100 years ago. His tunes in three-quarter time are still heard all over the city every day, but now it is getting ready for another centennial.

In 1899 a local neurologist, Dr. Sigmund Freud, published ''The Interpretation of Dreams.'' Only 123 copies were sold in the first six weeks, but it marked the foundation of psychoanalysis. (Freud's publisher, Franz Deuticke, postdated the work on its title page: ''Leipzig and Vienna, 1900.'') An exhibition, ''Sigmund Freud: Relations to the Unconscious/Psychoanalysis in Progress,'' opens Oct. 22 at the Sigmund Freud Museum, 19 Berggasse, where Freud lived for 47 years.

In the next few months, many Viennese as well as visitors will make pilgrimages to the ancient vintners' villages, a 20- or 30-minute trolley ride from the center, to sample the young wine. Best known of those picturesque suburbs is Grinzing. The weather usually remains mild until November, and the fall foliage can rival New England's. The ancient Romans planted the first vines in this northern province of their empire, and wine has been grown since then on the green slopes of the Vienna Woods, sylvan arms that reach into the old city. Drinking the barely fermented product of the autumn's grape harvest in one of the hundreds of rustic (or fake-rustic) taverns near the vineyards is an annual Viennese rite.

Events
''Sigmund Freud: Relations to the Unconscious/Psychoanalysis in Progress,'' Oct. 21 to Feb. 6, organized by the Library of Congress with the Freud Museum in London, is an enlarged version of the show presented earlier in Washington and New York. The vast materials -- manuscripts, photos, films and publications -- will be displayed in two locations: at the Freud Museum at 19 Berggasse, (43-1) 319-1596, 9 A.M. to 6 P.M. Monday through Sunday; and at the Austrian National Library, 1 Josefsplatz, (43-1) 534-100, 10 A.M. to 4 P.M. daily; Sunday until 2 P.M. The $4.60 admission covers both sites. (Prices are calculated at 13 Austrian schillings to the dollar.)

The ornate State Opera, one of the world's leading shrines of the lyrical drama, will offer nightly performances of Beethoven, Verdi, Wagner, Puccini and Richard Strauss during the next few weeks. Mozart's ''Idomeneo'' has its first performance Sept. 22 (reprises later), with Bertrand de Billy conducting and Angelika Kirchschlager and Ruth Ziesak singing. A new production of ''La Juive'' by Halevy will have its premiere Oct. 23, the first staging of this work at the State Opera since before the Nazi period. Simone Young will conduct, and Soile Isokoski will interpret the part of Rachel. Tickets cost from $10.75 for a balcony seat to $189 in the dress circle at one of the rare galas; $15.40 will buy a satisfactory seat for most performances. Advance sales at 3 Hanuschgasse, one block from the opera, or at (43-1) 513-1513, with a credit card. Standing room ($2.30 to $3.85) is sold only at the evening box office in the atrium. Information: (43-1) 514-44-2960.

Vienna Modern, an annual festival of contemporary music, will open Nov. 2 with compositions by Hans Zender, Giacinto Scelsi and Morton Feldman. Sylvain Cambreling will conduct the Klangforum Orchestra and Julie Moffat will sing. The festival, until Dec. 1, will feature 40 concerts, recitals and discussions. Works by the Chinese composer Ten Dun, Krzysztof Penderecki and Gyorgy Kurtag will be heard at the Konzerthaus, the nearby Musikfreunde Hall and elsewhere. Tickets, $10.80 to $52.30, available at the Konzerthaus, 20 Lothringer Strasse, (43-1) 712-1211.

Perhaps inspired by the success of ''Amadeus'' on stage and screen, ''Mozart!,'' a new musical by Sylvester Levay and Michael Kunze, whose work ''Elizabeth'' about the beautiful and highstrung wife of Emperor Franz Joseph was produced two years ago, will have its premiere at the historic Theater an der Wien on Oct. 2, with shows daily, except Wednesday, until April 20. Tickets are $10 to $100 at Vienna-Ticket, 6 Linke Wienzeile, (43-1) 58 885, fax (43-1) 588-3033; further information at www.musicalvienna.at.

Works from the world's largest graphics collection, the Vienna Albertina, now under renovation, will be a part of an exhibition entitled ''From Durer to Rauschenberg,'' drawings from five centuries. Other loans come from the Guggenheim Museum in New York. It will be on view Oct. 1 to Nov. 11 at the Fine Arts Academy, 3 Makartgasse, (43-1) 53483. Open 10 A.M. to 5 P.M. Tuesday to Sunday; $5.40.

One critic of psychoanalysis (and a lot of other things) was Karl Kraus, the brilliant polemicist, who is commemorated at the Jewish Museum, 11 Dorotheergasse, until Nov. 1. Letters, posters, photos, caricatures and newspapers show the impact of Kraus's devastating attacks on corrupt officials, the aristocracy, journalists and any perceived sham in his magazine Die Fackel (The Torch), which he first published in 1899 and singlehandedly wrote and edited until his death in 1936. Open 10 A.M. to 6 P.M. Sunday to Friday, Thursday until 8 P.M. Admission is $5.40. For information, call (43-1) 535-0431.

Sightseeing

A free folder describing more than 50 museums -- from art galleries to collections specializing in circus clowns and burials -- is available at the tourist information office, 38 Karntnerstrasse, 9 A.M. to 7 P.M. daily; (43-1) 2111-4222. The Vienna Card ($16.15 at hotels and the tourist office) provides admission discounts, as well as free rides on the public transport system for 72 hours.

The world's largest Bruegel collection can be found at the Museum of Fine Arts, 1 Maria-Theresien-Platz, (43-1) 525-240, with such masterpieces as ''The Hunters in the Snow'' and ''Peasant Dance'' along with works by Durer, Rubens, Velazquez, Titian and many others. Open 10 A.M. to 6 P.M. Tuesday to Sunday, Thursday until 9 P.M.; $7.70.

Paintings of more recent vintage -- 19th- and 20th-century Austrian art -- can be found in the Austrian Gallery in the upper part of the baroque Belvedere Palace, at 27 Prinz Eugen-Strasse, (43-1) 7955-7134, with works by Klimt, Schiele and Kokoschka. Open 10 A.M. to 5 P.M. Tuesday to Sunday; $4.60.
The Museum of Applied Arts, 5 Stubenring, (43-1) 711-360, has a vast collection of Biedermeier, Art Nouveau and Art Deco objects, from bentwood chairs to tableware; the contemporary section includes works by American artists. Known as MAK, the acronym of its name in German, the museum, with its elegant coffeehouse, is open 10 A.M. to 6 P.M. Tuesday to Sunday (Thursday to 9 P.M.); $2.30.

Where to Stay

Konig von Ungarn, 10 Schulerstrasse, (43-1) 515-840, fax (43-1) 515-848, a low-slung, yellow Baroque building, was once a guest house for prelates visiting the nearby Cathedral of St. Stephen, and has been a hotel since 1815. The interior courtyard, where the clerics' coaches were parked, is now a charming glass-roofed hall where breakfast and drinks are served. None of the 33 brightly furnished rooms are alike; large, modern baths. Doubles: $154 to $181, including breakfast.

George Balanchine stayed at Schneider, 5 Getreidemarkt, (43-1) 588-380, fax (43-1) 5883-821, and the many autographed photos in the lobby attest that the family-run house was and is a favorite of show business personalities. There are 35 rooms and 35 kitchenette suites. Doubles: $119 to $151, including buffet breakfast.

Another family-operated hotel, Schweizerhof, 22 Bauernmarkt, (43-1) 533-1931, fax (43-1) 533-0214, occupies the top floors of a late 19th-century building near St. Stephen's. The 55 spacious, comfortable rooms are decorated in eclectic styles; doubles at $108 to $135, including a buffet breakfast.

Budget: Suzanne, 4 Walfischgasse, (43-1) 5132-5070, fax (43-1) 513-2500, is a friendly pension in a turn-of-the-century building near the State Opera, with 25 comfortable rooms; $68 to $100, with breakfast.

Near the monumental Ringstrasse, the Goldene Spinne, 1A Linke Bahngasse, (43-1) 7124-4860, fax (43-1) 713-1661, has 41 simply furnished rooms and a bar. Doubles with bath: $85 to $93 ($100 in November); buffet breakfast included.

Luxury: The Austrian Government puts up its state visitors at the 128-room Imperial, 16 Karntner Ring, (43-1) 501-100, fax (43-1) 5011-0410, the opulent 125-year-old hotel. Cherry-wood paneling was recently added to top-floor rooms; lower rooms have crystal chandeliers and Belle Epoque furniture. Superb service; refined restaurant, cafe. Doubles: $423 to $923, breakfast extra.

Palais Schwarzenberg, 9 Schwarzenberg Platz, (43-1) 7984-5150, fax (43-1) 798-4714, off the Ringstrasse, occupies a wing of the 18th-century palace still inhabited by members of the princely Schwarzenberg family. The 38 rooms, some large, some rather cramped, are furnished with antiques; many look out on a private park. There are six suites. Doubles: $262 to $446 without breakfast.

Where to Eat

Steirereck, 2 Rasumovskygasse, (43-1) 7133-1680, in an uninspiring neighborhood 10 minutes from the center, receives you with a wealth of fresh flowers and great cordiality. The cuisine successfully blends Viennese, rural Austrian and French cooking; now it's venison season. The wine cellar contains 500 labels. Dinner for two with a medium-priced wine, $150 to $190. Open weekdays.

Gosser Bierklinik, 4 Steindlgasse, (43-1) 5356-8970, displays in one of several cozy dining rooms on two floors a cannon ball that the Turks lobbed into the city when they unsuccessfully besieged Vienna in 1683. Backed by a brewery, the restaurant offers reliable Austrian wines in addition to schnitzel, sausages and other substantial fare in a convivial atmosphere. Open daily except Sunday. Dinner for two with beer or a glass of wine, about $50.

Cafe Landtmann, 4 Dr. Karl-Lueger-Ring, (43-1) 533-8485, with a large terrace, is where Freud used to play cards with friends. The 125-year-old coffeehouse is one of about 500 in Vienna -- from the elegant, like the Landtmann, to the plain, where many Viennese seem to live. A cappuccino costs $3.50, apple strudel a la mode $4.75; a sample $8 lunch menu consists of beef broth with liver dumplings and stuffed zucchini. Open until midnight daily.

Hauermandl, 20 Cobenzlgasse, (43-1) 320-3027, in Grinzing (take the No. 38 streetcar), is a typical heuriger (the dialect term refers to ''this year's wine''), informal with schmaltzy music. A chicken dinner for two with plenty of the local white wine is about $60. Open 5:30 P.M. to midnight, Monday to Saturday.

One of a chain of self-service dining spots, the Naschmarkt at 16 Schwarzenberg Platz, (43-1) 505-3115, is next door to McDonald's but far removed when it comes to menu choices: vegetable soup, halibut with herb sauce, potatoes and fruit costs $5.50. The restaurants are named after Vienna's biggest outdoor food emporium: Nosh Market.


June 27, 1999, Sunday
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MUSIC; With a 1-2-3, 1-2-3, 1-2-3, Vienna Honors a King


By RICHARD TRAUBNER

RETURNING to the city of the allegedly blue Danube this spring was, for this writer, a sort of hajj to the mecca of Unterhaltungsmusik: entertainment -- or, if you will, pop -- music. The Austrian authorities, with enormous historical evidence to back their theory, would have the world believe that Vienna was the birthplace not only of music's classical wing but also of its ''light'' division, because the Strauss family came from and remained loyal to Vienna.

Earlier in the decade, Mozart and Schubert were lionized, in honor of whatever birth or death dates could conveniently be centennialized. This year, Vienna commemorates the 150th anniversary of the death of Johann Strauss Sr. and the 100th of Johann Strauss Jr.

Vienna is thus paying tribute to an Austrian dynasty that has outlasted the Hapsburgs in popular favor. Johann Strauss Jr., born in 1825 and eternally ''Schani'' to the Viennese, is more than just the most enduring member of this talented family.

The young man who entered the music business against the wishes of his father, who practiced before mirrors to perfect his sexy violin bowing, who made sure that his whiskers were alluring (and, later in life, well dyed) and who eventually married three times, to the delight of the popular press, is now seen as the world's first pop music idol, the forerunner of everyone from Frank Sinatra to the latest punk-rock heroes. The composer and dance band leader who, before recordings or radio, had all of Europe and even America waltzing at his feet may have been more popular in terms of audience numbers and sheet-music sales than the Dorseys, Glenn Miller or the latest hip-hop group.

In fact, his father had done it all before. Johann Sr., who was born in 1804, perfected the concert waltz and gave it its standard orchestration. He received royal and imperial stamps of approval, even playing at the newly renovated Buckingham Palace before Queen Victoria in 1838. He, too, was a handsome, vain fiddler and conductor with a stormy love life. Schani was conceived out of wedlock, and when he was 10, his father deserted his wife and brood. The first waltz king died just short of his 45th year and is today remembered not for a waltz but for a rousing march.

The ''Radetzky March'' is a symbol of much that is so contradictory about the Strauss dynasty and Austria's glorification of it in 1999. It was written in 1848 to honor an imperial army that was fighting revolutionary nationalist uprisings. But the barely homogenized Austrian army was made up of Hungarians, Czechs and all the other nationals who would later cause almost constant problems, right up to 1914 and Sarajevo. Today, this reactionary march is expected by tradition as a hand-clapping coda to the annual New Year's concert of the Vienna Philharmonic.

This year there is more Straussiana; much more. It will be laid on with a trowel between now and December. Two mammoth outdoor concerts opened the festivities last month: one in the Rathausplatz, between City Hall and the Burgtheater; another just down the Ringstrasse in the Heldenplatz of the Hofburg, with the Vienna Philharmonic led by Zubin Mehta. Now come the indoor concerts, operetta performances, museum exhibitions, special-edition CD's, books and scores, and even Strauss-Kugeln, foil-wrapped chocolate balls to vie with the popular Mozart confection.

Music merchandising is just what the Strausses perfected, and one reason they are being celebrated. Otto Brussati, the historian and curator of ''Johann Strauss: Thunder and Lightning,'' the impressive exhibit at the Historical Museum, freely admits that the 1999 festivities are ''already something of a burden'' to the Viennese but stresses that with their ''brilliant production business, with its dozens of co-workers,'' the Strausses laid the foundation of all entertainment music.

The exhibit adroitly places family details and compositions within the context of a Vienna that was growing from a walled fortress-city to a grand, worldly melting pot of variably assimilated ethnic immigrants, nouveau-riche tycoons, the rising bourgeoisie and the retrograde aristocracy. They were all thirsty for waltzes, polkas, mazurkas, marches, galops, opera quadrilles and, later, indigenous operettas to dance to at pleasure gardens, at carnival balls and at court; to whistle, to hum, to sing; to grind out on barrel organs or play on the pianoforte or harmonium at home.

The intense, democratic, international popularity of the Strauss family compositions has challenged sober musicians and editors at the Vienna Institute for Strauss Research to begin publishing a definitive Johann Strauss Edition, with scores that correct years of unscholarly accretions. The schmaltzy Strauss style so often heard in airplanes and elevators provokes ''serious'' conductors like Nikolaus Harnoncourt to re-examine the waltzes and operettas and play them with a correspondingly careful attention to the composer's original markings and colorations.

Mr. Harnoncourt just led a new production of ''Die Fledermaus'' at the Theater an der Wien, the operetta's birthplace in 1874, and stated in an article that he approaches Strauss with the precision he gives to Bach's ''St. Matthew Passion.'' To the embarrassment of some Viennese orchestras and critics, the Hong Kong-based Marco Polo label is issuing the complete orchestral works of the Strauss dynasty on CD with non-Viennese players.

If Vienna adores and idolizes Strauss Jr., the most Viennese of all Viennese composers -- some would say the very embodiment of Vienna -- it cannot do so without a certain degree of Viennese disingenuousness. As a Strauss lover and operetta propagandist, I came here for the opening celebrations, coincidentally staying for the first time in the Leopoldstadt, across the Danube Canal from the Ring, and was delighted to discover that one of the Strauss houses in the district had been set up as a museum.

I began one morning with a visit to Praterstrasse 54, where Schani lived from 1863 to 1878, a fertile period in which he produced the ''Blue Danube,'' ''Artist's Life'' and ''Tales From the Vienna Woods'' waltzes as well as his first operettas. I glanced at the tile work on the ground floor of the stately apartment building. Were those Stars of David, perhaps, geometrically arranged in patterns? They instantly reminded me that the Leopoldstadt was (and is today) one of the main Jewish areas of Vienna.

For much of their lives, both Johann Sr. and Johann Jr. felt comfortable here: not alogether strange when you know that the paternal Strauss line is descended from Hungarian Jews, a piece of information that proved embarrassing to the Nazis before and after the Anschluss of Austria in 1938. Third Reich arts officials tried to repudiate it, going so far as to remove, edit and reinsert a page from the registry of St. Stephen's Cathedral (the very heart of Roman Catholic Vienna) that recorded the marriage in 1762 of the son of ''Wolf Strauss and his wife Theresia, both Jewish.'' ''German'' music during the Hitler era could not afford to lose its greatest confectioner.

Schani himself, although duly baptized and reared as a Catholic, divorced his second wife and chose as his third Adele Deutsch, a Jew, in 1885. The church, the aristocracy and even the City of Vienna had trouble countenancing this marriage, and their affection for Strauss was somewhat dimmed as a result. Ultimately, he had to give up his Austrian citizenship and take up residency in the German dukedom of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha to marry Deutsch.

The Vienna Festival production of ''Die Fledermaus'' last month at the Theater an der Wien recalled the work's historical context. Was the operetta's motto, ''happy is he who forgets what cannot be changed,'' a reaction to the nasty 1873 stock market crash, for which some blamed Jewish speculators? The carefree, drunken ''du-i-du'' bonhomie of ''Die Fledermaus'' and other operettas was adored by a wide stratum of Viennese, including the Eastern European Jews then pouring into the Leopoldstadt and other quarters.

They and their fellow citizens visited the Theater an der Wien and its rival, the Carltheater, now vanished. The Carltheater is memorialized by a plaque in an unsightly office building on the Praterstrasse, just down the street from the Strauss apartment. Strauss operettas like ''Die Fledermaus,'' which made the Viennese genre globally popular, were often imbued with a very Viennese gemutlichkeit and even obliviousness.

Forgetting was a useful quality for some Austrians during the period 1938 to 1945, when immensely popular 20th-century operettas by Emmerich Kalman, Paul Abraham and other composers, their librettists and a large part of their audience were forcibly removed from view. Certainly, the Strauss operettas flourished under the Nazis, a point driven home when I found several swastika-adorned theater programs for ''Die Fledermaus,'' ''Der Zigeunerbaron'' (''The Gypsy Baron'') and other works at an antiquarian shop near my hotel.

The sheer amount of Strauss available this year means that much of it is familiar. Vienna will see no fewer than four new productions of ''Die Fledermaus,'' and a planned revival of ''1001 Nights,'' a true rarity, has been replaced at the Kammeroper by the more common, though superior, ''Night in Venice.'' The Venetian operetta will also be presented in a lavish al fresco production with real gondolas next month at the lakeside theater at Morbisch, on the Austro-Hungarian border.

''Wiener Blut,'' one of Johann Jr.'s most familiar waltzes, will be heard everywhere. It also gave its name, referring to the spirit running through Viennese veins, to an 1899 operetta pastiche, which I caught in a Volks oper revival. Strauss gave his approval to the project but did not live to see the first production, which was not a success.

INDEED, it is hard to understand how the stage ''Wiener Blut'' has become so popular. The story is lame, the comedy unfunny and the music selected often second-rate. But the Volksoper production was fascinating, reminding one of the last days of the old D'Oyly Carte Opera performing Gilbert and Sullivan in the early 1980's, with performance styles and specific gestures from another age performed by a wildly variable set of players and then jelled as if in aspic.

In a press conference, the incoming intendant of the Volksoper, Dominique Mentha, conceded that operetta is the theater's ''most important repertory base.'' But he did not promise fresh approaches to Viennese operetta classics with the same conviction with which he promised a new Verdi or Mozart opera every season. Rather than more Johann Strauss, he wants exposure to foreign fare: Gilbert and Sullivan, a zarzuela, perhaps.

Such plans may fly in the face of the conservative faction of the Volksoper crowd, which already experienced a lamentable revue called ''Gilbert und Sullivan'' in the 1980's and barely tolerates post-modern experimentation with familiar operettas. A new ''Fledermaus'' this season, set in the 1930's, was critically unadmired, and last year there were bitter reactions to a dark, punky version of Strauss's other operetta masterwork, ''Der Ziguenerbaron.'' Although one reviewer called this staging ''a black day for Viennese operetta,'' the Volksoper's Israeli-born chief conductor, Asher Fisch, said he was delighted at the scandalous reception, because it attracted new, younger audiences, keen to see what the fuss was about.

The Volksoper has no new production of a rare Strauss operetta. Next season, Mr. Mentha will stage Franz Lehar's ''Zarewitsch'' at the Volksoper. Curiously, the Staatsoper this year decided to produce Lehar's ''Merry Widow'' rather than a Strauss operetta. Why not, instead, Strauss's opera-comique ''Ritter Pasman,'' which had its premiere at the theater in 1892? The posthmumous Strauss ballet ''Aschenbrodel'' (''Cinderella''), set for next season, is, at least, a consolation of sorts.

''Wiener Blut'' was also used ironically as the title of a mocking cabaret at the Burg theater this spring, just in time for the Strauss festivities. It apparently ribs everything Viennese, from the opera ball to the Lippizaner stallions, the doomed Empress Sissi as portrayed by the doomed Romy Schneider, the Nazi-tainted actress Paula Wessely, Arnold Schwarzenegger, even Mozart-Kugeln.

Never underestimate Viennese cheekiness. In Strauss's day, his operettas were parodied in vaudeville sketches, and the current Strauss exhibits show numerous caricatures of Schani's artistic and private life that originally appeared in the humorous periodicals Der Floh (The Flea) or Kikeriki (Cock-a-Doodle-Doo).

Perhaps modern dress is as far as one can go with Strauss operettas. Mr. Harnoncourt's festival ''Fledermaus,'' directed by Jurgen Flimm of the Hamburg Thalia Theater, was set around 1970. In 1986, I saw a brave but misguided attempt to juice up ''Cagliostro in Wien'' with all sorts of gimmicks at the Ronacher, once a famous variety theater. Clearly, Strauss's stage works could use the same kind of enlivening jolt that Joseph Papp's ''Pirates of Penzance'' gave Gilbert and Sullivan two decades ago.

YOU can see how the operettas looked originally at the Austrian Theater Museum, just behind the Staatsoper in the stately Lobkowitz-Palais. The well-documented exhibit on Strauss's stage works, which runs until the end of November, is called ''Wiener Blut.'' (Naturally.)

Happily, the concert waltzes, polka-schnells and quadrilles show no signs of diminished power. But the most appreciative audiences may be in Asia. You can purchase Schani's entire orchestral output in a large CD coffer on the Marco Polo label, and the company has now moved on to his brothers, Josef and Eduard. (The current heir to the dynasty, also named Eduard, is a Viennese judge, but he is an honorary member of the worldwide Strauss societies.) The Japanese consulate in Vienna issues more than 400 visas annually for Austrian musicians before New Year's Eve. The ''Thunder and Lightning'' exhibit at the Historical Museum, complete with a band pavilion, moves to the Forbidden City of Beijing and to Hong Kong later this year.

There was, as requested, public waltzing at the Rathausplatz open-air concert (on an evening so cold that the mezzo-soprano Agnes Baltsa canceled a solo turn). Listeners succumbed to the same waltz motifs that were once considered sexually charged.

When I saw Viennese teen-agers waltzing with a natural rhythm, even abandon, I felt that the festivities had already achieved their purpose. Austrian Unterhaltungs-Kultur lives, and Wiener Blut, obviously heriditary, still runs through those throbbing veins.


March 14, 1999, Sunday
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EUROPE '99: FESTIVALS; Vienna Salutes King of Waltz

By PAUL HOFMANN

Vienna loves to look back to its glorious musical past. This year, it's the King of the Waltz, Johann Strauss Jr., who is being memorialized with a 12-month marathon of concerts, dances and stage productions to mark the centenary of the composer's death on June 3, 1899.

Virtually all the 550 works by Johann Strauss Jr. will be performed throughout 1999, many of them again and again, in his native city.

The Austrian capital's two leading orchestras, the Vienna Philharmonic and the Vienna Symphony, as well as several other musical bodies, will share in the task. Zubin Mehta will conduct the Vienna Philharmonic at an unusual outdoor concert in the Heldenplatz facing the
former Imperial Palace (Hofburg) on May 29.

Four theaters -- Staatsoper, Volks oper, Kammeroper and Theater an
der Wien -- will offer multiple performances of their versions
of Strauss operettas, among them,
''Die Fledermaus'' and ''The Gypsy Baron.''

And on Jan. 1, Riccardo Muti will conduct the Vienna Philharmonic in a Strauss concert to be relayed over a global television hookup. The glittering auditorium of the Musikverein hall, where the concert is to be held, is already sold out.

The Historical Museum of the City of Vienna on Karlsplatz near the Staatsoper is preparing an exhibition, ''Johann Strauss in His Time,'' to be displayed from 10 A.M. to 5 P.M. daily except
Monday from May 6 to Sept. 26. The exhibits will include portraits of the composer and members of his family, pictures of his travels to far-flung places from St. Petersburg to New York, instruments on which he played, manuscript scores and authentic ball gowns from his era.

The mighty river that Strauss glorified has also been assigned a role in the festivities. The Admiral Tegetthoff will take passengers on dinner cruises to the accompaniment of Strauss tunes on Mondays from May 3 to Oct. 25 (for information call 43-1 58-880). If the weather is right, the water may even be blue. PAUL HOFMANN


February 28, 1999, Sunday
Magazine Desk
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In Vienna, Elegance Comes Readily to Mind

By William Murray

On my first day in Vienna I was accosted outside the opera house by a scruffy-looking youth dressed in an ill-fitting 18th-century costume. Even the beggars dress up here, I thought, but it turned out he was only a college student hustling concert tickets. He and dozens of others like him, all in costume, fan out every day throughout the tourist areas peddling the arts. In this city, even the very young are into culture.

Vienna is a vast museum. From the air, it looks very much like any other large central European hub, a mostly rust-colored carpet of rooftops punctuated by the spires of churches and a few modest skyscrapers. From street level, however, one can enjoy its broad boulevards and avenues lined by the classically proportioned facades of its residential palaces and public buildings, many of them eccentrically adorned with statuary, friezes and painted ornamentation. Elegance is the word that comes most readily to mind, on a scale matched only by parts of Paris and London.

This is a town for walkers: nearly every street inside the inner city, within the semicircle of the linked series of avenues known collectively as the Ringstrasse, holds something of interest. The Ring itself, which replaced the circle of fortified walls that had defended the town primarily from the centuries-old threat of the Ottoman Turks, was created by a decree of the Hapsburg Emperor Franz Josef I in 1857; it has ever since defined the character of the capital and its environs. Along it rise many of its most famous public buildings, including the Staatsoper, the Parliament, the Rathaus (City Hall), the Musikverein, a number of the city's best museums and most of the Hofburg, the enormous sprawling complex of buildings from which the Hapsburg dynasty presided over an empire that once stretched from the Atlantic to the borders of Greece and Turkey.

In Vienna appearance is paramount. Although the empire has long since vanished and Austria is now mere-ly a small democratic country of six and a half million people, the city remains a testament to the power of illusion over reality. The Hapsburgs built their empire more through marriage than by conquest and, with only a few notable exceptions, the Austrian armies did not distinguish themselves in the field. But they looked splendid and sometimes overawed their enemies by the grandiosity of their display. It's appropriate that one of their significant triumphs was a prize awarded at the Paris Exposition of 1900 for the most dashing uniforms. It's not by accident that the portraits of the country's leaders usually depict stern-looking characters attired in sashes, gold braid and tunics bristling with medals.

The scale of these Viennese buildings is awe-inspiring. The Hofburg is so large that each succeeding Hapsburg family settled itself into different quarters without ever duplicating the domestic arrangements of its predecessors. SchRated PG-13nbrunn, the huge yellow summer palace the Hapsburgs built for themselves in the mid-18th century to the west of the inner city, consists of some 1,450 rooms (some sources say only 1,200), with living quarters for a thousand or so servants. The grounds, too, are vast and include a formal French garden, greenhouses, wooded slopes and the Tiergarten, the once private zoo where the Hapsburgs occasionally liked to picnic among their animals in an octagonal pavilion, decorated by frescoes depicting Ovid's ''Metamorphoses.'' The Tiergarten is Europe's oldest and surely most charming zoo and the pavilion is now a public restaurant. Within the vast expanses of their domiciles Austria's rulers often proved to be oddly homey types, with a taste for simple domesticity in curious contrast to the bombastic splendors they flaunted to the outside world. Inside SchRated PG-13nbrunn's beautifully preserved state apartments are the personal bedrooms and offices of Franz Josef and his wife, Elizabeth, small rooms plainly furnished. The emperor slept in a single iron cot (in which he also died in 1916) and was usually at his desk in his gloomy office by 5 A.M., signing documents.

Many of the Hapsburg palaces have been converted into museums to house the treasures and mementos of the empire's glorious past, as well as the paintings and sculptures produced by its artists. I counted 80 museums of one sort or another, of which the most splendid is surely the Belvedere, a complex of two enormous Baroque mansions at opposite ends of a formal garden with a view over the heart of the city. The estate was built for Prince Eugene of Savoy (1663-1736), Austria's best soldier, who defeated the Turks and secured Hungary for the empire. An avid collector, he filled his rooms with works of art, establishing a precedent for the public collection housed there today. The Upper Belvedere was badly bombed in World War II, but has been lovingly restored and is now home to some of my favorite paintings, including most of the major efforts of Gustav Klimt, whose work is in essence a perfect reflection of the end of the Hapsburg era. Highly sensual, his canvases glitter with gold and silver gilding, his women often portrayed in moments of sexual ecstasy. Klimt was only one of a number of Austrian artists whose best work is on view mainly in Vienna, among them Hans Makart, Carl Moll, Egon Schiele and Anton Romako. A tour of the Belvedere is a stroll through one of the unsettling periods when the empire was being dismantled not only by political events but also by the unflinching perspectives of its artists. More of their work can be found on the second floor of the Historisches Museum der Stadt Wien on the Karlsplatz and in the nearby Secession building. Designed by Joseph Maria Olbrich in 1898 to be the headquarters of a new art movement in revolt against the heavy Ringstrasse style, the structure, dubbed ''the golden cabbage'' because of its dome of gilded bronze leaves, houses, among many notable eccentricities, Klimt's so-called Beethoven Frieze, featuring a giant winged ape, the Gorgons and a floating sea of sperm cells. Heady stuff for the conservative Viennese, many of whom were scandalized by it.

 

For sheer size and comprehensiveness, however, nothing can match the Kunsthistorisches Museum on the Ringstrasse, one of the world's great art collections, especially if you fancy the Flemish school. An entire room is devoted to Pieter Bruegel, the most comprehensive exhibit of his work anywhere. The first-floor gallery alone displays about 800 paintings at a time, only about a tenth of the museum's collection. Little effort has been made to structure the exhibits in any historical sequence, which means that after a couple of hours of tramping about one large, high-ceilinged room after another, gazing at picture after picture, the impulse to flee becomes almost irresistible. My wife, Alice, and I made use of the tactic we use in the Louvre or the Met, isolating the particular painters whose work we most wanted to see -- Rembrandt, Veronese, Rubens, D2urer, Holbein, Vermeer, Raphael, Caravaggio, Canaletto -- and hunting them down rather than allowing ourselves to drift endlessly and exhaustingly from room to room in the flow of determined-looking visitors eddying about us.

After several days of wandering through these serious exhibits, it was a delight to stumble on the Hundertwasser House, an apartment complex near the Danube that looks like a hastily assembled pile of brightly colored children's blocks. Designed by Friedensreich Hundertwasser, a 71-year-old artist who first became famous in the 1960's for lecturing on his work in the nude, his Gaudiesque buildings offer a vivid human contrast to the self-satisfied pomposity of much Viennese architecture. Not surprisingly, he has been attacked by Vienna's architectural establishment for his ''painted boxes,'' but to the visitor he offers a welcome comic relief.

For lovers of classical music and the opera, Vienna is an immovable feast. Not even New York, Paris and London offer more, especially of the works of Beethoven, Brahms, Bruckner, Mahler, Schubert and Mozart, all composers who lived and worked here during the most intense creative periods of their lives. Inevitably, the city's favorite musical son is Johann Strauss, considered by the Viennese themselves to be the city's most significant composer. His waltzes and operettas, unlike many of the more demanding works of Beethoven, Bruckner, Mozart and poor Schubert, who didn't live long enough to hear any of his symphonies performed, were immediately and enormously popular. During his own lifetime (1825-99), Strauss established Vienna as the waltz capital of the world. ''The Blue Danube,'' composed in 1867, has become the country's unofficial national anthem and his ''Die Fledermaus'' the world's most popular operetta.

It would be hard to overestimate Vienna's dedication to musical events. Tourism is by far the country's major industry, but, though aimed at luring visitors to its concert halls, theaters and opera houses, the programs offered are also attended annually by an estimated 20 percent of Vienna's one and a half million residents, a figure matched nowhere else. The performances, even though almost always sold out, do not pay for themselves, but the city budget allots about $160 million a year to promote and pay for its huge repertory of performances. Dr. Peter Marboe, the city councilor in charge of dispensing these funds, recently recalled the excitement that gripped the town in the fall of 1955, shortly after the departure of the last occupation forces. The opera house, badly damaged by bombs during the war, was scheduled to reopen with a performance of Beethoven's ''Fidelio.'' ''Standing-room tickets were to be put on sale two weeks before the opening on Nov. 5, 1955, but people began lining up for them six weeks before,'' he said. ''After they had been standing there for three days and nights in the rain and cold, the tickets were sold prematurely. It was a very intense time.'' That feeling of intensity, of passionate dedication is still there. At the performances I attended no one left before the singers had taken their curtain calls and the enthusiasm was infectious.

Nor is the city's musical life limited to its concert halls and theaters. The Viennese like to spend time in their many coffee houses, where in the late afternoons musical fare is sometimes provided. A few, like the Schottenring on the Ringstrasse, one of Vienna's oldest, feature well-known local artists and publish a schedule of performances. But even in the streets, the quality of the music is high. One afternoon, while strolling up the K2arntnerstrasse, a broad avenue now converted into a long pedestrian mall, I came across a trio of young musicians playing Haydn. Not only did they play well, but they were dressed in dinner jackets and bowed formally to our applause as we showered coins in their direction. It also served to remind me that in Vienna there is still some resistance to the new world of Nike and trash fashions. Later that day I spotted a couple of American Visigoths in tank tops sipping Diet Coke in the elegant Landtmann Cafe; their presence struck me as a deliberate insult to the sophisticated modus vivendi Vienna seems dedicated to maintaining.

The biggest challenge to cope with in Vienna is the food. The basic traditional diet consists of meat, mostly beef or pork, potatoes, dumplings and cabbage. There are all sorts of soups and many kinds of freshly baked breads, including croissants, which the Viennese invented and exported to France during the reign of Louis XVI. And, as if the main courses weren't heavy enough, there are the desserts -- puddings, strudels, crepes, pancakes, mousses and cakes, all topped with great gobs of whipped cream. Eating in Vienna is wonderfully satisfying, as if you had achieved a notable physical breakthrough, like climbing Pike's Peak or competing in the Boston Marathon. You will look in vain in Vienna for joggers; it's a city dedicated to culinary self-indulgence.

At Die Fromme Helene, a tiny, dimly lighted restaurant patronized by artistic types and theatrical folk, we sat surrounded by photographs of famous clients, dark oil paintings and a bust of Franz Josef wearing dark glasses, while we feasted on venison and pheasant. At Vincent's, in a quiet and formal room in a residential part of town across the Danube canal, we were served an amazing variety of dishes, including a chamois carpaccio and an omelette smothered in white truffles, together with samplings of nine Austrian wines too rare to be exported. The bill was nearly as unforgettable as the meal. The difficulty in dining out in this city is the smoke; the Viennese like to puff away all through their meals and in crowded quarters the air can become hazardous to your health.

A possible alternative to dining out is the coffee houses, most of which serve relatively modest portions of food. They are havens of peace in the hurly-burly of the working day, and the Viennese will sit in them for hours, writing, reading, talking, playing cards, or just hanging out. The older establishments preserve an air of quiet gentility, with the waiters still attired in tuxedos, but even in the newer, trendier spots the emphasis is on relaxation. ''You have troubles of one sort or another -- to the coffee house,'' goes a line scribbled by a local fin-de-siecle poet, Peter Altenberg.

Where the coffee house is cherished, can there be much in the way of night life? Not in Vienna, where the citizens are usually in bed well before midnight. Apart from some sleazy joints catering to tourists, mostly off the K2arntnerstrasse, the only active club scene is in an area between St. Stephen's Cathedral and the Danube canal, in a rabbit warren of narrow alleys known as the Bermuda Triangle because it is so easy to get lost in it. These late-night rendezvous, however, attract mainly the very young; they are hot, crowded and dense with smoke and the music is very loud, not for the fainthearted.

When the Viennese want to get away from it all, they will whisk themselves out to the countryside, especially toward the Wienerwald (Vienna Woods), a vast expanse of forested slopes stretching from the north to the foothills of the Alps. During the summer months, visitors and Viennese alike will drop in at the local wine gardens, called Heurigen, around the suburbs of Grinzing and Nussdorf to sample the local wines and eat yet more hearty fare. Food is such an obsession in Vienna that it didn't surprise me when I visited the burial place of the Hapsburgs, in the underground vaults of the Kapuzinerkirche (Capuchin Church), to find them entombed in what looked to me like enormous bronze soup tureens.

The Waltz Capital

Vienna is well equipped with hotels in all categories, from the very grand to the modest. Classics include the 108-room Sacher, 4 Philharmonikastrasse (telephone: 51-456; fax: 51-457-810), lavishly furnished with antiques, where double rooms, with breakfast, begin at about $375, and the 128-room Imperial, 16 Karntner Ring (50-11-00; fax: 50-11-04-10), a converted 19th-century palace where double rooms, with breakfast, begin at about $500. Such chains as Hilton, Marriott and Inter-Continental are also represented, and rooms, which range in price from approximately $300 to $400, can be reserved through their offices in the United States. There are, in addition, more than a dozen smaller, moderately priced hotels operating under the Best Western aegis. One example is the 45-room Hotel Tigra, centrally located at 18 Tiefer Graben (telephone: 533-9641; fax: 533-9645), where a double room, including taxes, service and an ample breakfast, is $144.50. All may be booked through Best Western international reservations, 800-780-7234.

Typical Viennese fare may be had at Plachutta, 38 Wollzeile (512-1577), where, William Murray reports, ''you can order your meat dishes right off a diagram of the cow itself, 28 different cuts of beef ranging from schulferscherzel (succulent and tender') to luegertopf (ox meat with tongue and calf's head'), served in a clear broth with vegetables and bone marrow.'' Dinner for two, with wine, is about $80. Closed for two weeks, end of July to early August.

Die Fromme Helene, 53 Josefstaedter-Strasse (406-9144), has, in addition to daily specials, a standard menu listing such classics as tafelspitz -- boiled beef -- with apple-horseradish and chive sauces and rRated PG-13sti potatoes; Wiener schnitzel with vegetables, and desserts that include a rich chocolate pudding called ''Moor in a shirt,'' served with hot chocolate sauce and whipped cream. A three-course dinner for two, with wine, is about $90. Open daily.

Vincent, 7 Grosse-Pfarrgasse (214-1516), offers two set five-course menus of seasonal delicacies for about $35 (the ''little'' menu) and about $55 a person; there is also an la carte menu. Austrian wines are about $4 to $8 for a generous glass. Closed Sunday.

Vienna has declared 1999 to be the Year of the Waltz King, celebrating the life and works of Johann Strauss. ''When the Viennese decide to pay attention to one of their own they do so exhaustively,'' William Murray reports. ''In April alone there will be more than 30 presentations, ranging from vocal concerts to full-scale productions of 'Die Fledermaus,' 'The Gypsy Baron,' 'Vienna Blood' and 'A Night in Venice.' ''A calendar of events continuing throughout the year is available from the Austrian National Tourist Office, 500 Fifth Avenue, Suite 800, New York, N.Y. 10110 (212-575-7723; fax: 212-730-4568), which can also provide information about obtaining opera tickets.


January 6, 2000, Thursday
The Arts/Cultural Desk
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DANCE REVIEW; Swooning Or Sober, The Waltz Is King


By JACK ANDERSON

No matter what time it may have been elsewhere, it was always three-quarter time at the New York State Theater on Tuesday night. The New York City Ballet opened its winter repertory season with a program called ''Waltz Into the Millennium,'' which featured choreography based on waltzes. Why waltzes?

Why not? That form's basic ONE-two-three, ONE-two-three rhythm is so captivating that it can set almost anyone's feet tapping. No wonder, then, that it can also inspire choreographic flights of fancy. Popular since the late 18th century, the waltz has seen empires rise and fall. And it continues to inspire choreographers interested in evoking historical eras. Moreover, because waltzes can be somber as well as scintillating, three-quarter time provides time for an astonishing array of emotions.

Five ballets emphasized the waltz's varied facets. And the orchestra, conducted by Hugo Fiorato, captured the spirit of each.

Although some waltzes are melancholy, most people probably associate waltzing with rejoicing. Therefore it was appropriate that the program began with George Balanchine's delightful version of the ''Garland Dance'' from the birthday party scene in the first act of Tchaikovsky's ''Sleeping Beauty.''

The way City Ballet dancers augmented by students from the School of American Ballet threaded their way across the stage holding garlands of flowers made intricate patterns seem signs of social graces.

Balanchine's ''Valse-Fantaisie'' is a sweet trifle to Glinka for a central couple surrounded by four charming women. Unfortunately, Yvonne Borree and Benjamin Millepied, the leading dancers on Tuesday, often looked dutiful when they should have appeared artless. But, a buoyant passage by Mr. Millepied suggested that the interpretative stiffness may be only temporary.

On this program, the jollity of Tchaikovsky and Glinka was separated by Peter Martins's brooding ''Valse Triste,'' a brief duet to Sibelius in which Darci Kistler made a convincing debut as an introspective woman held spellbound by a sinister suitor played by Jock Soto.

Mr. Martins also choreographed ''The Waltz Project,'' to contemporary waltzes for piano by John Cage, Joan Tower, Philip Glass, Ivan Tcherepnin, Joseph Fennimore, Milton Babbitt, Robert Moran, Tom Constanten, Roger Sessions and Morton Gould. Most of the ballet, for which Cameron Grant was pianist, is a set of determinedly unsentimental duets. Thus Maria Kowroski and Charles Askegard were cool and calculated. Deanna McBrearty looked so compulsively perky dancing with James Fayette that one wondered if the woman she portrayed was hiding behind a mask of merriment.

There was a turbulent waltz for Jennie Somogyi and Albert Evans and a rather gentle one for Helene Alexopoulos and Philip Neal. But, despite some tender moments, ''The Waltz Project'' is not for romantics.

Another suite, Balanchine's ''Vienna Waltzes,'' is nothing but happy swooning to luscious waltzes by Johann Strauss Jr., Franz Lehar and Richard Strauss. Ms. Kowroski and Mr. Askegard danced through the Vienna Woods with mounting abandon and Margaret Tracey and Nikolaj Hubbe whirled among its trees in another sequence.

Kathleen Tracey and Kipling Houston bounced through the ballet's one polka. Two sumptuous waltzes concluded the work. Although Ms. Alexopoulos looked alluring as Nilas Martins partnered her in Lehar's ''Gold und Silber Walzer,'' their characterizations were not as rich as those of dancers in the past who have made this encounter resemble a meeting between two former lovers. But Ms. Kistler, Mr. Neal and a large ensemble happily allowed themselves to be swept away by waltzes from Richard Strauss's ''Rosenkavalier.''