On March 15, Segerstrom Center for the Arts (www.scfta.org) in Costa Mesa presented the world premiere of American Ballet Theatre’s new production of Whipped Cream, choreographed by ABT Artist in Residence Alexei Ratmanksy, with stunning sets and costumes by Mark Ryden.
Whipped Cream is based on Schlagobers, a two-act ballet and score by Richard Strauss that was first performed at the Vienna State Opera in 1924. The Pacific Symphony performed the score live, with the opening night principal cast, including Danil Simkin, Stella Abrera, David Hallberg and Sarah Lane.
The story tells the story of a young boy who overindulges at a Viennese pastry shop and falls into a delirium. To help escape from his attending physician, the boy dreams of his triumphant rescue by Princess Praline and her court, Princess Tea Flower, Prince Coffee as well as marching Marzipan, concluding in a festive celebration.
“The ballet’s peculiar layerings — the poetry of sweets, the surrealism of fantasy subverting reality — grow from his vision. His score, conducted on Wednesday by Ormsby Wilkins with terrific color and swing, was sensuously played by the Pacific Symphony,” comments Alastair Macaulay, New York Times.
“I am particularly excited for audiences to experience Strauss’ music in this ballet, Whipped Cream. There is real craziness in this score which inspired me to approach the pop surrealist Mark Ryden,” said Ratmansky. “He is creating an incredible world that is a little scary, full of weird details and super precise. His technique is astounding, and I am matching him with my own tiny choreographic details.”
The whimsical and fantastic setting and characters were enjoyed by all in attendance, with applause after applause and ongoing cheers of delight.
“The result is astounding. Ryden has concocted a Dr. Seuss-meets-Salvador Dali world full of delight and wonder, humor and mystery, with an occasional whiff of weirdness and menace,” comments Paul Hodgins, The Orange County Register.
Reminiscent of the holiday favorite The Nutcracker, the production was declared “a new classic” by ABT’s Artistic Director Kevin McKenzie, at the elaborate post-event reception held at the Jewel Court at South Coast Plaza. Other VIPs who enjoyed the evening included Dita Von Teese, Al Yankovic, Nigel Lythgoe, as well as Elizabeth Segerstrom and SCFTA President Terry Dwyer.
“I am so very intrigued by this unique story and the approach Alexei and Mark are taking,” said McKenzie. “The combination of fantasy and surrealism will prove something dreamlike from both of them.”
Many of St. Petersburg native Alexei Ratmansky’s works have been seen at the Segerstrom, including world premieres of Firebird (2012) and The Sleeping Beauty (2015) for American Ballet Theatre, as well as Pierre Lunaire for Diana Vishneva: Beauty in Motion (2008). ABT’s The Nutcracker, choreographed by Ratmansky, is now a holiday tradition, having made its West Coast Premiere in Segerstrom Hall in 2015. In 2009, Ratmansky choreographed new dances for the Metropolitan Opera’s production of Aïda. Ratmansky joined American Ballet Theatre as Artist in Residence in January 2009.
Blending themes of pop culture with techniques reminiscent of the old masters, Mark Ryden has created a singular style that blurs the traditional boundaries between high and low art. His work first garnered attention in the 1990s when he ushered in a new genre of painting, “pop surrealism.” Ryden received a BFA in 1987 from Art Center College of Design in Pasadena. He recently had his first museum exhibit, a major European retrospective at the Centro de Arte Contemporáneo de Málaga in Spain.
Definitely a magical evening for all. In Whipped Cream, a new classic is born!