Do I Hear a Waltz? Why, Yes; Yes You Do.
Waltzes will feature prominently on the program of "Salute to Vienna" – New Year’s Eve Concert at the State Theatre in New Brunswick, on Tuesday, December 31 at 6:00 p.m. To which I say: Wunderbar! "Salute to Vienna" is modeled after – and in homage to – Vienna’s world-famous "Neujahrskonzert, adapted for a North American audience, playing in more than 20 cities in the U.S. and Canada around New Year’s. Welcome in the New Year with "Salute to Vienna"’s cast of more than 75 musicians, European singers and dancers in beautiful costumes in a program containing popular Strauss waltzes, polkas, and famous excerpts from operettas like "Die Fledermaus" and "The Merry Widow." If you’ve attended this concert in the past, this year’s performance promises a new cast and a fresh new program.
Now, I bet you’re thinking: “Umm… 'Neujahrskonzert?' Was ist das?” Then let’s start at the very beginning -- it’s a very good place to start. (Come on, you didn’t think I’d let you get away without a "Sound of Music" reference, did you?)
The "Neujahrskonzert" is a traditional New Year’s concert (as you can probably pick out from the name) in Austria, presented by the Vienna Philharmonic, first beginning in 1939 and continuing to the present day. These concerts feature music of Austrian composers, especially the Strauss family (yup, including the Waltz King himself, Johann Strauss, Jr.) and their contemporaries in repertoire that includes polkas, mazurkas, waltzes and marches. At the time of the first concert (1939), Austria was being annexed by Nazi Germany, and the concert was meant to remind themselves of Austria’s vivid artistic past and inspire optimism for the future.
One big difference between the traditional Viennese "Neujahrskonzert" and the "Salute to Vienna" performances is the inclusion of singers and dancers onstage. In the Viennese version, dancers perform simultaneously with the orchestra, but in remote castle locations throughout the country. Only those watching the concert on television -- not the live audience in the orchestra hall -- get to experience both the music and the beautiful dancing.
But in New Brunswick, you get it all: orchestra, singers and ballet and ballroom dancers – a full visual and aural treat. Take a moment to check out this video to preview the full visual and aural treats in store for attendees at "Salute to Vienna":
The "Salute to Vienna" performance in New Brunswick features the Strauss Symphony of America, conducted by Christian Schulz, soprano Monika Rebholz, tenor Brian Cheney, dancers from Europa Ballett – St. Pölten in Austria and international champion ballroom dancers from Hungary.
When "Salute to Vienna" was first presented in Toronto by Attila and Marion Glatz in 1995, the joyous reception by the audience convinced those impresarios to bring the performances to audiences in even more cities in the U.S. and Canada. From coast to coast, more than 20 cities will see Salute to Vienna in the days leading up to and following New Year’s.
But what makes New Year’s the ideal time for "Salute to Vienna?" When asked that question, Attila Glatz said, “It’s an inspiring concert of positive, feel-good music. Audiences are so happy, that they practically waltz on the street after they leave the hall. The performance reminds them of the joy of the past year and really makes them feel like it’s going to be a good year.”
According to Glatz, for many people, "Salute to Vienna" has become a timeless New Year’s tradition, much in the same way that attending the "Nutcracker" is for families the world over. The Glatzes themselves grew up listening to the traditional "Neujahrskonzerts" on the radio in Europe, and later watched the television broadcasts. They hope to inspire the same love of music and dance from their homeland in new audiences in North America.
And you don’t have to be a dance or classical music aficionado to enjoy "Salute to Vienna." In fact, it can be a wonderful introduction to these art forms for audiences of all ages, sparking an interest in those who might not otherwise think to attend a ballet or opera. “What many people don’t realize,” says Glatz, “is that traditional American musical theater was inspired in part by Viennese operetta.” These light operas, such as 'The Merry Widow," are fun and bubbly, like a glass of champagne. Songs from several operettas, including 'The Merry Widow" and "Countess Maritza," will be featured in the New Brunswick "Salute to Vienna" performance.
Unlike a traditional orchestral concert, the Salute to Vienna conductor interacts with the audience in a fun way, introducing the pieces and helping the audience to enjoy every moment of the performance.
So what happens when the concert is over and you’re waltzing out the door, but don’t want your evening to end? No worries! At midnight in Monument Square Park (located just next door at Livingston Avenue and George Street) there will be New Year’s fireworks, presented by The Restaurant Guys (www.RestaurantGuysRadio.com). Before the fireworks a DJ will be playing music starting at 11:30 p.m. to set the mood. Afterwards, if you’re STILL not ready to call it night, many neighborhood bars and restaurants will be open late for a post-fireworks nightcap.
* * *
"Salute to Vienna" takes place on Tuesday, December 31 at 6:00 p.m. at the State Theatre, located at 15 Livingston Avenue, New Brunswick. Tickets ($47 - $107) may be purchased online at www.statetheatrenj.org/salute_to_vienna, at the State Theatre box office, or by calling 732-246-7469. The performance is presented in two acts with a total run time of two hours and twenty minutes, including the one intermission.
Bringing your sweetie? May I suggest the “Tickets Plus” package ($146), coming complete with two mid/upper balcony tickets, two glasses of wine and chocolate. (You’re welcome, in advance.)
Photo credit: Barry Roden. [applies to all photos.]