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Le turc genereux, ballet pantomime executé à Vienne sur le teatre près de la cour le 26 avril, 1758

Le turc genereux, ballet pantomime executé à Vienne sur le teatre près de la cour le 26 avril, 1758

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Ballet origin can be traced to the 17th century's elaborate and flamboyant entertainments celebrating marriages of wealth and power devised at European Royal courts. King Louis XIV of France, known as the Sun King, was a passionate dancer himself. The performances were a mixture of spoken word, music, dance and pantomime. They contained spectacular ceremonial processions with technical effects and extravagant costumes. The scenarios were based by the myths of ancient Greece and Rome or on themes such as the four seasons, the natural world or events happening in distant lands. Costumes were imaginative and fantastical, decorated with symbols designated to help the audience to recognize the characters in the story. The size of these costumes often limited dancers movements.

During Middle Ages, Church considered dance as a sin and condemned it. Records of Medieval dance are fragmented and limited, but a noteworthy dance reference from the medieval period is the allegory of the Danse Macabre. During the Renaissance, dance experienced growing popularity. Country dances, performed for pleasure, became distinct from court dances, which had ceremonial and political functions. In Germany, originated from a modified ländler, the waltz was introduced in all the European courts. The 16th century Queen of France Catherine de' Medici promoted and popularized dance in France and helped develop the ballet de cour. The production of the Ballet Comique de la Reine in 1581 is regarded by scholars as the first authentic ballet. In the 17th century, the French minuet, characterized by its bows, courtesies and gallant gestures, permeated the European cultural landscape.

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, born January 27, 1756, Salzburg, Austrian composer. His father, Leopold was the author of a famous violin-playing manual. Mozart and his sister were the only two of their seven children to survive. Mozart was a prodigy. At five he was playing the clavier. At six he began composing, writing his first symphonies at the age of eight. He was constantly traveling all over Europe with his father. Young Wolfgang was exhibited to the courts, to musical academicians, and to the public. Between the ages of seven and fifteen, the young Mozart spent half of his time on tour. During these tours, Mozart heard, absorbed, and learned various European musical forms, crystallizing his own mature style. His serenades, divertimenti, and dances, written on request for the entertainment and outdoor parties of the nobility, have become synonymous with the Classical "age of elegance." In Vienna, Mozart became a regular at the court of Emperor Joseph II, where he wrote much of his greatest music including operas that had a great financial success. Through his mismanagement of money and the incidences of his impulsive, and at times childish behavior in an era of powdered wigs and courtly manners, Mozart seemed to find it difficult to make a successful living for himself and his family (his wife Constanze and six children, only two of which survived). Mozart was just beginning to become financially stable when his illness brought an end to his life at the age of thirty-six. He was buried, like most Viennese in those days by the decree of Emperor Joseph, in a common grave, the exact location of which remains unknown. The influence of Mozart on the composers that followed cannot be overestimated. He is widely recognized as one of the greatest composers ever lived.





Bellotto, Bernardo, 1721-1780, Artist


New York Public Library

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