Six hours before the clock strikes midnight to ring in the new year, New Brunswick is making a salute to Vienna, Austria.
“Salute to Vienna,” a jovial blend of holiday music produced by Attila Glatz Concert Productions, is coming to the State Theatre at 6 p.m. for the ninth time, one of the production’s 23 North American destinations.
Featuring a cast of 75 musicians and European singers and dancers decked out in colorful Viennese costumes, the 20th anniversary performance is fashioned after Vienna’s internationally renowned “Neujahrskonzert” show, a Viennese New Year’s tradition that began in 1939.
Stephanie Wright, marketing and communications manager for Attila Glatz Concert Productions, said that she believes the show maintains its popularity because of its nostalgic appeal, harkening back to a time when life was simpler.
Plus, she said that enjoying “Salute to Vienna” does not require prior knowledge of classical music, ballet or operetta, though it combines the glamour of ballroom dancing, elaborate costumes and funny, anecdotal interludes by the conductor, which balance more ‘serious’ arts.
Each year, about 1,000 people flock to the State Theatre on New Year’s Eve for the “Salute to Vienna.” Kelly Blithe, director of communications at the State Theatre, said that after its successful year in 2005, it was continually brought back and has become an annual favorite.
“It’s a lighthearted, festive show that has a little bit of everything — live music, dancing, amazing vocalists, beautiful costumes — and it’s great way to end the year,” Blithe said.
Besides being performed at the State Theatre, the “Salute to Vienna” is also making its way to Los Angeles; New York; Austin, Texas; West Palm Beach, Florida; and Quebec City, Quebec, Canada, among other North American locales over a five-day period. Annually, it pulls in 50,000 audience members, many of them repeat visitors, as the show has been produced for 20 years.
With such wide-scale production, it comes as no surprise that the “Salute to Vienna” is the largest live concert series of its kind in North America. It is the only genuine re-creation of the original production, “Neujahrskonzert,” which has been performed by the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra for 75 years and is televised annually to 1.3 billion people in 73 countries.
“With ‘Salute to Vienna,’ the European community in North America has an authentic version of their homegrown tradition in their backyards and their passion for these concerts is infectious,” Wright said.
The 2-hour, 20-minute blend of holiday music includes well-known Johann Strauss waltzes, polkas and famous operetta excerpts from “Die Fledermaus” and “The Merry Widow.” At the State Theatre production, the Strauss Symphony of America, the Philly POPS and dancers from Kiev-Aniko Ballet of Ukraine and International Champion Ballroom Dancers will perform alongside conductor András Deák of Budapest.
“To keep it a surprise, the program is not announced until the day of the show, so the program standout could be a particular waltz or vocal performance, just about anything, but I know that the Blue Danube Waltz is always a favorite,” Blithe said.
The music may now differ every year to match the changing singers, dancers, conductor and program in every city on its New Year’s Eve showing, but its inception was one of tradition. To celebrate Strauss, a waltz legend, the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra performed his popular “Blue Danube” on Dec. 31, 1921, in Vienna City Park at the inauguration of the composer’s memorial. The performance, which became a regular in the Orchestra’s repertoire, was named Neujahrskonzert, meaning New Year’s Concert in German.
“Like other holiday traditions, such as the Nutcracker or the Messiah, the content is no mystery, but audiences do not attend to be inspired by plot or surprised. They attend because of how these events make them feel,” Wright said.
Wright said the production has evolved by incorporating ballet and ballroom dancers into the mix of performance but has maintained very strong ties to the original Neujahrskonzert in Vienna, a purposeful decision.
“This show gets better and better with age,” Blithe said. “It is always a fresh program each year and we see it to be that way for many years to come.”
For tickets, which range $47 to $107, visit http://www.statetheatrenj.org/salute_to_vienna.
Written for MyCentralJersey.com on 12/23/14