This will be the seventh Russian ball in the Austrian capital. It always attracts attention, and not only of Austrians interested in Russian history and culture. This time, for example, guests are expected to arrive from 13 countries, the hostess of the ball Nathalie Holzmueller said in her interview with The Voice of Russia.
“Just imagine the imperial palace which is called one of the most elegant palaces in Europe. Imagine the room with chandeliers given by Russian Emperor Alexander I to the Austrian monarchy. It was at the time of the Congress of Vienna 1814-1815, which is known to have determined the fate of Europe. Alexander I lived in Vienna for a long time and took part in that congress which came down in history as a ‘dancing congress’. Three is a suite of rooms in Hofburg that bears Emperor Alexander’s name.”
The figure of Johann Strauss Jr., the Waltz King, became the symbol of cultural relations between Russia and Austria in the 19th century. He spent 11 summer seasons in Russia performing with his orchestra and also Russian musicians in the palaces of St. Petersburg and its environs, such as the Czar’s Village, Pavlovsk and Peterhof. At present residents of St. Petersburg hold and international festival called The Great Waltz in memory of those seasons.
At the turn of the 21st century Russian musician and conductor Vladimir Fedoseyev had an impact on the Viennese musical environment. He was the main conductor of the Vienna Symphony Orchestra for 8 years. The Russian ball in Vienna did not emerge out of the blue either but was evoked by impressions of today’s cultural life in Russia. Nathalie Holzmueller, a native of Russia and a graduate of St. Petersburg Conservatory, says:
“Several times I was a guest at the Mariinsky Theatre balls called White Nights Balls in the Catherine Palace in the Czar’s Village. I was stupefied with the splendour of the throne room, smart and elegant guests, wonderful ornaments, delightful tables, flowers and the Mariinsky Theatre orchestra with Maestro Gergiev and the best soloists. The fireworks and ballet on the ponds were mind-boggling. As a child I always dreamed of being invited to a real ball, so I developed a passionate desire to organize something similar and persuaded Valery Gergiev to throw a ball in Vienna, the European ball capital.”
Maestro Gergiev liked the idea. The first three Russian balls were under the auspices of the Mariinsky Theatre which showed its young talents in Vienna. With time the circle of performers grew wider and balls started to be dedicated to a certain theme. This year’s theme is The Russian Fairy-Tale. It is a fairy-tale and also a dream come true. The hostess will play the part of a fairy and wonders of performing art will be demonstrated by the Bolshoi Theatre soprano Dinara Alieva, The Indian Summer vocal group from Moscow and The Merry-Go-Round children’s dancing workshop from Vienna. The sponsors’ aim is not only to make people happy but also to show the Russia which they know and love, without stereotypes and primitive iconic images. Austrian journalists call the Russian Ball a symbol of Russian culture abroad. Its hostess Nathalie Holzmueller assures that most Austrians are delighted with Russia and interested in it.