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Balanchine considered Mozart’s Divertimento No. 15 the finest ever written, and to compliment the sparkling score, he created a work of prodigious ingenuity featuring a regal cast of dancers.
When asked to present a work at the Mozart Festival held at the American Shakespeare Theater in Stratford, Connecticut, in 1956, Balanchine originally planned to revive Caracole, an earlier work set to Mozart’s Divertimento No. 15. Instead, he created a new ballet that used many steps from the old, and he named the new ballet after the music, which he considered the finest divertimento ever written. The divertimento genre reached its zenith amid the parties and informal entertainments of 18th-century aristocratic life. Divertimentos did not have a fixed structure; the number of movements could vary from one to twelve, and they could be scored for one instrument or a chamber orchestra. Divertimento No. 15 is choreographed for eight principal dancers, five women and three men, with an ensemble of eight women. The ballet omits the second minuet and the andante from the sixth movement; a new cadenza for violin and viola by John Colman was added in the late 1960s.
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