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Balanchine once famously said "ballet is woman," and in Walpurgisnacht Ballet he sends 24 women soaring across the stage with wild abandon.
In 1925, Balanchine choreographed dances for a production of Gounod’s Faust given by the Opéra de Monte-Carlo; they were danced by Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes. He made dances for other productions of the opera in 1935, when he was ballet master for the Metropolitan Opera, and in 1945 for the Opera Nacional, Mexico City. Walpurgisnacht Ballet was choreographed for a 1975 production of Faust by the Théâtre National de l’Opéra, danced by the Paris Opéra Ballet. The New York City Ballet premiere was the first presentation of the choreography as an independent work.
The Walpurgisnacht scene occurs at the beginning of the opera’s last act, when Mephistopheles brings Faust to watch the traditional celebration on the eve of May Day when the souls of the dead are released to wander at will. Although the ballet does not depict Walpurgisnacht per se, it does build on a sense of joyful revelry.
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