The corps de ballet float by in ethereal white, with peaked hats, dancing as dollops of the titular whipped cream in choreographer Alexei Ratmansky’s new work for American Ballet Theatre, which debuted in New York this May.
Portland, Oregon-based pop artist Mark Ryden designed sumptuous scenery and costumes to depict living confections for Whipped Cream. This cast of characters are vivid delights, candy come to life as seen through the eyes of a boy who overindulges in sweets at a pastry shop and suffers sugary delusions as a result. Ryden, known for his ability to blend techniques of the old masters with popular culture, spent an entire year on the project.
Whipped Cream is based on Heinrich Kröller’s two-act ballet Schlagobers, with libretto and music by Richard Strauss, which had its world premiere at the Vienna State Opera in 1924. Ryden’s scenery depicts treed landscapes reminiscent of an old European town, with a stone clock tower and church with steeple. The resplendent pastry shop, laden with tempting delights, is painted in soft pinks and magnificent gold.
The frolicking commences when the shop closes for the evening, with the hallucinating boy left inside. Suddenly, Marzipan Men in 15th-century particoloured tights and doublets engage in the practice of archery across the tea room. Iced Gingerbread Men swashbuckle by, brandishing swords and chocolate cookie shields. Dancing Tiered Cakes wrapped in star-tip piped buttercream twirl with peppermint Swirl Girls. Beverages get the royal treatment: Prince Cocoa, Prince Coffee, and Princess Tea Flower are all regally dressed.
With its playful celebration of childhood fantasies, audiences may wonder if Whipped Cream will become the next holiday classic—a decadent confection with wide appeal primed to become a tradition in the vein of The Nutcracker.
Whipped Cream is on from June 26 to July 1 at the Metropolitan Opera House, 30 Lincoln Center Plaza, New York, NY 10023, USA.
Photos by Gene Schiavone.
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