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‘Salute to Vienna’ celebrates the New Year in early, fabulous fashion

BY TRICIA DESPRES | FOR THE SUN-TIMES

There is a place, just 4,682 miles away, where the world stops turning after the holidays and the conclusion of the year that was is marked with a time of pure and utter celebration for the time that is. People raise their glasses and dance in the streets and revel under a firework-brightened sky.

It’s New Year’s Eve in Vienna.

“It’s a time when people put the bad behind them and they feel positive for the upcoming new year,” explains Attila Glatz, co-founder and organizer of “Salute to Vienna”, a multi-sensory driven production of concerts celebrated in 23 North American cities and reminiscent of the 80-year old tradition of Vienna’s world famous “Neujahrskonzert” performance by the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra and televised annually to 1.3 billion people around the globe.

And while increasing numbers of stressed-out and exhausted folks seem to find their living room couch calling their name come New Year’s Eve, there is something to be said for unabashedly celebrating the year that was on December 28 right in Chicago.

“There was a time when we considered trying to modernize the choreographing and marketing of the show, but ticket sales started dropping, so we changed it right back to the original,” adds “Salute to Vienna” co-founder Marion Glatz. “People wanted to see it the way they have already remembered it.”

SALUTE TO VIENNA

2:30 p.m., December 28

Orchestra Hall at Symphony Center, 220 S. Michigan Ave., Chicago

Tickets: $39 – $115

312-294-3000; www.cso.org

It was just 20 ago that Attila and Marion Glatz brought the “Salute to Vienna” production to North America nd 17 years ago that the production came to Chicago. “We had been listening to the New Year’s concert from Vienna since we were born,” recalls co-founder Marion Glatz. “The concert in Vienna has been sold out for generations, so we wanted to bring it to America.”

“When we started, people told us not to touch it and that people would not come,” adds Attila. “We feel so emotionally touched and grateful to the American audience that they are coming year after year.”

Soaked in the tradition of a time gone by, “Salute to Vienna” will join together the Strauss Symphony of America and the Chicago Philharmonic Orchestra for an evening of singing, dancing – and comedy.

“There are a lot of funny stories about the Strauss pieces and the rivalry between the Strauss brothers, who were all composers,” chuckles “Salute to Vienna” Viennese conductor Alexander Steinitz, who will mark his first time in Chicago during the December 28th performance. “It’s very important to make a certain connection with the audience, and telling these stories and anecdotes help to do that.”

“I have always said that the music of Strauss goes down like a glass of champagne,” adds Marion.

A ‘fast and furious’ production featuring over fifty musical pieces and a slew of Vienna Imperial Ballet and International Champion Ballroom Dancers accompanying the music of the orchestras, Chicago’s very own “Salute to Vienna” looks to be a beautiful sensory overload for not only the audience, but for the conductor.

“I enjoy the overall spirit of the show,” says Steinitz, who leaves on a jet plane from Vienna just two days before the Chicago production. “We have a rather short period of time to prepare for the show and a short period of time with our audience. But when we hit a nerve, I can actually feel the emotion of the crowd behind me…and it feels amazing. Even when my back is to them I, I can feel the way they are feeling, and as performers, get carried away by it.”

“When the encore comes around, people start clapping excitement in the audience and by the end of the show, the house feels like it’s going to come down,” laughs Marion in delight. “To celebrate those kinds of moments alongside your family is the perfect way to usher in the New Year.”

Tricia Despres is a local freelance writer.