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The Creatures of Prometheus

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San Francisco Symphony / San Francisco / Music

Just as it contains only one opera (the repeatedly revised Fidelio), the Beethoven catalogue contains a single ballet of substance: The Creatures of Prometheus. Running just about an hour, the ballet was composed to a scenario (now lost) created by the dancing superstar Salvatore Viganò as an entertainment for Archduchess Maria Theresa. The score was an instant hit; it reached America in 1804, only three years after the premiere, Beethoven’s first major orchestral work to do so. Choreographers, however, have had little use for The Creatures of Prometheus—not dancy enough, it has been said, too “learned.” Such criticism has not deterred the animator Hillary Leben, whose witty and irreverent film, based on a new script by Gerard McBurney, made its debut during the pandemic in London. The orchestra was the Philharmonia, led by Esa-Pekka Salonen to delighted reviews. Now Salonen brings us the American premiere with the San Francisco Symphony. —M.G.

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