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The Arts and Medicine
February 19, 2019

Whipped Cream—Viennese Ballet and Pop Surrealism Meet Dark Medicine

Author Affiliations
  • 1New York University School of Medicine, New York
  • 2The Ronald O. Perelman Department of Dermatology, New York University School of Medicine, New York
  • 3Department of Music, Princeton University, Princeton, New Jersey
JAMA. 2019;321(7):630-631. doi:10.1001/jama.2018.19502

Late in his long and distinguished career, German composer Richard Strauss decided to “go light.” Weary of politically influenced music critics and of economic instability in post–World War I Vienna, Strauss said, “I cannot bear the tragedy of the present time. I want to create joy.” He composed a Nutcracker-like ballet entitled Whipped Cream (Schlagobers), which premiered at the Vienna State Opera in 1924.

It tells of a boy who is hospitalized for abdominal pain after overeating at a Viennese sweet shop and who subsequently hallucinates about being rescued from a sinister attending physician by a dancing Princess Praline. It’s campy, but underlying this seemingly innocent childhood fantasy of dancing confections was (and is) public distrust of medicine.

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