Friday, August 27, 2010

Stravinsky to Audience: ----- "Go to Hell!"

They were strange times; tense. Any established order was shifting, unsteady, swaying. Things exploded on a Thursday evening: May 29, 1913 at the Théâtre des Champs-Élysées in Paris. There was an infamous riot during the premiere that evening of "Le sacre du printemps (The Rite of Spring)" by Stravinsky:

Stravinsky begins this clip by talking of the impresario Sergei Diaghilev (1872-1929) who commissioned the early ballets by a young Stravinsky who was still largely unknown at the time.

Stravinsky's affection for Diaghilev is unconcealed [0:00-0:59]. He calls him "a kind of Oscar Wilde," which is a reference to his sexuality as well as his energy. He was "Oh...very elegant, very chic." Listen to the pop in the way Stravinsky pronounces the word "chic" [0:29]; it relays the charm and charisma of Diaghilev. Stravinsky chose to be buried near Diaghilev on the cemetery island of Venice: San Michele.

The young Robert Craft is featured on the next segment of this film [1:00-1:37]. He shares the insightful idea that the ballet form had been in a "barren period." Diaghilev saw that Stravinsky could revitalize the artform.

[1:37-2:04] Stravinsky talks Petrushka.

[2:05] The "historical scandal of Le sacre du printemps." Stravinsky describes the audience: "They shouted, [2:16] they whistled...from the beginning. [...] Then when the curtain opened on a group of knock-kneed and long-braided lolitas jumping up and down; 'Danses des Adolescentes;' the storm broke."

Stravinsky, sitting in a chair in the Théâtre des Champs-Élysées [2:44], recreated his impression of the evening: "It was full," he said sweeping his left arm, "of very noisy public. I [got] up, I said 'Go to Hell!' excuse me, monsieur, madame!"

The re-enactment: priceless.


  1. "They were very stupid people."

    That's just great stuff.

  2. Thanks Eric! In classical music that particular riot is the stuff of legend. Some see it as the signal that marked the beginning of avant-garde music. It is probably the most efficient action of "stupid people" ever! I love the idea that they convinced him to re-enact it...He even sat in the exact same seat!


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