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.

2 comments:

  1. "They were very stupid people."

    That's just great stuff.

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  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!

    ReplyDelete

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