Stravinsky’s Le Sacre du printemps, 33 Minutes that changed “and shocked” the World

This year  we are celebrating the 100th anniversary of the 1913 premiere of Igor Stravinsky’s Le Sacre du Printemps, The Rite of Spring.

Le Sacre du Printemps is a ballet and orchestral concert work by the Russian composer Igor Stravinsky.

It was written for the 1913 Paris season of Sergei Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes company and         the original choreography was by Vaslav Nijinsky.

Le Sacre du Printemps “schocked” the entire world.  It was very well known that the people in that time were not prepared for this “new experience”, in the arts.

If you count the combination of Stravinsky’s haunting music and plus, Nijinsky’s choreography, the premiere “Le Sacre du Printemps” caused a huge riot in the audience.

Can everyone imagine that night of May 29 of 1913 at the Théâtre des Champs-Élysées?

Just imagine the huge “madness” in that historical night of May 29 of 1913!

Today we might “laugh” about it but in those times, “The Rite of Spring” was a huge scandal.

This is a short story of this historical and “infamous” world premiere of “The Rite if Spring”:

At the time, a Parisian ballet audience typically consisted of two diverse groups: the wealthy and fashionable set, who would be expecting to see a traditional performance with beautiful music, and a “Bohemian” group who, the poet-philosopher Jean Cocteau asserted, would “acclaim, right or wrong, anything that is new because of their hatred of the boxes”.

On the evening of the 29 May the theatre was packed: Gustav Linor reported, “Never…has the hall been so full, or so resplendent; the stairways and the corridors were crowded with spectators eager to see and to hear”.

When “The Rite of Spring” began, the disturbances in the audience began during the Introduction, and grew into a crescendo when the curtain rose on the stamping dancers in “Augurs of Spring”.

Marie Rambert (Nijinsky’s assistant) recalled later that it was soon impossible to hear the music on the stage.

In his autobiography, Stravinsky writes that the derisive laughter that greeted the first bars of the Introduction disgusted him, and that he left the auditorium to watch the rest of the performance from the stage wings. The demonstrations, he says, grew into “a terrific uproar” which, along with the on-stage noises, drowned out the voice of Nijinsky who was shouting the step numbers to the dancers.

The journalist and photographer Carl Van Vechten recorded that the person behind him got carried away with excitement, and “began to beat rhythmically on top of my head”, though Van Vechten failed to notice this at first, his own emotion being so great

And the trouble began when the two factions in the audience (the traditional audience and the Bohemian Audience, like Jean Cocteau explained) began attacking each other, but their mutual anger was soon diverted towards the orchestra:

These are the words of French Orchestra conductor Pierre Monteux:

“Everything available was tossed in our direction, but we continued to play on”.

Around forty of the worst offenders were ejected—possibly with the intervention of the police, although this is uncorroborated. Through all the disturbances the performance continued without interruption.

(Wikipedia info. )


This is another fact about this “infamous” world premiere:

“The curtain rose on a group of knock-kneed and long-braided Lolitas jumping up and down,” Stravinsky later remarked of the brutal opening seen of Le Sacre du printemps, which depicts a virgin sacrifice in an ancient pagan Russia.

Catcalls began to issue from the audience as they took in the bizarre scene playing out before them.

The noise became great enough that the orchestra could not be heard from the stage, causing Nijinsky to climb atop a chair in the wings shouting out instructions to his dancers onstage.

While Stravinsky sat fuming as his music was drowned out by jeers, whistles and—if one witness is to be believed—members of the audience barking like dogs, Serge Diaghelev, impresario of the Ballets Russes, frantically switched the house lights on and off in a futile effort to restore order.

It was, in other words a scene that bore a closer resemblance to the Marx Brothers’ “A Night At The Opera” than it did to a typical night at the Ballets Russes.

The ballet was not performed again until the 1920s.

(History Channel Info)

We might found this  a little bit “funny” but in that time, wow, it was just crazy!

100th years of the premiere of Igor Stravinsky’s “Le Sacre du Printemps” (The Rite of Spring)



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