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Rite of Spring Premiere
On a warm spring night in Paris, on the 29th of May, 1913, musical history was made. The great impresario Sergei Diaghilev, head of the Ballets Russes (Russian Ballet), had commissioned a young Igor Stravinsky to write three ballets for his company: "The Firebird", which had premiered in 1910, "Petrushka", premiered in 1911, and now the third ballet, entitled "Le Sacre du Printemps" - The Rite of Spring.
The Rite of Spring is famous for causing a riot at its premiere. Concert-going Parisians were not ready for the jagged rhythms, crunching discord, and the strange jerking of the dancers on stage.
"The ballet was choreographed by the great Nijinsky," one commentator says, "and the noise, fighting, and shouting in the audience got so loud, he had to shout out the numbers to the dancers so that they knew what they were supposed to do."
Almost one hundred years later, we can still feel the impact of this pivotal piece. Imagine how it might have been to sit in the audience on that electrifying night of May, 1913!
Now, thanks to the wonders of the 21st century, we can all be there with Stravinsky, Diaghilev, Nijinksy, and the Paris ballet-goers to experience this ground-breaking event first-hand!
First, the reconstruction of the original ballet with Nijinksy's unorthodox choreography:
Rite of Spring, reconstruction of the original ballet: Part 1 of 3
Rite of Spring, reconstruction of the original ballet: Part 2 of 3
Rite of Spring, reconstruction of the original ballet: Part 3 of 3
Next, let's go to Paris and sit in the audience. "A Riot at The Rite", headlines screamed. What caused the uproar? Why was the audience so shocked? The actual events at the premiere have been reconstructed and filmed, based on journals, newspaper accounts, eye witnesses, letters. Now we are privileged to go back stage and watch Nijinsky screaming out counts to the dancers, while Stravinsky holds onto his coattails to keep him from running on stage. Even Diaghilev, always the cool and poised impresario, is a bit ruffled as the house lights flicker off and on to try to calm the audience. "Let the dancers hear the music!!!" he shouts as the crowed yells insults and taunts at him.
Whoever thought ballet could be so exciting???
Rite of Spring Premiere reenactment: Part 1A
Rite of Spring Premiere reenactment: Part 1B
Rite of Spring Premiere reenactment: Part 2A
Rite of Spring Premiere reenactment: Part 2B
-- Julie Harris