Throughout history, artists emerged to create unique and revolutionary masterpieces, transcending the confines of modern society and withstanding the test of time. Igor Stravinsky’s ballet The Rite of Spring is one such work.
On Thursday, May 29, 1913, the Ballets Russes premiered Le sacre du printemps (The Rite of Spring) at the Théâtre des Champs-Élysées in Paris, an event that led to the most famous riot in classical music history due to its shocking primitive rhythms, dissonances, choreography, costumes and scenery. The Rite of Spring depicts an ancient pagan ritual sacrifice which culminates in a young girl dancing herself to death.
This seminal work represents a collaboration between leading artists of the day (Nicholas Roerich: painter who created the set design and the costumes, Vaslav Nijinsky: choreographer and Igor Stravinsky: composer) which resulted in a paradigm shift in music, ballet and its related art forms in the twentieth century. Many would argue that The Rite of Spring is the single most important piece of classical music written during the twentieth century.
The following are recommended online resources to learn more about this groundbreaking work:
Keeping Score Documentary
Michael Tilson Thomas created an excellent documentary with the San Francisco Symphony as part of his “Keeping Score” series for PBS. Not only does he walk the viewer through the piece, but he gives the history and context and even visits locations associated with the composition and infamous premiere.
Renee Montagne discusses The Rite Of Spring with Miles Hoffman on NPR Morning Edition.
Scott Simon discusses The Rite Of Spring with conductor Marin Alsop on NPR Weekend Edition Saturday.
The Rite Of Spring Mariinsky Ballet:
Kenneth Archer and Millicent Hodson Reconstruction of Nicholas Roerich’s original costumes and set design and Vaslav Nijinsky’s original choreography
Behind the scenes documentary about Kenneth Archer and Millicent Hodson’s reconstruction of the original production – It’s in French).
The Rite Of Spring – Part One: Adoration of the Earth begins at 6:20
The Rite Of Spring – Part Two: The Exalted Sacrifice begins at 2:15
Coco Chanel & Igor Stravinsky Film – Premiere Re-enactment
Coco Chanel & Igor Stravinsky is a 2009 French film based on a 2002 fictional novel Coco & Igor by Chris Greenhalgh in which the plot centers around an alleged affair between Coco Chanel and Igor Stravinsky. While much of this film is sensational and not necessarily historically accurate, the reenactment of the premiere of The Rite Of Spring is pretty well done.