The Rite Stuff: Arts Alive Celebrates The 100th Anniv. of Stravinsky's Masterpiece
Stravinsky's The Rite of Spring: On The Cutting Edge For 100 Years
It seems crazy to think that the premiere of a ballet could cause a riot, but that's exactly what happened after the first performance of Stravinsky's The Rite of Spring 100 years ago.
Stravinsky was virtually unknown as a composer when Sergei Diaghilev commissioned him to compose for Diaghilev's ballet company, Ballets Russes. So Stravinksy wrote The Firebird in 1910 and Petrushka in 1911. The Rite of Spring was Stravinsky's third work for Ballets Russes. It carries the subtitle "Pictures of Pagan Russia in Two Parts" and those "pictures" are brutal ones: rituals celebrate the advent of spring, then a young girl is chosen as a sacrificial victim and is forced to dance herself to death under the watchful eye of a ring of elders. The ballet's choreography came from Vaslav Nijinsky, who already had a reputation for being provocative.
The performance began and after not too long, the audience started to laugh and jeer. As the piece continued, they threw things at the orchestra.
One critic wrote that the work was "a laborious and puerile barbarity" and that he was "sorry to see an artist such as M. Stravinsky involve himself in this disconcerting adventure."
A disconcerting adventure it might have been, but what's for sure is that The Rite of Spring still sounds as modern as it did on that fateful night in 1913. Plus, it's a piece that has special meaning for Los Angeles. It was here that the piece was chosen to be a part of the movie Fantasia.
It was also here that the Joffrey Ballet reconstructed Nijinsky's original choreography in the 1980's, long after many believed it was lost.
Stravinsky moved to Los Angeles in the 1930's and lived here for 30 years. He influenced the LA Phil (The Rite has become one of their signature pieces) and decades of movie scores. So it's only right that Arts Alive, a show about the arts in Los Angeles, pay special tribute to Stravinsky and his Rite of Spring with help from conductors Gustavo Dudamel, Esa-Pekka Salonen, Michael Tilson Thomas and John Mauceri (who is leading a program called Paris and Hollywood: Celebrating The Rite of Spring without Actually Playing It at VPAC). You'll also hear from playwright Jon Robin Baitz and electronic musician Stefan Goldmann who crafted a single edit of The Rite from over a dozen different recorded performances (you can hear samples above).
You'll also hear how different artists have interpreted The Rite in styles from progressive rock to big band.
We'll also tell you where you can see The Rite of Spring performed live from Ojai to Orange County. To hear it on KUSC, tune in Saturday night at 10PM. That's when Alan Chapman is recreating the program from The Rite's premiere in 1913 on Modern Times. Jim Svejda will air three different versions on The Evening Program this Wednesday (the official 100th anniversary).
ARTS ALIVE AIRS SATURDAYS AT 8AM.
THE SHOW IS AVAILABLE AS A PODCAST AT KUSC.ORG AND ITUNES
AND STREAMS ON STITCHER