Skidmore College, Box 2460
Saratoga, NY 12866
Premiere performance in 1913 caused shock and outrage
May 29 of this year marks the 100th anniversary of the premiere performance of Igor Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring, a ballet written for the 1913 Paris season of Sergei Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes. Though The Rite of Spring has had a powerful influence on modern music and dance, things at the premiere did not go well, to put it mildly.
The avant-garde nature of the music, outrageous costumes, and unusual choreography caused quite a stir. The piece included pagan imagery, jarring dance movements, and dissonant music, all of which proved too much for the audience.
From the moment the curtain opened that evening at the Théâtre des Champs-Elysées in Paris, the trouble started. It began with members of the audience booing and hissing and then escalated into arguments and a near-riot. Reports have it that the police were called in to calm the angry crowd, but that the disruptions continued throughout the performance.
Although designed as a work for the stage, the music over time achieved growing acclaim as a concert piece and later became recognized as one of the most influential musical works of the 20th century.
“There is no doubt that Stravinsky’s Rite provided the gateway to modernism. Certainly music would never be the same,” said Charles Joseph, a Skidmore professor emeritus and leading authority on Stravinsky. “But the ballet also touched a new generation of creative artists emboldened by the unprecedented violence and starkness of both the score and the choreography.”
While the 100th anniversary of the Rite of Spring premiere is being celebrated worldwide, there are opportunities right in Saratoga Springs to hear the music and learn more about this groundbreaking work.
For dance enthusiasts, there is a new exhibition at the National Museum of Dance titled A Riotous Work: A Centennial Celebration of the Rite of Spring. The show, which runs through November 24, examines the original ballet as well as the numerous and diverse choreographers and companies that have since re-envisioned the work. Companies and choreographers featured in the exhibit include Maurice Bejart, Molissa Fenley, Andonis Foniadakis, Martha Graham Dance Company, Heddy Maalem, Paul Taylor Dance Company, and the The Royal Danish Ballet.
The Saratoga Performing Arts Center in Saratoga Springs will mark the centennial with a musical performance of The Rite of Spring by the Philadelphia Orchestra on the evening of Saturday, August 17. The concert, featuring conductor Gianandrea Noseda and guest pianist Jonathan Biss, will also include works by Beethoven and Borodin. It was the Philadelphia Orchestra with conductor Leopold Stokowski that performed the United States premieres of The Rite of Spring in both its concert and staged versions in 1922 and 1930 respectively.
The SPAC evening will begin at 6 p.m. with an opportunity to stroll the SPAC grounds for a celebration of the arts featuring music, painters at work at their easels, and more.
A special celebration on May 29
On Wednesday, May 29—exactly 100 years to the day from the famous work’s premiere—Skidmore College and SaratogaArtsFest will team up to present a unique performance of the Rite of Spring by The 5 Browns—a piano quintet of siblings hailed for their virtuosity. The performance will take place at 7:30 p.m. in the Arthur Zankel Music Center at Skidmore College.
The concert will feature the world premiere of a new arrangement for five pianos of the complete Rite of Spring and will also include classical pieces from works such as The Planets by Gustav Holst and Islamey by Mily Balakirev.
The 5 Browns – Ryan, Melody, Gregory, Deondra, and Desirae – all attended the Juilliard School, becoming the first family of five siblings to be accepted to the school simultaneously. The quintet enjoyed its first wave of critical attention in February 2002 when People magazine dubbed them the “Fab Five,” at a time when their ages ranged from 16 to 23. Soon after they were featured on Oprah and 60 Minutes.
Event ticket holders and Skidmore students are invited to a pre-performance talk by Stravinsky expert Charles Joseph at 6 p.m. in Skidmore’s Filene Recital Hall. Joseph is the author of four books on the composer—Stravinsky and the Piano (1983), Stravinsky Inside Out (2001), Stravinsky and Balanchine: A Journey of Invention (2002), and Stravinsky’s Ballets (2012).
Reserved orchestra seats for The 5 Browns performance are $125 or discounted to $50 with a 2013 SaratogaArtsFest ARTSPASS. Reserved balcony seating is $75 or discounted to $20 with an ARTSPASS.
Tickets are available at www.skidmore.edu/zankel or at the Zankel Music Center box office Tuesday through Friday, 1-5 p.m. The 2013 ARTSPASS can be purchased at www.SaratogaArtsFest.org.
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