The Rite of Spring Location
Theatre des Champs-Elysees
Igor Stravinsky
Born in Russia
Studied in St. Petersburg with Rimsky-Korsakov
Became famous in Western Europe, especially France, in the early 1900s
Moved to Paris in 1920
Moved to the US in 1939
Died in Venice in 1971
Cosmopolitan composer
A musical innovator, especially early in his career
Achieved worldwide fame, even outside the classical music world
The Rite of Spring
Ballet (story told through dance, based on instrumental music)
The story is about Russian pre-historical rites associated with spring
Music by Igor Stravinsky
Choreography by Vaslav Nijinsky
Commissioned by Serghei Diaghilev, founder of Paris’s Ballets Russet
One of the first examples of modernist music
Ballets Russes
Russian ballet company based in Paris (1909-1929)
Founded and directed by Russian impresario Serghei Diaghilev
Commissioned and performed innovative ballets that broke away with tradition
Most influential ballet company of the 20th century
The Cultural Context
The 1910s were the dawn of the modern world as we know it
Radio became popular
Cars became widely used
The 1910s in the Arts
Artists react to the changes in technology by developing new techniques
Birth of several artistic movements that want to break away with tradition
These movements form a general trend called “Modernism”
Art/Music before 1910s (Baroque-Classical-Romantic Periods)
Based on major and minor scales (tonality)
Based on regular meter (duple or triple)
This tradition continues in most of today’s pop music
Art/Music after 1900, a.k.a. Modernist Music
Uses scales other than major or minor, often derived from folk music
Employs lots of dissonances
Often uses irregular meter
Traditional Ballet
Ballet originated in the Renaissance
Courtly entertainment
Based on refined, stylized movements
Underwent changes in the Baroque, Classical, and Romantic periods, but maintained elegance and decorum
Modernist Ballet
Originated in the early 20th century, especially with the Ballets Russes
No longer just for entertainment
Often depicted violent stories
Movements are irregular and angular
The Structure of The Rite of Spring
In two Parts
Part 1: The Adoration of the Earth
Part 2: The Sacrifice
Part 1: The Adoration of the Earth
Introduction (instrumental)
Augurs of Spring (The celebration of spring begins in the hills. An old woman enters and begins to foretell the future)
Ritual of Abduction (Young girls arrive from the river, in single file. They begin the “Dance of the Abduction”)
Spring Rounds (The young girls dance the Khorovod, the “Spring Rounds”)
Ritual of the Rival Tribes (The people divide into two groups in opposition to each other, and begin the “Ritual of the Rival Tribes”)
Procession of the Sage (A holy procession leads to the entry of the wise elders, headed by the Sage who brings the games to a pause and blesses the earth)
Dance of the Earth (The people break into a passionate dance, sanctifying and becoming one with the earth)
The Genesis of The Rite of Spring
Ballets Russes (Russian Ballets), a ballet company based in Paris
They performed ballets of Russian origins or inspiration
The director was Serghei Diaghilev
Diaghilev had already worked with Stravinsky on two other ballets, The Firebird and Petrouchka
Diaghilev commissioned a third ballet to Stravinsky
In 1910, Stravinsky had imagined writing a ballet on pagan prehistorical rites associated with spring:
“I saw in my imagination a solemn pagan rite: sage elders, seated in a circle, watching a young girl dance herself to death. They were sacrificing her to propitiate the god of Spring. Such was the theme of the Sacre du Printemps”
Stravinsky decided to use spring tribal rituals as the topic of the new ballet
Wrote the subject of the ballet with Nicholas Roerich, an expert of Russian rituals
Vaslav Nijinsky, a famous Russian dancer, created the choreography
Nijinsky’s choreography was as modernist as Stravinsky’s music
Spring in the Arts
Spring was traditionally represented as beautiful and joyful
Stravinsky instead portrayed spring as violent and awe-inspiring