Did the “Rite” riot really happen?

Posted on: August 23, 2018

“You probably know the story about the premiere of Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring,” writes James Bennett II on Tuesday (8/21) at New York classical radio station WQXR, about the 1913 Paris premiere of Diaghilev’s production of the Stravinsky/Nijinsky ballet. It “was so offensive that it moved a crowd of otherwise refined concert goers to riot…. But what if the story … is just that—a story? … Musicologist and program annotator Linda Shaver-Gleason has researched the Rite riot…. Part of it may have been confused laughter. Igor Stravinsky’s music and Vaslav Nijinsky’s choreography were meant to evoke … the so-called ‘primitive’ peoples of Siberia…. Musically speaking … it’s worth pointing out that much of the criticism from opening night came from the balcony of the Théâtre des Champs-Élysées … where the critics and journalists were sitting…. But what about all the yelling and fisticuffs? … Shaver-Gleason cites … the audience; for example, bourgeois middle-class vs. aristocrats; French vs. Germans vs. Russians. The insults … had less to do with the music and more to do with the politics in the room…. There were five curtain calls… The word ‘riot’ … did show up … a decade later.”

Posted August 23, 2018