domingo, mayo 26, 2013

The centenary of a sacred scandal: it’s a jazz affair

Leonard Bernstein once hailed Le sacre du printemps as “prehistoric jazz”. The statement alludes to the primitive elements Stravinsky explored in his work, the fact that at the time of its premiere jazz hadn’t particularly gained notoriety yet, and finally to some sort of prediction that jazz would soon fall victim to the spell of this influential piece.

Many remarkable jazz musicians have acknowledged the impact this groundbreaking work has made in their careers. Miles Davis considered Stravinsky one of the greatest composers; Charlie Parker, as I will later elaborate, even had the chance to pay a tribute to the composer; and John Coltrane, according to his son Ravi, often played Stravinsky’s records in his house.

Other artists have even registered their esteem to the composition: Ornette Coleman recorded Sleep talking based on the opening melody played by the bassoon, Hubert Laws and Don Sebesky did jazz arrangements for some of the themes of Le sacre in their record The rite of spring and Alice Coltrane recorded the section Rondes printanières for her album Eternity. 

That being said, how could the alliance between Le sacre du printemps and jazz be explained? Jazz pianist Julian Joseph centered that connection to The Guardian around rhythm: the notion of adding melodies on top of persistent rhythmic structures in the piece is very similar to what jazz musicians are used to when they improvise over fixed rhythmic patterns.

Stravinsky was an artist who paid close attention to the cultural trends of his time; hence, he quickly took a hold of the popularity of jazz at the beginning of the 20th century and his affinity to the genre was naturally materialized in some of his works. In L’histoire du soldat, composed in 1918 and considered by his creator as “an essay in jazz portraiture”, he included a section called Ragtime. In 1942, he wrote Circus polka for a young elephant (for a ballet George Balanchine choreographed for the Ringling Brothers Circus). The following year, he composed Scherzo à la russe for a jazz ensemble. And finally, in 1945, he wrote some sort of a clarinet concerto for Woody Herman entitled Ebony concerto.

One of classical music-meets-jazz’s greatest anecdotes is represented by the encounter between Igor Stravinsky and Charlie Parker that took place in New York City in 1951. The saxophonist’s quintet was performing that night at Birdland. His trumpeter noticed Stravinsky’s presence in the crowd and informed his bandleader, who didn’t dare to confirm it –he just set off to start the show with the piece Koko. Unexpectedly, he included the opening melody of L’oiseau de feu. Stravinsky could not control his excitement and, according to Alfred Appel, he “roared with delight pounding his glass on the table, the upward arc of the glass sending its liquor and ice cubes onto the people behind him, who threw up their hands or ducked.” Two years before, at La Salle Pleyel in Paris, Parker had also incorporated the opening melody of Le sacre in Salt peanuts.

(Another interesting meeting featured Frank Sinatra approaching the Russian composer at a restaurant. The singer expressed his admiration to Stravinsky and asked for an autograph. The latter courteously signed it, but didn’t recognize him.)

More recently, Darryl Brenzel made an adaptation of Le sacre for a big band entitled The Re-(w)rite of spring, and The Bad Plus even went further in boldness and arranged it for jazz trio, calling it On sacred ground: Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring. The trio’s pianist Ethan Iverson, in an interview with Jazz Times, said that the arrangement was based on the version for two pianos (which you can hear in a previous post of this blog). He also confessed that he wasn’t entirely sure that they had written a “jazz version” of Le sacre. He rather thinks that The Bad Plus’ take lies on “a whole other avenue”.

Le sacre du printemps
is not only one of the most technically demanding pieces ever written in the orchestral language, it is also hard to deal with in genres accustomed to virtuosity like jazz. This is another evidence of the greatness of this masterpiece –its endless reserve of inspiration it continues to serve to music, no matter what form it takes.  

This a live performance of On sacred ground: Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring by The Bad Plus

sábado, mayo 25, 2013

The centenary of a sacred scandal: Le sacre played by four hands

Michael Tilson Thomas had the great opportunity to get some guidance from Igor Stravinsky while he was preparing for conducting a performance of Le sacre du printemps. When he asked the Russian composer how he should approach his work, Stravinsky’s replied with an fascinating advice. He encouraged the young conductor to find the version I wrote for two pianos and play it with a partner. He also remarked that the first encounter one must have with this piece had to be physical. The body then must feel the sound directly.

This is a recording of that version for two pianos performed by none other than Leonard Bernstein and Michael Tilson Thomas. Listening to this arrangement constitutes quite a revealing experience. Not only you get to hear this work through the rich –yet limited- sonic range of the piano, but you can also confirm the outstanding orchestration skills Stravinsky displayed when adapting the score for the whole orchestra.

viernes, mayo 24, 2013

The centenary of a sacred scandal: this is how spring dances like

Le sacre du printemps casts a massive influence over the field of dance. Nijinsky’s interpretation of Stravinsky’s score brought down many paradigms in ballet. This breakthrough inspired many choreographers to create their reinterpretations. A lot of them have felt the need to own it, through the invention of new steps and poses.

The following videos present what many consider is the Holy Trinity of choreographies based on Stravinsky’s score. On every one of them his music gets a new meaning. I invite you to enjoy each one of these versions and to later draw the fascinating contrasts that grow between them.

Reconstruction of Nijinsky’s original choreography by Kenneth Archer and Millicent Hodson

Kenneth Archer and Millicent Hodson embarked on a seemingly impossible mission: to rescue Vaslav Nijinsky’s original choreography. They did an exhaustive research around the world over 16 years that led them, among other things, to get the support of Marie Rambert, Nijinsky’s rehearsal assistant. This is a reconstruction, meaning that it can’t be taken as gospel. However this the closest thing to what Nijinsky once created. This is extremely valuable for people interested in finding out what the Paris audience first saw that infamous night. The Joffrey Ballet debuted this version in 1987, and even when it was received with certain trepidation, audiences and critics were grateful to the astounding undertaking put forward by this restless couple of dance experts.

Maurice Béjart

French choreographer Maurice Béjart was a populist choreographer. That usually implies contempt from the critics. With his take on Le sacre du printemps, though, he seemed to have gained both of them over. His version was radical and experimental. The New York Times even blamed Béjart for turning Stravinsky’s work into “an animalistic mating rite” Among Béjart’s wide catalog of works, Le sacre du printemps is still considered by many as his best, one that even posed a philosophical reflection that looked upon the dichotomy between the individual and the collective. His interpretation was so successful that La Monnaie, Brussels’ royal opera theater, invited him to have his Ballet of the 20th Century, become its resident troupe.

Pina Bausch

For many dance experts, Le sacre du printemps’ nature was perfect for a dance maker like Pina Bausch. The physicality of her so-called “dance theater” definitely represented a great match for the groundbreaking nature of the music written by Stravinsky. She was definitely able to seize that opportunity. According to dance writer Michelle Porter, “The movement was so expressive of changes in rhythm, sonority, volume and so forth that the music and movement became powerful partners. There was an organic relationship between the music and the choreography (…) Bausch has an eye for the structure of movement and for arranging bodies over the space of the stage. Whether she arranges the dancers into one or two or several tightly knit groups, or has them move around the stage in one larger circle, or scatters them apparently randomly over the stage space with each dancer performing individually, the effect is always powerful and always harmonious”.

jueves, mayo 23, 2013

The centenary of a sacred scandal: this is the best ‘on-the-record’

¿Is there really anything like the perfect recording of an orchestral piece? Well, it depends on many things. In my opinion, the best way to answer that is by first finding out what you are looking for. Ideally, a good recording would pay loyalty to what the composer was aspiring to convey, but that’s quite hard to know. What’s rather more interesting, at least for me, is to explore various interpretations that will unequivocally lead to various experiences.

The act of listening to several performances is very exciting. The experience in itself will provide you with many rewards -and a few disappointments, let’s be honest. However, they will also help you to appreciate more the work you’re listening to, one that could even become a subject of study.

I’ve been listening to (and studying) several recordings of Stravinsky’s Le sacre du printemps throughout the last three years. What I’m trying to achieve with this post is to come up with a selection of the best recordings, in my opinion, of this 20th century musical landmark. Propelled by my obsession with Stravinsky’s oeuvre, this collection has been the result of an exhilarating research that includes the reading of several books, articles posted in the internet and discussions among fans, and even conversations I’ve held during live performances of the piece.

I really hope this ends up encouraging you to immerse into Stravinsky’s terrific work. Here we go:

Igor Stravinsky and the Columbia Symphony Orchestra
(Sony, 1990) It is always great to hear a work exactly as the composer intended it to. This is the case with this recording. Stravinsky’s conducting abilities were quite limited, but he was particularly careful when it came to conducting his own works. The sonic quality isn’t the best, but there are some things in this register that you can’t find anywhere else. The way the strings sound, for example. They have a distinct tone, almost as if Stravinsky would have had in mind another whole instrument. His dynamics aren’t well controlled either, but there’s something in these imprecisions that instills allure to this version. Its flaws certainly make this recording unique, unlike any other.

Ernest Ansermet and the Orchestre de la Suisse Romande
(Decca, 2002) Ansermet was a very close friend of Stravinsky. Additionally, the Swiss conductor was vital in introducing the Russian’s music to American audiences. Stravinsky was painfully selective when it came to approving the approach of a certain conductor on his works. Ansermet belonged to that elite. And this recording proves why. It’s warm, detailed and aggressive, embodying some sort of balance between the Russian (hectic) and the French (refined) readings. Thus, it has all the elements to be considered one of the finest registers of this great piece of music.

Leonard Bernstein and the New York Philharmonic
(Sony, 2013) Bernstein was a huge lover of Le sacre du printemps, and that devotion is materialized in this recording made in 1958. Stravinsky even mentioned this version in his autobiography (“Wow” was his verdict). According to many fans of the conductor, what makes this reading so compelling is the manifestation of Bernstein’s youth in all its splendor: there is energy, vitality and an impressive display of virtuosity by the members of the New York Philharmonic that can be read as a deliberate proof of fearlessness. The subsequent recordings that Bernstein made with other orchestras are doubtlessly shadowed by this first and excellent accomplishment.

Claudio Abbado and the London Symphony Orchestra
(Deutsche Grammophon, 1997) Abbado’s prominent sense of finesse is present throughout this recording. His approach remarks the narrative essence of the piece -especially the dramatic elements. The outstanding string section of the London Symphony imbues the work with versatility, accentuating the raw passages while skillfully crafting the various moments of mystery that abound in the score. Stravinsky’s music enjoyed a close and warm link with British orchestras thanks to the affinity Les Ballets Russes’ held with that country. Under the extraordinary baton of Abbado, the London Symphony pays a great tribute to that relationship.

Pierre Boulez and the Cleveland Orchestra
(Sony, 1995) This is widely considered by many critics as the best recording of Le sacre du printemps. Boulez makes clarity the norm. If you’re interested in knowing what role plays every single instrument in the score, this is exactly the recording you want to hear. This is Stravinsky à la française: elegant and refined. This same contradiction, according to many experts, is what makes it imperfect: how could a work so primitive sound so brilliant? Well, for me, that is precisely Boulez’s greatest achievement. The exceptional quality of this recording is what brings me back to it again and again, and it’s what makes it my personal favorite. I have always felt dazzled by Boulez’s take on the piece –that is until I find the next best thing.

Valery Gergiev and the Kirov Orchestra
(Philips, 2001) For many, this is the register that pays more loyalty to the crude and savage attributes of Le sacre du printemps. Gergiev definitely makes Stravinsky sound as Russian as ever: sharp strings, thick brasses and ferocious drums. However, in some instances this chaos becomes excessive (take for example the section Rondes printanières). Gergiev and the Kirov Orchestra certainly exude vitality and excitement, but it does get overwhelming. Nonetheless, if you’re curious about hearing an orchestra at the edge of collapse, this is the recording for you. This version will definitely rock your world.

Esa-Pekka Salonen and the Los Angeles Philharmonic
(Deutsche Grammophon, 2006) From the perspective of sound quality, this is the best recording. It captures the exceptional acoustics of Walt Disney Hall, where it was recorded. Salonen’s approach is sensitively modern: the dissonances sound clear and the raw passages are accentuated, but with delicacy. My only complaint is represented by the unsettling prominence of the bass drum. In regards to control of the orchestra, this recording is perhaps second best to Boulez’s reading. Salonen’s hold on the many nuances of the ensemble is most eloquent in his astonishing handling of dynamics. This is definitely one of the greatest recordings edited recently.

miércoles, mayo 22, 2013

The centenary of a sacred scandal: Stravinsky, composer of a wild spring

In the beginning of 1913, Igor Stravinsky was having a good time. He was the most celebrated composer of Les Ballets Russes thanks to the success of his scores for L’oiseau de feu and Petrushka. But at the end of May of that same year, the world would discover his new work, Le sacre du printemps, and he would achieve greatness.

When Stravinsky introduced his new piece at the piano to a few of his friends and colleagues, many of them had a glimpse of its revolutionary essence. Marie Rambert, who helped Nijinsky with his choreography remembered: “When Stravinsky first came to one of our rehearsals, he stamped his feet on the floor and banged his fist on the piano and sang and shouted, all to give us an impression of the rhythms of the music and the color of the orchestra.” Pierre Monteux, conductor of Les Ballets Russes at that time, was arguably the first to acknowledge the work’s groundbreaking nature by saying: “This sounds like a scandal”.

The 20th century in music began with orchestras acting as epic entities for a couple of composers who preceded the frantic pace of innovation, rebellion and shock many composers would later establish: Gustav Mahler and Richard Strauss. These two passed the torch, in prominence, to Arnold Schoenberg, an ambitious Austrian determined to vanish tonality.

Within this particular context, Stravinsky’s breakthrough stands out from the rest by the essence of his virtue. While Schoenberg focused on scripting a new chapter in the history of music in terms of tonality, Stravinsky went a different way: he turned back to look at the past (he gathered tunes from Russian folklore and Slavic songs), focused on the richness of rhythm (the time signature is changed very often) and practically reconfigured the sound of the orchestra through an astonishing disposition of dissonances, an innovative approach to instrumentation (notes are played on some of the instruments at the extremes of their registers, unprecedented special effects are generated by the musicians) and a bewildering sense of orchestration.

Up until Le sacre du printemps, the orchestra never sounded like Stravinsky devised it to. Being the first and warmest French admirer of the piece, Maurice Ravel was perhaps the first musician who was able to be aware of the grandeur of it. The French composer predicted that “its première would prove an event as great as Debussy’s Pelléas et Mélisande”.

Its première was great indeed. But as I have already mentioned on previous posts, Nijinsky’s choreography seemed to have fired the spark of scandal. Stravinsky’s score, though, gained a life of his own. It has been widely performed ever since as an orchestral piece -challenging conductors, musicians and audiences alike. It has also proven out to be one of the most influential pieces ever written.

Composers like Boulez, Messiaen, Copland, Bartok and Piazzolla have recognized Stravinsky’s influence in their careers. Stravinsky’s inspiration could also be taken conceptually: his work shows the heights the orchestra can be taken to. His impact lies in his dazzling originality.

It has taken me many years to start to grasp the greatness of a piece like Le sacre du printemps. Every time I listen to it, whether on a record or at a live performance, I discover something new. This endless source of amazement could be a feature of every masterpiece. And it could also be an ingredient of an obsession like mine, one that I’d be glad to keep for the rest of my life.

martes, mayo 21, 2013

The centenary of a sacred scandal: Nijinsky, a genius dance maker

When people mention Le sacre du printemps’ scandalous premiere, they often just remark Stravinsky’s revolutionary score. However, according to many historians, the authentic cause of the extraordinary reaction to the work was prompted by Nijinsky’s equally groundbreaking choreography.

There are many facts that support this notion. First, the booing and the hissing propelled by the audience became so loud that the music could not be heard. Second, when the music was played the next year at a concert, the reaction was celebratory. And finally, Nicholas Roerich’s unprecedented costumes definitely added to the outrageous sense of innovation Les Ballet Russes were able to present. In result, all of these factors lead up to thinking that Nijinsky’s contribution cannot be underestimated.

Le sacre du printemps was a difficult score. Stravinsky himself struggled for decades to translate the musical ideas inside his head into a proper score. Everyone involved in the production was very aware of that from the beginning. And nobody was more conscious in that regard than Sergei Diaghilev. He was afraid the music was too complicated for Nijinsky to choreograph, so he looked for help. Diaghilev took the choreographer to Hellerau (Germany) to visit the Dalcroze Academy.

Diaghilev hoped to get some assistance from Émile Jaques-Dalcroze, the founder of the academy and creator of the Dalcroze Technique, but he refused. Instead, he recruited Marie Rambert, one of Dalcroze’s pupils, to help Nijinsky with his daunting task.

Rambert and Nijinsky got along very well. She also considered very intimidated the task of matching Stravinsky’s complicated score with dance. She was particularly astounded by the piece’s complex rhythmic changes. Nijinsky had decided to embark on his task with a primitive yet modern approach, and Rambert certainly respected it.

The physicality of the Dalcroze Technique was materialized in some of the outstanding poses and movements Nijinsky created for the ballet. Some of them even challenged the mere notion of what the human body was supposed to do in a natural way -the feet and the knees of the dancers, at moments, were turned-in, presumably to give the idea of an ancient ritual.

According to many dancers of Les Ballets Russes, Nijinsky wasn’t easy to work with. His otherworldly nature was perhaps a consequence of his fanatical devotion to art. Many consider Nijinsky to be the first to choreograph with such attention to detail, literally in a step-by-step way. The strange movements he had in mind for this ballet did not exactly help to establish a healthy collaboration with his dancers. The latter were dazed at the type of steps they had to perform. Le sacre du printemps was difficult even in the phases of its gestation.

The testimony of Maria Piltz is very useful to understand the level of difficulty present in Nijinsky’s choreography. Piltz danced the main role in the ballet -the Chosen Virgin. When she started to follow Nijinsky’s instructions she realized she had never danced like this before. In the end she managed to impress the audience with her performance, but Ramberg was rather disappointed. She felt Piltz had made a weak version of Nijinsky’s original instructions.

Nijinsky’s greatest achievement was to make, out of Stravinsky’s monumental piece of music, another masterpiece that consisted of a redefinition of the physical expression for the stage. The unparalleled poses he created and the proficient handling of the corps de ballet also made history. This choreography was only performed a few times by Les Ballets Russes and it was thought lost for decades. Fortunately, the dance experts Millicent Hodson and Kenneth Archer conducted a research for 16 years and reconstructed Nijinsky's original choreography. (The Joffrey Ballet performed it in 1987.)

Jacques Rivière wrote one of the best reviews of Le sacre du printemps, in terms of summing up succinctly Nijinsky’s historic accomplishment: “By breaking up movement, by returning to the simplicity of gesture, Nijinsky has restored expressiveness to dancing. All the angularities and awkwardness of this choreography keep the feeling in. The body is no longer an escape-route for the soul: on the contrary, it gathers itself together to contain the soul. Nijinsky makes the body itself speak. It only moves as a whole, as one block, and its speech is expressed in sudden bounds with open arms and legs, or in sideways runs with bent knees and with the head lying on one shoulder.

“The language of Nijinsky is infinitely detailed. This is a biological ballet. It is not only the dance of the most primitive of men, it is the dance before man. Stravinsky tells us that he wanted to portray the surge of spring. But this is not the usual spring sung by poets, with its breezes, its birdsong, its pale skies, and tender greens. Here is nothing but the harsh struggle of growth, the panic terror from the rising of the sap, the fearful regrouping of the cells. Spring seen from inside, with its violence, its spasms and its fissions. We seem to be watching a drama through a microscope.”

Nijinsky’s choreography received several negative reviews. Even when Stravinsky had once affirmed that he was “too ignorant musically to be fit to do choreography”, he came out in his defense by saying “Nijinsky is a remarkable artist, capable of giving new life to the whole art of ballet. Not for a second have we ceased to think along the same lines. You’ll see later what he will do. He is not only a marvelous dancer: he is capable of creation and innovation. He has played a vital part in the collaboration of Le sacre du printemps.”

Nijinsky’s marvelous contribution to the breakthrough of Le sacre du printemps is undeniable. For many decades, though, Stravinsky’s score took the lead in appreciation and prestige. However, true masterpieces sooner or later get the respect they deserve. It has taken many years for Nijinsky’s choreography to be properly understood and acknowledged. Now that history has finally done it, there’s really no turning back.

lunes, mayo 20, 2013

The centenary of a sacred scandal: Diaghilev, the designer of the scandal

Many scholars still argue whether the extraordinary reaction that took place at Le sacre du printemps’ premiere was mainly due to Nijinsky’s choreography or Stravinsky’s score. However, there is one certain fact: the scandal was designed. And the creative mind behind it was none other than Sergei Diaghilev’s.

Diaghilev had an acute sense of the dynamics of the cultural market. He knew very well how to dazzle Les Ballets Russes’ first audience: the high circles of Paris. He just had to put some pieces together to set forward a good amount of controversy. The day before its premiere, Diaghilev allowed a few distinguished members of his public and members of the press to see the final rehearsals of the ballet. Then, he encouraged these people to spread among their peers the shock they had felt–an early and wise practice of word-of-mouth. A solid rumor was born: what the people were about to experience the next day, at the Théâtre des Champs Elysées, would become a modernist tour de force.

May 29th, 1913 would mark the most notorious premiere in the history of ballet. After hearing the first notes of the work played by the oboe, some members of the audience started to express their discontent, and some loud discussions –even fights- originated between the factions of the aristocracy and the Bohemia. The police had to enter to restore the order. Nonetheless, the show went on until its end, becoming an event that is widely considered as a landmark of modernism.

“All the elements of the scandal were present”, Jean Cocteau, who was present at the premiere, affirmed. For him, the clashing between those two groups of the public was inevitable, hinting that Diaghilev had orchestrated it. ‘The smart audience in tails and tulle, diamonds and ospreys, was interspersed with the suits and bandeaux of the aesthetic crowd. The latter would applaud novelty simply to show their contempt for the people in the boxes… Innumerable shades of snobbery, super-snobbery and inverted snobbery were represented… The audience played the role that it was written for it…”

According to Diaghilev and Nijinky’s biographer Richard Buckle, the structure of the Théâtre des Champs Elysées helped the juxtaposition of contrary social groups, hence fitting appropriately for the context of preconceived scandal that Diaghilev had set up for the premiere of Le sacre du printemps: “There were young people –artists, students and ‘fans’- who were prepared to align themselves with Diaghilev on his boldest charges into battle against the old guard. Counting on their support, he had given them free tickets –standing passes. It was the presence of these bloodthirsty enthusiasts in the middle of the elegant occupants of the boxes, which were partly responsible for the battle that took place in the theatre on May 29th.

“On the first night of Victor Hugo’s Hernani at the Comedie Francaise in 1830, of which we have his own description, and at the first performance of Wagner’s Tannhauser at the old Opera in the rue Le Peletier in 1861, the young aesthetes who supported their rising heroes against the academic reactionaries had been isolated in the upper section of the house. The Théâtre des Champs Elysées was constructed in a novel way. Between the logs avec salon and the fauteuils and loges de corbeille there was an ambulatory, and it was here that Diaghilev’s favorite young friends of the avant-garde were standing to applaud and defend Stravinsky and Nijinsky.”

Stravinsky also remarked the fulfillment Diaghilev must have felt with the controversy: “He certainly looked contented. No one could have been quicker to understand the publicity value and he immediately understood the good thing that had happened in that respect. Quite probably he had already thought about the possibility of such a scandal when I first played him the score, months before, in the east corner ground room of the Grand Hotel in Venice.”

I don’t think there’s a better quote to sum up Diaghilev’s satisfaction than Cocteau’s. According to the French writer, when all of the members of the creative team that crafted this masterpiece gathered to celebrate, Diaghilev shouted ecstatically: “Exactly what I wanted!”

jueves, mayo 09, 2013

The centenary of a sacred scandal: Introduction

Le sacre du printemps is not only a work of art that has fascinated me for the last couple of years, it has also changed my life. This was the first piece written by Igor Stravinsky that I listened to -propelling an obsession to know of his music and his life. This masterpiece also originated in me an academic interest in ballet.

After studying Stravinsky and his oeuvre, I felt a strong curiosity to know more about the legendary choreographer George Balanchine, his most important creative partner, and with whom the composer would create some of the most influential ballets of all time. Inevitably, after reading about Stravinsky and Balanchine’s magnificent alliance, I started to get interested in the company that made it all happen: Les Ballets Russes.

Les Ballets Russes is the most important ballet company of the first half of the twentieth century. Directed by the cosmopolitan, aesthete and astute impresario Sergei Diaghilev, the company produced amazing works for the stage, combining some of the greatest artistic talents of the era and changing the meaning of dance ever since.

The creative and collective ethos of Les Ballets Russes made possible the creation of legendary works of art like Le sacre du printemps. Composed by Stravinsky and choreographed by wunderkind Vaslav Nijisnky, the production was premiered on May 29, 1913 at the Theatre des Champs Elysées, and this event remains, to this day, the most notorious balletic scandal.

This historic joint venture crafted by a couple of geniuses offers one of the most interesting and exciting objects of study among the history of the performing arts. To celebrate this centenary, I have decided to dedicate the entire month of May of my blog to this landmark event. I will write articles based on the perspective of its creators: Diaghilev, Nijinsky and Stravinsky.

The original choreography was thought lost for a long time until a group of researchers brought it back to life. That version has been staged recently and can be seen on DVD. However, I believe the best way to experience this work is by listening to its magnificent score. That is why I will also write another article in which I will discuss the best recordings of Stravinsky’s piece.

I invite you all to join me in the celebration of a masterpiece that has become an important part of my life, a celebration that will turn, throughout this month, into a heartfelt tribute.