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Old 05-29-2019, 04:23 AM
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May 29, 1913: Igor Stravinsky's ballet score The Rite of Spring receives its premiere performance in Paris, France, provoking a riot.

Paris's Théâtre des Champs-Élysées is a new structure, and a dress rehearsal was held in the presence of members of the press and invited guests. According to Stravinsky, all went peacefully. However, one critic foresaw possible trouble; he wondered how the public would receive the work, and suggested that they might react badly if they thought they were being mocked.

On the evening of May 29, the disturbances in the audience begin during the Introduction, and grow noisier when the curtain rises on the stamping dancers in "Augurs of Spring". But a music historian will assert, "it was not Stravinsky's music that did the shocking. It was the ugly earthbound lurching and stomping devised by Vaslav Nijinsky." It is soon impossible to hear the music on the stage. In his autobiography, Stravinsky will write that the derisive laughter that greeted the first bars of the Introduction disgusted him, and that he left the auditorium to watch the rest of the performance from the stage wings. The demonstrations, he says, grew into "a terrific uproar" which, along with the on-stage noises, drowned out the voice of Nijinsky who was shouting the step numbers to the dancers.

At this time, a Parisian ballet audience typically consists of two diverse groups: the wealthy and fashionable set, who are expecting to see a traditional performance with beautiful music, and a "Bohemian" group who would acclaim anything that is new. The trouble begins when the two factions begin attacking each other, but their mutual anger is soon diverted towards the orchestra: "Everything available was tossed in our direction, but we continued to play on". Around forty of the worst offenders are ejected. Through all the disturbances the performance continues without interruption. The unrest recedes significantly during Part II, and by some accounts the final "Sacrificial Dance" is watched in reasonable silence. At the end there are several curtain calls for the dancers, for the orchestra, and for Stravinsky and Nijinsky before the evening's program continues.