Why The Audiences Are Still Scandalized With Stravinsky’s Ballet Even After 100 Years?

Art Cognition

The Paris Premiere

Stravinsk’s ballet made its premiere on May 29th 1913 in Paris. This ballet created a riot as people believed that it is a terrifying act. It was opened to an audience in the new art-nouveau auditorium at the city’s Théâtre-des-Champs-Élysées. From that day “The Rite of Spring” has become a legend. This premiere was well attended by high-society ladies, the gentlemen, the critics, poets etc. it was an era of unmatchable art, music and literature. This premiere witnessed the most scandalous scandal in the history of art.

The Riot
The witnesses of the violence that took place at the premiere of the ballet give different accounts of what had happened. According to witness objects were thrown to the stage and blows were exchanged. Vaslav Nijinsky was the choreographer of Rite of Spring and people was pre-disposed to be outraged. Some people said that the trouble started as soon as the overture and the bassoon melody started. Police arrived on the scene and more than 40 people were arrested. The reason for the anger of the audience is not yet clear.

Was It The Music Or The Dance?
It is difficult to say what caused the outrage. Stravinsky said that Serge Diaghilev, the founder of the Ballets Russes was not happy with the music played at the beginning of the Rite.

  • The dissonant chords and the pulsating rhythm made the music really startling
  • The music was accompanied by weird movements of the choreography
  • It is the portrayal of the primitive society on the stage that might have caused the riot

It seems Diaghilev was expecting a scandal when he announced that the ballet will cause an impassionate debate while announcing the premiere to the press. Despite of the riot the performance was completed and there was an ovation to the ballet.

100 Years
The ballet later had five more performances in Paris and four performances in London. Nijinsky ran off with one of Diaghilev’s dancers and the rift between the two grew. Only the concert performance was given in Russia and in Paris in 1914.in 1920 Diaghilev revived the ballet with new choreographer Leonide Massine. The art historians believe that the Rite of Spring irrevocably changed the path of 20th century music. Even after hundred years of the notorious premiere it is not clear whether the outrageous reaction from the audience was a real riot or was it a planned publicity stunt by Diaghilev. According to contemporary observers the ballet with its different music and choreography was considered uncivilized by the crowd. It is true that no other artwork has been able to create the impact created by Rite of Spring 100 years ago. This ballet shows vitality, imagination and creativity and it will be difficult to find answers about the questions regarding the aesthetic values and the music used in the ballet. The real reason behind the riot on the first premiere of this ballet will remain as a mystery.