Permanent URL: https://mezzacotta.net/postcard/?comic=4621
Generated by an infinite conga-space of monkeys coerced by: The Thinker
The author writes:
The tales surrounding the May of 1913 premier of Igor Stravinsky's The Rite of Spring have undergone some modicum of embellishment over the years. To call what happened "a riot" would be overselling things somewhat; it was really more case of half the audience were cheering, the other half were jeering, and both were trying to drown the other out. Some details are probably true, such as Diaghilev switching the houselights on & off to get the audience to pipe down, Nijinsky having to beat time with his foot backstage because the dancers couldn't hear the orchestra over the baying crowd, and the police being called (though it's questionable if any arrests were made). There is little to no evidence that events ever degraded to the point of objects (e.g. fruit & veg) being thrown at the stage, though the composer Camille Saint-Saëns supposedly stormed out of the performance (a tale contradicted by Stravinsky who said that Saint-Saëns was never in attendance to begin with). Other composers such as Maurice Ravel and Claude Debussy were more favourably disposed to the work, with this particular pair having allegedly shouted "Genius! Genius!" at the stage and orchestra in response to the hissing and booing from the upper galleries. Whilst Stravinsky was naturally perturbed by this response, Sergei Diaghilev, the theatre's owner, was by contrast rather pleased, evidently of the viewpoint that no publicity is bad publicity.
Of course I couldn't give you any solid reason for the raucous response to the work, the "savage rhythms & dissonant chords" of the music ("To the very end, my dear!", said Stravinsky) and the raw choreography would've certainly raised a few eyebrows amongst a Parisian crowd accustomed to a sleeker and more graceful style of ballet. It is entirely possible that some of the response was a deliberate and calculated attempt to get at choreographer, Vaclav Nijinsky, who had made more than a fair few rivals over his career in Paris, but I have no solid evidence either way on that one. Regardless, the audience response was considerably more favourable when the work was restaged as an instrumental concert piece the April of the following year (a performance which Saint-Saëns probably did actually attend & then storm out of, declaring Stravinsky be "Mad!").
So, with that little tale in mind, all in all it's a considerable step up from the premier of Sir Jeremiah Braseby's first (and only) opera; at least there was an actual audience for the Stravinsky piece.