The Rite of Spring

French Art Nouveau Ceramic Vase (LEO Design)

The crowd rioted—on this day in 1913—at the premier performance of Igor Stravinsky’s “Le Sacre du Printemps” (The Rite of Spring) performed in Paris’s Théâtre des Champs-Élysées. Produced by Russian “Showman Extraordinaire” Sergei Diaghilev, the music proved to be a ground-breaking (and threatening) aural sensation of unconventional rhythm, nauseating dissonance, and traditional Russian folk music.  The story was equally wild: as spring approaches, pagan Russians perform their heathen rituals, thrashing and stomping about on the stage while a maiden sacrificial victim dances herself to death, an offering to the gods.

Designed by Nicholas Roerich and choreographed by Vaslav Najinsky—both members of Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes company—the work could be considered “Ballet Art Nouveau” in as much as it explored themes of nature, revived “ancient” or “traditional” cultural motifs, and endeavored to move the art form in a new and avant-garde direction.

With time, new art forms become the established ones. And today, more than a century after its fateful opening night,“The Rite of Spring” is recognized as a symphonic masterpiece.  Some consider it the most important symphonic work of the Twentieth Century;  it is certainly oft-recorded and it has influenced many of the composers who have come after it.

The piece of French Art Nouveau pottery, pictured above, comes from the very time of “The Rite of Spring.”  It even has a spring green overglaze.  Fortunately, it was not on hand (to throw) at the infamous opening performance.  Please click on the photo above to learn more about it.