Le sacre du printemps, the brilliant, game-changing ballet that sprang from the collective efforts of composer Igor Stravinsky, choreographer Vaslav Nijinsky, conductor Pierre Monteux, designer Nicholas Roerich, impresario Sergey Diaghilev and the dancers of Les Ballets russes turns 100 today. At the premiere, the modernist rhythms, harmonies and dance movements brought to life the “primitive,” ritualistic Tableaux de la Russie païenne [Scenes of Pagan Russia] and in the process shocked many and divided public opinion. Today, this seminal work is widely appreciated and universally recognized for its influence on classical music and dance.
In 1987, the Joffrey Ballet staged the first full revival of the 1913 production turning to the research of dance and design historians Millicent Hodson and Kenneth Archer to recreate the original choreography, costumes and scenic elements. Two videos in the Music Library’s collection explore their work: Stravinsky and the Ballets russes [DVD 1915] and The search for Nijinsky’s Rite of spring [DVD 1537]. The Mariinsky Theatre staging of the same production is also recommended viewing.
Newcomers to Le sacre may also be entertained by the 2005 BBC film Riot at the Rite and A Riotous Premiere – Igor Stravinsky: The Rite of Spring presented by Michael Tilson Thomas and the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra [DVD 1536 and on the SFSO website].
For the scholar, there are many resources available including Pieter C. Van den Toorn’s Stravinsky and the Rite of spring: the beginnings of a musical language [ML410 S932 V38 1987, ebook version (McGill access only)] and the Stravinsky chapter of Thomas Forrest Kelly’s First nights: five musical premieres [ML63 K44 2000]. Researchers can also arrange to consult the Music Library’s copy of Boosey & Hawkes’ 1969 facsimile edition of the score [ML96.5 S865] and will soon have access to the Centenary edition of Le Sacre du printemps consisting of 3 volumes: the autograph fair copy, the version for piano four hands and a collection of studies entitled Avatar of Modernity.