Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Mr. Rite

It was just a hundred years ago tonight that this dapper, if somewhat world-weary, cosmpolite, unleashed on the world one of the defining artistic scandals of the twentieth century: The Rite of Spring.  He is the impresario nonpareil Sergei Diaghilev (in an atmospheric oil sketch by M. Valentin Serov), and the work was a collaboration for his ensemble, Les Ballets Russes, that involved his extravagantly gifted protégé, dancer turned choreographer Vaslav Nijinsky (a distinctly toothsome young thing), and the spikily modern composer Igor Stravinsky (who was, despite a titanic talent, rather distinctly not).

As is now legend, when the work premiered in Paris, a riot nearly capsized the proceedings (although there was cheering and bows all around at the finale), and the resulting furor made the piece a byword for the adventurous avant garde.  How much of that was canny marketing by M. Diaghilev remains unclear, but I am quite certain he knew his way around a claque and would have had no hesitation in deploying one to good effect.

At one point someone told me I bore a strong resemblance to Diaghilev, and while based on some photographs that may be the most equivocal of compliments, I wouldn't mind looking half so soigné as he does here...


  1. Soigné is going to be my word of the day. Jx

  2. The only argument I ever heard my paternal grandparents have was whether one could have good taste without liking Stravinsky. My grandmother never cared for the maestro so said yes, but my beloved and easy-going Grandpapa surprised me by not being so sure.

    Wasn't there a passage in DV about Diaghilev spraying down the curtains of wherever he stayed with Mitsouko? I like to imagine the smell of Guerlain and outrage at the Paris Opera House that night, though it would've likely been L'Heure Bleue or Après L'Ondée since Jicky had temporarily fallen out of favor and Mr. D's favorite hadn't yet been released.

    1. Mitsouko! Haven't thought about that in eons. My maternal grandmother loved it, along with Evening in Paris, which of course isn't really French at all.

      I do believe that competing taste in contemporary music was one of the few things about which my paternal grandparents didn't argue (mostly fondly - they did last 68 years) . They liked Sousa, Lehar, and anything sung by Madame Schuman-Heink.