On an extravagant evening in May 100 years ago, the scandalous premiere of The Rite of Spring rocked the epicenter of culture and fashion - Paris - and sent aftershocks across the world. Not bad for a ballet! But this was no traditional scamper in tulle and pink toe-shoes, but a bold provocation by a trinity of avant-garde genius: composer Igor Stravinsky, choreographer Vaslav Nijinsky (the first male god of dance), and impresario Serge Diaghilev, founder of the Ballet Russes. Anticipation was high, the audience came ready to rumble, and when the curtain went up, civil war broke out in the seats - an orgy of catcalls, hisses, hecklings, and slaps. Audiences have gotten unruly before and since in the theater, but this was a moment of reckoning that split the young century in two, announcing the birth of modernism and the death of la belle epoque. What happened that riotous night and why does it ring in our ears and bones a century later?
James Wolcott, a columnist for Vanity Fair and author of the Kindle Single The Gore Supremacy, takes it apart and puts it back together in Wild in the Seats.
©2013 James Wolcott (P)2014 Audible Inc.
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