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The Rite of Spring

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The Rite of Spring
music: Igor Stravinsky
choreography: Vaslav Nijinsky
scenario: Igor Stravinsky and Nicholas Roerich
Initial Commission
• To construct a ballet that
recreates the terror
experienced by ancient
Slavs during a pagan
sacrificial rite that takes
place to ensure the
fertility of the land and of
the tribe
The Chosen
• Envisioning a
primitive society of
the far Russian
steppes involved in
ritual sacrifice,
Stravinsky worked
with set and costume
designer Nicholas
Nicholas Roerich
• The work was
between 1911
and 1913 for
Ballets Russes.
• The two act ballet
portrays a tribe through
several scenes with
processions of maidens,
elders, a centuries-old
female diviner, a Sage
and the Chosen One,
who is plucked from the
young women and
dances to death for the
sake of communal
The Chosen
Premiere of the Ballet
• The Rite of Spring
premiered at the
ThГЁГўtre des Champs
ElysГ©es on May 29,
• As soon as the
curtain went up, a riot
Theatre des Champs Elysees
Audience Reaction
• upset with the subject of
barbarism, a subject that
the world was not yet
ready to deal with
• upset that Nijinsky had
"turned the conventions
of ballet inside out"
• upset with Stravinsky’s
disregarding the accepted
rules of musical
The Sage
• The choreography boldly
dispenses with grace and
beauty to emphasize
awkward, primitive
• The corps de ballet dance
on the outer ball of their
• Dancers stomp, jump,
and shake uncontrollably
to express their terror.
• One of the dancers
recalled that Vaslav
Nijinsky's shocking
choreography was
physically unnatural
to perform:
"With every leap we
landed heavily
enough to jar every
organ in us."
Influences on the Choreography:
The Meaning
• The pull of the earth
is evident in the
weighted steps.
• Driven purpose and
frenzy is expressed in
the repetitive and
jagged action, with
pounding jumps and
contorted positions.
Influences on the Choreography:
The Costumes
• The patterns Roerich had
hand-painted on the
dancers' coarse smocks,
in fact, came to influence
Nijinsky's choreography.
• The choreography
mirrored the geometric
motifs in circular
movements and linear
The Music—Overview
• The music itself
is angular, loud,
dissonant and
unpredictable so
as to suggest
The young maidens
The Music—Overview
• The music
violated all preconceptions of
beauty, harmony,
tone and
rhythmic order
that we are
familiar with in
• Stravinsky's
and jarring
colors to
create a
In Stravinsky’s own Words
“The work’s embryo is a theme that came
to me after I had finished The Firebird. As
this theme and what followed from it was
conceived in a brutal and forthright
manner, I took as developmental pretext
what that music actually evoked, that is,
prehistoric Russia as I, being myself
Russian, conceive it. But bear in mind that
this idea comes from music, not the music
from the idea.”
The Shock of the New
• harmonically
• emphasis on
dissonance used for
its own sake
• rhythmically harsh,
with a number of
sections having
constantly changing
time signatures and
unpredictable offbeat accents
Pablo Picasso. Portrait of Stravinsky
Use of Repetition to Replace
Harmonic Progression
• Pitted two chords against each other at the
same time
• Took one dissonant cluster of notes, hammering
them over and over until he felt that a change
was called for aesthetically
• Then another cluster of notes would follow, but
in another pitch determined by Stravinsky
himself rather than the old laws of sound
Use of Harsh Sounds
• Loud
• Huge orchestra: eight French horns, four
trumpets, a piccolo trumpet and a bass trumpet,
three trombones, two tubas and large
woodwinds, string, and percussion sections.
• Strings play “down bow”
• Instruments muffled by mutes
• Plenty of jarring percussion
• Lack of melody
• Lack of harmony
• Lack of regular rhythms
Part I: Adoration of the Earth
Dances of the young girls
Ritual of abductions
Round dance
Ritual of the two rival tribes
Procession of the oldest and wisest one
The kiss of the earth
The dancing out of
the earth
• In the introduction,
Stravinsky called for a
bassoon to play
higher in its range
than anyone else had
ever done.
• This introduction is
very folk-like and
adapted from a
Lithuanian folk song.
The Adoration of the Earth
• When the curtain
rose and the dancing
began, there
appeared a musical
theme without a
melody, only a loud,
pulsating, dissonant
chord with jarring,
irregular accents.
The Adoration of the Earth
• The bassoon solo sets off a series of
short, fragmented, repeating solos that
begin to overlap and pile up on each other,
building up to a controlled chaos that
foreshadows some of the real tension to
Part II: The Sacrifice
• Introduction
• Mystic circle of the young girls
• The naming and honoring of the Chosen
• Evocation of the ancestors (Ancestral
• Ritual action of the ancestors
• Sacrificial Dance (the Chosen One)
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