The Rite of Spring

The Rite of Spring,
composer Igor Stravinsky;
choreographer Vaslav Nijinsky;
designer Nicholas Roerich.

First produced Theatre des Champs Elysees, Paris 29.5.1913
Theatre Royal, Drury Lane London 11.7.1913

Second version Theatre des Champs Elysees, 15.12.1920.
Princes Theatre London 27.6.1921, choregraphy by Leonid Massine.

'No theatre spectacle of this century has stirred up such a fury of excitement. None today is less well known in its visual detail." M.Ledermann, Stravinsky in the Theatre, 1957.

The Sequence Part One ; The Adoration of the Earth
Auguries of Spring(dances of young girls)
Mock Abduction
Spring Khorovod (Round Dance)
Games of the Rival Clans
Procession of the Wise Elder
Adoration of the Earth (The Wise Elder)
Dance of the Earth
Part Two The Sacrifice
Introduction (originally Pagan Night)
Mystical Circles of Young Girls
Glorification of the Chosen Victim
The Summoning of the Ancients
Ritual of the Ancients
Sacrifical Dance (The Chosen Victim)

1. Stravinski's first idea for Le Sacre, while finishing The Firebird; he"saw in imagination a solemn pagan rite; wise elders seated in a circle, watching a young girl dancing herself to death. They were sacrificing her to propitiate the god of spring." Chronicle (1935) After Petrouchka had been successfully launched, Stravinsky consulted his friend Roerich who was a painter and an archaelogist. First ideas for the scenery were sketched out by Stravinsky and Roerich in the house of the Princess Tenisheva in July 1911.

2. Roerich to Diaghalev cJan 1913, "my object is to present a number of scenes of earthly joy and celestial triumph as understood by the Slavs..... My intention is that the first set should transport us to the foot of a sacred hill, in a lush plain where Slavonic tribes are gathered together to celebrate the spring rites. In this scene there is an old witch, who predicts the future, a marriage by capture, round dances. Then comes the most solemn moment. The wise elder is brought from the village to imprint his scared kiss on the new flowering earth. During this rite the crowd is seized with a mystic terror..... After this uprush of terrestial joy the second scene sets a celestial mystery before us. Young virgins dance in circles on the sacred hill amid enchanted rocks; then they choose the victim they intend to honour. In a moment she will dance her last dance before the ancients clad in bearskins to show that the bear was man's ancestor. The the greybeards dedicate the victim to the god Yarilo." (The God of Light)

3. Nijinsky's note in the programme."It is really the soul of nature expressed by movement to music. It is the life of the stones and the trees. There are no human beings in it."
Sergei Diaghilev

1. The Times 26.7.13 ; "In Le Sacre du Printemps ...the functions of the composer and the producer are so balanced that it is possible to see every movement on the stage and at the same time to hear every note of the music. But the fusion goes deeper than this. The combination of the two elements of music and daancing does actually produce a new compound result, expressible in terms of rhythm - much as the combination of oxygen and hydrogen produces a different compound, water. Not only does M.Roerich's beautiful scenery also form an important part of the whole, but even the colours of the dresses are to some extent reflected in the orchestration - as for instance in the first scene, when a group of maidens in vivid scarlet huddles together to the accompnaiment of closely written chords on the trumpets. Movements too are mirrored in an equally realistic way when, a little later on, the dancers thin out into a straggling line, while the orchestra dwindles to a trill on the flutes; then a little tune develops in the woodwind two octaves apart, and two groups of three people detach themselves from either end of the line to begin a little dance that exactly suits the music."

2. Daily Mail (Richard Capell) July 12, 1913 , " Its savagery is horrific. Dissonances extraordinary enough have been sought out by other composers of the day to stir our jaded senses with a new thrill. But no one has gone so ferociously to work as M.Stravinsky, and no one has drummed and dinned his dissonances with such maddening rythmic persistency. And it must be added that all this is uttered by the most outlandish orchestral cries and groans, with masses of wind instruments mainly playing in unaccustomed registers."

3. Jean Cocteau writing in Le Coq et l'Harlequin (1918) reviewed the symbolism of The Rite,"When she falls dead, the ancestors draw near, receive her body and raise it towards heaven. This theme, so simple, so devoid of symbolism - today seems to hold a symbol. I see in it the prelude to war."
Ballets in London

1911 Le Spectre de la Rose
1912 L'Oiseau de Feu
1913 Petrouchka
L'Apres Midi d'un Faun
Le Sacre du Printemps


1914 Daphnis et Chloe.


Some artists who have worked with Diaghalev as designers of sets and costumes.

Bakst L'Oiseau du Feu 1910
Benois Petrouchka 1913
Mikhail Larionov Chou t 1921
Miro Jeux d'Enfants 1932
Picasso Le Train Bleu 1924
Giorgio de Chirico Le Bal 1929
Henri Matisse Le Chant de Rossignol 1914
scene from a performance of The Rite
The following ballets are to be found in performance on film ,
Spectre de la Rose ,
Les Noces ,
Petrouchka ,
Le Sacre ,
L'Apres Midi .


exhib.catal The Diaghalev Ballet in England, Univ.East Anglia 1980
N.Macdonald Diaghalev Observed Dance Books Lond1975
Richard Buckle Nijinsky 1971
Richard Buckle Diaghalev 1979
Sotheby Sale catal. Costumes and Curtains 17 July 1968
Ballet Material 9,10 July 1969
Ballet Material and Theatre Material 16 December 1969
Costumes and Curtains 19 December 1969

to Sales of Diaghilev Ballet Costumes

costume for the Moor, Petrouchka