“Rite of Spring” comes to U

By By Christie Franke

By Christie Franke

When Igor Stravinsky’s ballet “The Rite of Spring” premiered in Paris in 1913, the audience reacted to the new piece in a shockingly erratic manner: they rioted. Police were called in to restore order. The rioters didn’t entirely succeed, though — the performance bravely went on.

This riot upset Stravinsky so much that he fled backstage in tears, and the choreographer, Nijinsky of the Ballets Russes, was reduced to yelling instructions to the dancers, who could not hear the music. The director of the whole affair, Sergei Diaghilev, was thoroughly delighted by the scandal. It was “just what I wanted,” he later commented.

After all, scandal is a good way to make history.

Inspired by a fleeting mental image (a young woman dancing herself to death) while composing “The Firebird,” Stravinsky composed “The Rite of Spring” as a throwback to pagan Russia. Accordingly, the original choreography (now lost) involved starkly angled limbs and gyrating pelvises — an extreme difference to the classical tranquility more common to the ballet — and the opening notes of the bassoon were perceived as so sexual that they had the Parisian audience yelling and throwing punches. Today, the piece is not as likely to get such an extreme reaction from audiences and is even a standard of ballet companies and symphonies.

As such, the Utah Symphony is performing “The Rite of Spring” on Nov. 9 and 10 at Abravanel Hall alongside Tchaikovsky’s “Mozartiana” and “Variations on a Rococo Theme” featuring young cellist Julie Albers.

Albers debuted with the Cleveland Orchestra in 1998, and is now performing worldwide. She began studying violin at the age of 2 and moved to cello at age 4. In her junior year of high school, she moved to Cleveland to study at the Cleveland Institute of Music and won a championship competition a few years later in France. Her performance locations have included France, the United States, Europe, Taiwan and New Zealand.

While November’s concerts are not likely to result in a police-filled riot, they promise to be musically sound and exciting. Eighty years after its premier, “The Rite of Spring” is still a fascinating piece, and Tchaikovsky is always brilliant. So, grab a date and buy some tickets, because the symphony makes a wonderful alternative to bowling on a Friday night. It’s cultured, sophisticated, and you can make quite an impression by taking your date out to Abravanel.

Tickets are on sale at the Abravanel Hall box office, or by calling 801-533-NOTE. Tickets range in price from $12 to $48, but the result is well worth the price.

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