May 27, 2012

Anniversary of the first performance of Sacre

Filed under: books — theresaurus @ 11:25 pm

From Gertrude Stein’s The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas:

“When the Making of Americans was finished, Gertrude Stein began another which also was to be long and which she called A Long Gay Book but it did not turn out to be long … .  … I like cooking.  I am an extremely good five-minute cook, and beside, Gertrude Stein liked from time to time to have me make american dishes.  One sunday evening I was very busy preparing one of these and then I called Gertrude Stein to come in from the atelier for supper.  … Here, I want to show you something, she said.  No I said it has to be eaten hot.  No, she said, you have to see this first.  Gertrude Stein never likes her food hot and I do like mine hot, we never agree about this.  She admits that one can wait to cool it but one cannot heat it once it is on a plate so it is agreed that I have it served as hot as I like.  In spite of my protests and the food cooling I had to read.  … Finally I read it all and was terribly pleased.  And then we ate our supper.  This was the beginning of the long series of portraits. She has written portraits of practically everybody she has known, and written them in all manners and in all styles.

“Florence Bradley asked us to go with her to see the second performance of the Sacre du Printemps.  The russian ballet had just given the first performance of it and it had made a terrible uproar.  All Paris was excited about it.  We went early to the russian ballet, these were the early great days of the russian ballet with Nijinsky as the great dancer.  And a great dancer he was.  Dancing excites me tremendously and it is a thing I know a great deal about I have seen three very great dancers.  My geniuses seem to run in threes, but that is not my fault, it happens to be a fact.  The three really great dancers I have seen are the Argentina, Isadora Duncan and Nijinsky.

“The performance began.  No sooner had it commenced when the excitement began.  The scene now so well known with its brilliantly coloured background now not at all extraordinary, outraged the Paris audience.  No sooner did the music begin and the dancing when they began to hiss.  The defenders began to applaud.  We could hear nothing, as a matter of fact I never did hear any of the music of the Sacre du Printemps because it was the only time I ever saw it and one literally could not, throughout the whole performance, hear the sound of music.  The dancing was very fine and that we could see although our attention was constantly distracted by a man in the box next to us flourishing his cane, and finally in a violent altercation with an enthusiast in the box next to him, his cane came down and smashed the opera hat the other had just put on in defiance.  It was all incredibly fierce.”


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