Rite of Spring, Joffrey Ballet
(1913 costume design, Nicholas Roerich)
Paris, 29 May 1913
Everything was beautiful at the ballet. Romantic melodies by Chopin, graceful sylphs shimmered in white, Russian dreamboat Nijinsky danced in the moonlight. The first act at the brand new Théâtre des Champs-Elysées was what everyone expected. But as the music of Igor Stravinsky’s Le Sacre du Printemps (The Rite of Spring) began the second part of the program, the audience twitched, twittered and turned hostile.
“One literally could not, throughout the whole performance, hear the sound of music,” said Gertrude Stein (who actually saw the second performance four days later.) Popular composer Puccini (also attending the second night) called the music cacophonous, “the work of a madman.” Suddenly everyone who was anyone in Paris wanted to see what kind of ballet had caused a riot in the theatre on its opening night.
“You wonder how these things begin…” muses El Gallo, the handsome narrator in The Fantasticks, the world’s longest-running musical. (The original off-Broadway production opened in 1960 and ran for 42 years, so Les Mis and Phantom don’t even come close!) It was based on Edmond Rostand’s burlesque romantic comedy Les Romansques, which opened at the Theatre Francais in 1894 on May 21st – how’s that for serendipity? “You wonder how these things begin…”
For many years I co-hosted a local Amsterdam LGBT radio show called Alien. We broadcast live for two hours every Sunday evening. On April 3rd 2005 we canned our usual extraterrestrial opening jingle. Without warning or explanation of any kind, we simply began with the entire Munchkinland sequence from the film soundtrack of The Wizard of Oz, including the two rousing choruses of Ding-Dong! The Witch Is Dead. The message was clear: Pope John-Paul II had died the day before.
Disrespectful? Yes. That was the point.
What a kerfuffle! A few days ago a story twittered through Blogville, most notably via HuffPost Gay Voices, about Philadelphia drag artist Martha Graham Cracker. She’d been invited by someone at a nearby New Jersey after-school program to delight the kids with stories by Dr. Seuss on his birthday, in celebration of Read Across America. But in a blink of the Grinch’s eye, the invitation was ever so rudely rescinded. Day-care officials deemed Miss Graham Cracker “inappropriate” to read for their children.
Early in 2012 author Edmund White was asked by The Browser to select five gay novels with beautiful writing. His top two choices: Jean Genet’s Our Lady of the Flowers and A Single Man by Christopher Isherwood. He praised Genet for his sumptuous poetic style, Isherwood for his chaste simplicity. Polar opposites, some might say. And yet, true to my contrary nature, I find a certain confluence. Continue reading