The Astonishing Sergei Diaghilev and the Ballet Russes

When in 1917 Sergei Diaghilev was stranded in Spain with his itinerant company the Ballet Russes and in dire financial straits, he fired off a telegram to the wealthy patron of the arts Misia Sert (and friend of Coco Chanel) in Paris for assistance. The reply was curt: “GIVE IT UP SERGE”. This was just…

Le Boeuf: Milhaud’s Love Letter to Brazil

Brazilians hailing from outside Rio de Janeiro sometimes complain that the locals (cariocas) are like the giant statue of Christ the Redeemer on Corcovado: they greet you with open arms but they don’t hug you. Darius Milhaud (1892 – 1974) thought otherwise. The twenty months he spent in Rio de Janeiro between 1917-18 as an attaché…

Dreams and the Shock of the New: The Genesis of The Rite of Spring

The ballet The Rite of Spring by Igor Stravinsky (1882 – 1971) is one of the most famous and influential pieces in twentieth century music. It sparked a furore on its first performance in Paris in 1913, owing its startling, coruscating score and the controversial theme of a pagan sacrificial rite. It has nevertheless become…