It's hard today to imagine a ballet causing an audience to riot, but that's what happened 100 years ago when the well-heeled Parisian spectators at the Théâtre des Champs Elysées revolted against Igor Stravinsky's "The Rite of Spring."
"Rite" debuted May 29, 1913, and its centenary will be marked during the next few weeks by music groups all over the world. In Southern California, the Pacific Symphony will pay tribute in a series of three concerts starting Thursday at the Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall in Costa Mesa. Music Director Carl St.Clair will lead the orchestra in the "Rite" as well as other pieces by Stravinsky and Tchaikovsky.
Next week the Ojai Music Festival will present an arrangement of the "Rite" by the jazz trio the Bad Plus. The group is scheduled to perform its unconventional take on Stravinsky's piece at the Libbey Bowl in Ojai on June 6.
Choreographer Mark Morris, who is the festival's music director this year, will present a staging of the arrangement at Ojai North in Berkeley on June 12.
On July 23 the Los Angeles Philharmonic will perform "Rite" at the Hollywood Bowl with guest conductor Rafael Frühbeck de Burgos.
On Thursday Esa-Pekka Salonen, the former music director of the L.A. Philharmonic who has a career-long affinity with the "Rite," will conduct the piece with the London Philharmonia. The performance will be broadcast online by the BBC.
The Joffrey Ballet presented its 1987 production of "Rite" at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion in February. The staging is a reconstructed version of Vaslav Nijinsky's lost choreography that upset the Paris audience in 1913.
"Rite" has been a popular soundtrack choice for filmmakers. Disney's animated feature "Fantasia" in 1940 used the piece as the background music for the sequence depicting the creation of the Earth and reign of the dinosaurs.
The piece was used to evoke bohemian Paris in Philip Kaufman's "Henry and June" in 1990. The 2009 movie "Coco Chanel and Igor Stravinsky," starring Mads Mikkelsen as the Russian-born composer, opens with a depiction of the ballet's tumultuous debut in 1913.