how a handful of conformists of the non-conformism booed Stravinsky

70 years ago, Igor Stravinsky was almost molested at the Théâtre des Champs-Elysées, Paris,  by a furious mob. Does this famous theater , which is celebrating its centenary, house a microclimate that is likely to push the public to violence? We could think so by reading its history which is full of scandals.

The first of them has held on May 29, 1913, a few weeks after the opening of the theater. Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring, causes ” Oh ” and ” Ah “, supported by whistles and various type of  horns: bicycle horns, small pocket horns hidden in tuxedos.

Stravinsky will be booed again on 22 March 1945 by a handful of apprentices composers who stood against the neo-classical orientation of his “Norwegian Impressions” presented, that day, at the Theatre des Champs-Elysées. Led by Serge Nigg, the young protesters use roulette whistle … They belong to the class of Olivier Messiaen at the Conservatoire and will then returned to their beloved schoolyear, while the press accused them of “conformists of the  non-conformism.”

As for their “Master” (Messaien), it does not take long to feel the pangs of a hall where the spirits seem to warm up faster than elsewhere. Twice. In 1952, as a performer, and ten years later, as a composer.

on June 7, 1952, Olivier Messiaen starred with one of his former disciples in an avant-garde score. The French creation of the first book of the “Structures for two pianos” by Pierre Boulez does not occur smoothly. A gentleman received a lady bag across the face, and a wench who protested against the new work, found himself interrupted by a masterful pair of (dodecacophonic) slaps. That day, the peculiar pressure of the atmosphere surrounding the music lovers from Avenue Montaigne (where is located the Theatre des Champs-Elysées) moved from the space to the theater of those of the Comédie des Champs-Elysées, usually devoted to drama productions.

On 13 February 1962, Messiaen unwillingly checks that the air of the great hall is no less harmful. A hysterical listener attack him backstage after the French creation of “Chronochromie”.

But nothing compares with the level of hostility recorded on December 2, 1954 during the creation of “Deserts” by Edgar Varese. Unfortunately programmed between two “tubes” by Tchaikovsky and Mozart, the work for instrumental ensemble and tape causes the ire of the public and the commentators.

“Mr. Varese should be shot on the spot. He is the “Dominici” of the music”, a newspaper wrote. However, if Gaston Dominici, a Frenchman convicted of the murder of an English family in Haute-Provence (Fr), has been sentenced to death, the guillotine is waiting for him, not the firing squad.



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