Most recent performance
There are currently no scheduled performances of The Rite of Spring. It was last on stage 9–23 November 2013.
A primeval community marks the arrival of spring with celebratory and sacrificial rituals.
The premiere of Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring in 1913 was a defining moment in 20th-century art. The challenging avant-garde nature of the work prompted rioting in the audience, the music drowned out by boos and shouts. The original choreography was created by Vaslav Nijinsky on Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes. Over the last century, numerous other versions have been created – a testament to the enduring power of Stravinsky’s extraordinary score.
Kenneth MacMillan created his own distinctive version in 1962, the year of Stravinsky’s 80th birthday. MacMillan’s visceral and energetic choreography follows the irregular rhythms and driving pulse of the music. With designs by Australian artist Sidney Nolan inspired by Aboriginal art, the ballet explores elemental human concerns: birth and death, sacrifice and renewal. The role of the sacrificial Chosen One, characterized by strong, angular movements, was created on Monica Mason, former Director of The Royal Ballet.
News and features
11 November 2013
What did you think of The Royal Ballet's Mixed Programme?
5 November 2013
Monica Mason rehearses with Claudia Dean, and Barry Wordsworth demonstrates how to conduct a work built on revolutionary rhythms.
4 November 2013
A guide to The Royal Ballet’s exhilarating mixed programme.
31 October 2013
With The Rite of Spring returning, we look at some of Stravinsky's other iconic ballet scores.
5 June 2013
Chance to Dance and Youth Opera team up for unique event.
29 May 2013
The iconic ballet had its premiere century ago today.
The Rite of Spring (French: Le Sacre du printemps; Russian: «Весна священная», Vesna svyashchennaya, lit. “sacred spring”) is a ballet and orchestral concert work by the Russian composer Igor Stravinsky. It was written for the 1913 Paris season of Sergei Diaghilev's Ballets Russes company; the original choreography was by Vaslav Nijinsky, with stage designs and costumes by Nicholas Roerich. When first performed, at the Théâtre des Champs-Élysées on 29 May 1913, the avant-garde nature of the music and choreography caused a sensation and a near-riot in the audience. Although designed as a work for the stage, with specific passages accompanying characters and action, the music achieved equal if not greater recognition as a concert piece, and is widely considered to be one of the most influential musical works of the 20th century. Stravinsky was a young, virtually unknown composer when Diaghilev recruited him to create works for the Ballets Russes. The Rite was the third such project, after the acclaimed Firebird (1910) and Petrushka (1911). The concept behind The Rite of Spring, developed by Roerich from Stravinsky's outline idea, is suggested by its subtitle, "Pictures of Pagan Russia in Two Parts"; in the scenario, after various primitive rituals celebrating the advent of spring, a young girl is chosen as a sacrificial victim and dances herself to death. After a mixed critical reception for its original run and a short London tour, the ballet was not performed again until the 1920s, when a version choreographed by Léonide Massine replaced Nijinsky's original. Massine's was the forerunner of many innovative productions directed by the world's leading ballet-masters, which gained the work worldwide acceptance. In the 1980s, Nijinsky's original choreography, long believed lost, was reconstructed by the Joffrey Ballet in Los Angeles. Stravinsky's score contains many novel features for its time, including experiments in tonality, metre, rhythm, stress and dissonance. Analysts have noted in the score a significant grounding in Russian folk music, a relationship Stravinsky tended to deny. The music has influenced many of the 20th-century's leading composers, and is one of the most recorded works in the classical repertoire.