Rites of Passion and Jealousy at Gibson Theatre

March 10 2016
Category: Events

Rites of Passion and Jealousy will be presented by the Elmira College Department of Theatre on March 10-12 at 8:00 p.m. and March 13 at 2:00 p.m., at Gibson Theatre, Elmira College.  The performances are free and open to the public. 

Rites of Passion and Jealousy features three musical pieces, each representing a range of human encounters from pre-historic spring rites, to modern urban passion, with performers expressing that meaning through ballet, modern dance, and mime. 

The three-part journey will be performed to the music of Igor Stravinsky, Maurice Ravel, and Béla Bartók. These three giants of early twentieth century music represent a period that experimented with form, tonality and orchestration. They included challenges to the uses of tonality and combined classical and what was later to be jazz idioms. They were among the most increasingly prominent and important musical movement called Modernism.

The Rite of Spring

In a note to the conductor Serge Koussevitzky in February 1914, Stravinsky described The Rite of Spring as "a musical-choreographic work, representing pagan Russia ... unified by a single idea: the mystery and great surge of the creative power of Spring". In his analysis of The Rite, Pieter van den Toorn writes that the work lacks a specific plot or narrative, and should be considered as a succession of choreographed episodes.

The Rite of Spring premiered at the Thèâtre des Champs Elysées on May 29, 1913. As soon as the curtain went up, a riot ensued. The audience was upset with the subject of barbarism, a subject that the world was not yet ready to deal with.  Furthermore, upset that Vaslav Nijinsky had "turned the conventions of ballet inside out" and upset with Stravinsky’s disregarding the accepted rules of musical composition.

The Elmira College production is strongly infuenced by Stravinsky’s music and pays homage to Nijinsky’s choreography. The pull of the earth is evident in the weighted steps. Driven purpose and frenzy is expressed in the repetitive and jagged action, with pounding jumps and contorted positions.

Boléro is a one-movement orchestral piece by Maurice Ravel (1875–1937). Originally composed as a ballet commissioned by Russian actress and dancer Ida Rubinstein, the piece premiered in 1928.  It is Ravel's most famous musical composition.

A scenario by Ida Rubinstein and Bronislava Nijinska was printed in the program for the premiere: 

Inside a tavern in Spain, people dance beneath the brass lamp hung from the ceiling. In response to the cheers to join in, the female dancer has leapt onto the long table and her steps become more and more animated.

Ravel himself, however, had a different conception of the work: his preferred stage design was of an open-air setting with a factory in the background, reflecting the mechanical nature of the music.

Elmira College’s production reflects Ravel’s original ideas that imitate the mechanical nature of the music and expands on Rubinstein/ Nijinska’s scenario trough time.

The Miraculous Mandarin - A one act pantomime ballet composed by Béla Bartók between 1918–1924, and based on the story by Melchior Lengyel. Lengyel’s story A csodálatos mandarin (The Miraculous Mandarin) a “pantomime grotesque,” as he called it, was published in a Hungarian literary magazine in 1917. Premiered November 27, 1926 in Cologne, Germany, it caused a scandal and was subsequently banned on moral grounds.

After an orchestral introduction depicting the chaos of the big city, the action begins in a room inhabited by thugs. They search their pockets and drawers for money, but find none. They then force a girl to stand by the window and attract passing men into the room in order to rob them. After a few unsuccessful attempts, the thugs and girl see a bizarre figure in the street, soon heard coming up the stairs. The thugs hide, and the figure, a Mandarin (wealthy Chinese man), stands immobile in the doorway. The thugs leap on him, strip him of his valuables, and attempt to suffocate him under pillows and blankets. However, he continues to stare at the girl. They stab him; he almost falls, but throws himself again at the girl. The thugs grab him again and hang him from a lamp hook. The thugs and girl are terrified. Suddenly, the girl knows what they must do. She tells the thugs to release the Mandarin; they do. He leaps at the girl again, and this time she does not resist and they embrace. With the Mandarin's longing fulfilled, his wounds begin to bleed and he dies.

The Elmira College production of Rites of Passion and Jealousy was conceived and is directed by Associate Professor of Theatre, George H. de Falussy, with choreographic assistance by Mia Wise.