Le Sacre du Printemps


Backdrop for the League of Composers’ production, Philadelphia, 1930.

Something for the vernal equinox. The painting is a stage design by artist, writer and theatre designer Nicholas Roerich (1874–1947) for an American production of Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring. Roerich designed the costumes and decor for the riotous Paris performance of 1913 and the Roerich Museum has a selection of designs for this and subsequent performances. Stravinsky’s fiercely primitive ballet has long been a favourite musical work of mine so it’s especially satisfying when one enthusiasm bleeds into another. I’ve noted before HP Lovecraft’s praise for Roerich’s paintings of whom he wrote in 1937:

There is something in his handling of perspective and atmosphere which to me suggests other dimensions and alien orders of being—or at least, the gateways leading to such. Those fantastic carven stones in lonely upland deserts—those ominous, almost sentient, lines of jagged pinnacles—and above all, those curious cubical edifices clinging to precipitous slopes and edging upward to forbidden needle-like peaks!

Roerich is also mentioned in At the Mountains of Madness and some of his designs for the Rite—which are, after all, backdrops for a ritual sacrifice—might easily serve as a scene of Cthulhoid invocation. Writer Mike Jay has a fascinating piece about the artist which proposes that he should perhaps be given more credit for the origin of the Rite of Spring. He’s not the first to note that it was the stage designer who nurtured a lifelong passion for mysticism and esoteric ritual, not the composer.

Finally, some slightly more contemporary music: Can performing Vernal Equinox for the BBC in 1975.

Previously on { feuilleton }
HP Lovecraft’s favourite artists