The Rite of Spring

Stravinsky Double Bill



Sir Andrew Davis conductor
Paul Groves tenor
Lotte Betts-Dean narrator
Australian Girls Choir
National Boys Choir of Australia
MSO Chorus


Stravinsky Perséphone
Stravinsky The Rite of Spring

About the performance

Stravinsky’s two paeans to spring: One wild, riot-inducing and revolutionary, the other a lyrical, little-known masterpiece. In his final year at the helm, outgoing Chief Conductor Sir Andrew Davis conducts this Stravinsky Double Bill, where Perséphone will be performed in Australia for the first time in more than 50 years.

An enormous musical undertaking, this July Sir Andrew Davis is joined onstage by not only the musicians of the MSO, but 180 choristers. The 120-voice MSO Chorus will appear alongside the Australian Girls Choir and National Boys Choir of Australia, with mezzo Lotte Betts-Dean and tenor Paul Groves in Perséphone.

Separated by 21 years, Stravinsky’s Le Sacre du Printemps (The Rite of Spring) and Perséphone both depict a sacrifice for the sake of renewal.

Paris, May 29, 1913: Music is changed forever as Stravinsky’s Rite premieres at the Champs-Elysées theatre – its frenetic rhythms, unexpected dissonance and swinging dynamics cause the auditorium to erupt in a cacophony of booing and fighting. Vaslav Nijinksy’s controversial accompanying ballet followed the celebration of spring in pagan Russia, which culminates in a young girl, deemed the Chosen One, dancing herself to death. The work welcomed a new age in 20th century composition.

The Rite’s theme of sacrifice is one of brutality, whereas Perséphone’s sacrifice is voluntary, born of compassion.

“I wanted to do it (The Rite) in context together with Perséphone partly because they’re both about spring and also because Perséphone is a piece that I think is quite unjustly neglected,” Sir Andrew Davis told Limelight.

“You need somebody very convincing to speak the role, but it also needs a really strong tenor, and then the chorus and children’s chorus so it’s a complex piece. I really think that these days, apart from the big ballets, Stravinsky is quite neglected, I think Perséphone is one of his most beautiful works.”

The work was commissioned by the mysterious Russian actress Ida Rubinstein (she also commissioned Ravel’s Boléro), who used it as a platform for herself, reciting the title role at the 1934 premiere. This second ‘rite of spring’ sees the world plunged into winter when Perséphone, goddess of spring and queen of the Underworld, descends below the earth. Each year when she returns, she will bring hope and the new life of spring.

Running time

1 hour and 50 minutes, including a 20-minute interval.

Pre-concert talk

Join MSO Cybec Assistant Conductor, Tianyi Lu, inside Hamer Hall for a Stravinsky-inspired pre-concert discussion.

Pre-concert talk

Thursday 18 July: 6.15pm
Saturday 20 July: 12.45pm

Concert recording

Please note that both performances will be filmed for future broadcast.

This concert features surtitles.

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