A ballet can cause a riot

Stravinsky by Picasso

It was on this day in 1913 that a ballet caused a riot in Paris. The Rite of Spring, with music by Igor Stravinsky and choreography by Vaslav Nijinsky, had its premiere at the Théâtre des Champs-Élysées on an unusually warm evening. The audience, prepared for a more traditional presentation, began to boo and hiss almost immediately at the ballet's dissonant music, jarring rhythms, jerky choreography and story of pagan sacrifice. The artistic violence presented on stage soon spilled over into the public, whose shouting and brawling resulted in the police's arrival by intermission.

Despite its inauspicious premiere, the ballet went on to great success: the music even appears in Disney's Fantasia. You can listen to The Rite of Spring through the Naxos Music Library and read about Stravinsky through Oxford Music Online. NPR has a story about the ballet's scandalous premiere; WNYC's Radiolab program has a piece on the music and how our ear makes sense of it.