14 Oct 2016

Curtain Raiser: Stravinsky - The Soldier's Tale

From the collecton Curtain Raiser
Portrait of Stravinsky by Robert Delaunay

Portrait of Stravinsky by Robert Delaunay, in the Garman Ryan Collection Photo: Public Domain

In 1918 the Russian composer Igor Stravinsky was living through "the hardest period I have ever experienced" after moving his family to Switzerland. Enter Stravinsky the entrepeneur...

In collaboration with Swiss novelist Charles-Ferdinand Ramuz, Stravinsky hatched a plan for a stage work with just a handful of performers that could be produced on the proverbial shoestring and be portable enough to tour. The result – 'The Soldier's Tale'.

The narrator in the Lausanne première described Stravinsky during rehearsals: “in a frenzy of enthusiasm, inventiveness, joy, indignation, headache; leaping on the piano as if it were a dangerous foe that had to be subdued by a bout of fisticuffs, then bounding on to the stage, swallowing glasses of kirsch whose after-effects had to be combatted with the aid of aspirin.”

Charles-Ferdinand Ramuz, meanwhile, was apparently “calm, attentive, friendly… showing an indomitable patience, and following with malicious enjoyment the genial capers of his collaborator.”

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