The War of Vaslav Nijinsky

Portrait of Vaslav Nijinsky, by Jacques-Émile Blanche, 1910

 

“…Then, I said to myself:

“HISTORY IS HUMAN NATURE—;

TO SAY I AM GUILTY

IS TO ACCEPT IMPLICATION

IN THE HUMAN RACE. . .”

—Now, for months and months,
I have found

ANOTHER MAN in me—;

HE is NOT me—; I

am afraid of him …”

Frank Bidart

 

The Sacrifice, released in 1983, received widespread praise. Central to the volume is a thirty-page work titled The War of Vaslav Nijinsky, As with most of his poetry, The War of Vaslav Nijinsky went through a series of revisions as Bidart experimented with language and punctuation. “The Nijinsky poem was a nightmare,” he remarked in his interview. “There is a passage early in it that I got stuck on, and didn’t solve for two years.” David Lehman praised Bidart’s technique of alternating portions of the dancer’s monologue with prose sections on Nijinsky’s life. According to Lehman, “the result combines a documentary effect with an intensity rare in contemporary poetry.”

Bidart’s poem consists almost entirely of a first-person confession by Nijinsky; it takes place after the break with Diaghilev, during the height of war in Europe. We are privy to the dancer’s ideas and musings about, among other things, the second section of The Rite of Spring, called The Sacrifice. Nijinsky’s inner rantings are clearly schizophrenic. He imagines himself the sacrificial victim of the corrupt world that is putting itself through the bloodbath of World War I. The dance is an act of expiation. (The fact that The Rite of Spring was originally the conception of a perfectly sane Stravinsky is glossed over by Bidart.) The Rite of Spring, then, will be an ode to the planet’s renewal after the war, which Nijinsky sees himself as having been chosen by God to enact. But Nijinsky’s (and Stravinsky’s) version will not be the traditional spring ode of birds, trees, and light. It will be the tumultuous, violent, modernist ode to spring, full of blood and death and suffering, for spring involves the death of the old as much as the birth of the new.

 

 

Frank Bidart (born on May 27, 1939) is a native of California and considered a career in acting or directing when he was young.In 1957, he began to study at the University of California at Riverside, where he was introduced to writers such as T.S. Eliot and Ezra Pound and started to look at poetry as a career path. He then went on to Harvard, where he was a student and friend of Robert Lowell and Elizabeth Bishop. He began studying with Lowell and Reuben Brower in 1962. He has been teaching English at Wellesley College since 1972, and has taught at nearby Brandeis University.

He lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and he is openly gay. currently maintains a strong working relationship with actor and fellow poet James Franco, with whom he collaborated during the making of Franco’s short film Herbert White (2010), based on Bidart’s poem of the same name.

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Games for Three

A minimalist, modern rendering by Léon Bakst for Costume Study for Jeux. Watercolor, graphite and black chalk on laid paper. Credit: National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C.

 

Tamara Karsavina, Vaslav Nijinsky and Ludmilla Schollar in Jeux

 

Jeux (Games) is the last work for orchestra written by Claude Debussy. Described as a “poème dansé” (literally a “danced poem”), it was originally intended to accompany a ballet and was written for the Ballets Russes of Sergei Diaghilev to choreography by Vaslav Nijinsky.

Jeux premiered on 15 May 1913 at the Théâtre des Champs-Élysées, Paris, conducted by Pierre Monteux. The work was not well received and was soon eclipsed by Igor Stravinsky‘s The Rite of Spring, which was premiered two weeks later by Diaghilev’s company.

According to Nijinsky’s Diaries, made during the weeks before his psychological breakdown, Diaghilev intended the music to describe a homosexual encounter between three young men, and Nijinsky wanted to include an airplane crash. The final version of the story involved a man, two girls, and a game of tennis. The scenario was described to the audience at the premiere as follows:

“The scene is a garden at dusk; a tennis ball has been lost; a boy and two girls are searching for it. The artificial light of the large electric lamps shedding fantastic rays about them suggests the idea of childish games: they play hide and seek, they try to catch one another, they quarrel, they sulk without cause. The night is warm, the sky is bathed in pale light; they embrace. But the spell is broken by another tennis ball thrown in mischievously by an unknown hand. Surprised and alarmed, the boy and girls disappear into the nocturnal depths of the garden.”

Evoking The Afternoon of A Faun

“Nijinsky has never been so remarkable as in his latest role. No more jumps – nothing but half-conscious animal gestures and poses. He lies down, leans on his elbow, walks with bent knees, draws himself up, advancing and retreating, some-times slowly, sometimes with jerky angular movements. His eyes flicker, he stretches his arms, he opens his hands out flat, the fingers together, and as he turns away his head he continues to express his desire with a deliberate awkwardness that seems natural. Form and meaning are indissolubly wedded in his body, which is totally expressive of the mind within… His beauty is that of antique frescoes and sculptures: he is the ideal model, whom one longs to draw and sculpt.”

Auguste Rodin

 

Programme illustration by Léon Bakst for the ballet

 

The ballet L’Après-midi d’un faune (The Afternoon of a Faun)was choreographed by Vaslav Nijinsky for the Ballets Russes and first performed in the Théâtre du Châtelet in Paris on 29 May 1912. On the opening night the ballet was met with a mixture of applause and booing, and again it was repeated. Now the audience applauded, and Auguste Rodin in the audience stood up to cheer.

Nijinsky danced the main part himself. As its score it used the Prélude à l’après-midi d’un faune by Claude Debussy. Both the music and the ballet were inspired by the poem L’Après-midi d’un faune by Stéphane Mallarmé. The painter Odilon Redon, friend of Mallarmé, suggested how much the poet would have approved, “more than anyone, he would have appreciated this wonderful evocation of his thoughts.”

 

 

The costumes and sets were designed by the painter Léon BakstL’Après-midi d’un Faune is considered one of the first modern ballets and proved to be as controversial as Nijinsky’s Jeux (1913) and Le Sacre du printemps (1913).

The style of the ballet, in which a young faun meets several nymphs, flirts with them and chases them, was deliberately archaic. In the original scenography designed by Léon Bakst, the dancers were presented as part of a large tableau, a staging reminiscent of an ancient Greek vase painting. They often moved across the stage in profile as if on a bas relief. The ballet was presented in bare feet and rejected classical formalism. The work had an overtly erotic subtext beneath its façade of Greek antiquity, ending with a scene of graphic sexual desire.

The ballet was developed as a possible new production for the Ballets Russes founded by Sergei Diaghilev. Most of the dances performed by the company were choreographed by Michel Fokine, who had worked as a choreographer with the Imperial Russian Ballet, from which all the different specialists for the new ballet company had come. Initially the Ballet Russes took advantage of the 3 months summer break, when the Imperial ballet closed and its staff were free to do other things, to stage ballet and opera in Paris. Diaghilev was looking around for an alternative to the style which Fokine customarily delivered and decided to allow his senior male dancer, Vaslav Nijinsky, to try his hand at choreography.

 

Menelaus intending to strike Helen is struck by her beauty instead. Louvre museum, Campana collection acquired 1861

 

The original idea was developed by Diaghilev, Nijinsky and Bakst and was inspired by the artwork on ancient Greek vases and Egyptian and Assyrian frescoes which they viewed in the Louvre museum. Bakst had already worked with Vsevolod Meyerhold, an innovative theatre producer and director who had introduced concepts like two-dimensionality, stylized postures, a narrow stage, pauses and pacing to emphasise significant moments, into his productions. Ninjinsky’s aim was to reproduce the stylised look of the ancient artworks on the stage. In his portrayal of the faun, Nijinsky managed to reproduce exactly the figure of a satyr shown on Greek vases in the Louvre. Such concepts appear transferred to ballet.

Jean Cocteau helped to explain the Mallarmé poem (Nijinsky spoke little French) and with developing a scenario for the ballet. The music by Debussy already existed in a fully orchestrated form. After the summer season in Paris, Nijinsky returned to St Petersburg for the new Russian season and there started to work on the choreography with the help of his sister, Bronislava Nijinska, who was herself a senior dancer and who later choreographed her own ballets for Ballets Russes. Nijinsky was much excited about the project.

 

Cartoon by Daniel de Losques published in Le Figaro, 30 May 1912

 

Nijinsky as the Faun, illustrations by George Barbier, 1913

 

Baron de Meyer  published a book of photographs of the ballet

 

The nymph dance in the dream sequence of the film Sunnyside (Charlie Chaplin, 1919) has been recognized as being a tribute to the ballet

 

A pastiche of the ballet (choreographed by the then leader of the Royal Ballet, Wayne Eagling, a friend of Mercury who had helped him before with the choreography of the Bohemian Rhapsody) forms part of the music video for Queen’s single I Want to Break Free (David Mallet, 1984). Freddie Mercury dances the role of the faun, with dancers from the Royal Ballet also performing, including Jeremy Sheffield. Mercury shaved his trademark moustache to portray Vaslav Nijinsky as a faun in the ballet L’après-midi d’un faune.

 

Queen’s video can be seen on The Genealogy of Style‘s Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Genealogy-of-Style/597542157001228

Through The Narrow Lyre

Study from the ballet Orpheus, George Platt-Lynes, 1948-50. The thirty-minute ballet was created by choreographer George Balanchine in collaboration with composer Igor Stravinsky in Hollywood, California in 1947. Sets and costumes were created by Isamu Noguchi

 

Noguchi’s rendition of Orpheus’ lyre was adopted as and remains City Ballet’s official symbol.

 

“Ein Gott vermags. Wie aber, sag mir, soll
ein Mann ihm folgen durch die schmale Leier?
Sein Sinn ist Zwiespalt. An der Kreuzung zweier
Herzwege steht kein Tempel für Apoll.”

Rainer Maria Rilke

Die Sonette an Orpheus (Sonnets to Orpheus)
1922

 

 __________________________________

“A God is able. But tell me, how shall
a man follow him through the narrow lyre?
His mind is divided. At the crossing of two
heart roads there is no temple for Apollo.”

Proust Was a Neuroscientist

 
 

Proust Was a Neuroscientist is a non-fiction book written by Jonah Lehrer, first published in 2007. In it, Lehrer argues that many 20th and 21st-century discoveries of neuroscience are actually re-discoveries of insights made earlier by various artists, including Gertrude Stein, Walt Whitman, Auguste Escoffier, Paul Cézanne, Igor Stravinsky, and, as mentioned in the title, Marcel Proust.

The New York Times described it as “a precocious and engaging book that tries to mend the century-old tear between the literary and scientific cultures.” A review in The Daily Telegraph stated, “Lehrer is a dazzlingly clever young man whose writing bears witness to both the clarity of his scientific training and the humanity of his literary studies. The Whitmanesque electricity of all the thought and heart he has put into this book fizzes from each sentence.”Salon.com, by contrast, described it as being written “arbitrarily and often inaccurately”.

Jonah Richard Lehrer (born June 25, 1981) is an American author, journalist, blogger, and speaker who writes on the topics of psychology, neuroscience, and the relationship between science and the humanities. He has published three books, two of which, Imagine and How We Decide, were withdrawn from the market by publishers after it became known that Lehrer had fabricated quotations. This led to his resignation from his staff position at The New Yorker following disclosures that he had recycled earlier work of his own for the magazine. A later investigation at Wired.com, where he had previously worked, found instances of recycled content and plagiarism. He was fired from that position as a result of the investigation.

Lehrer resigned from The New Yorker on July 30, 2012, less than two months after he had joined the staff, after an article by Michael C. Moynihan appeared in Tablet Magazine exposing him as fabricating quotes attributed to singer Bob Dylan in his book Imagine.

 

Made in Heaven and Set in Hell

“I’m taking my ride with destiny
Willing to play my part
Living with painful memories
Loving with all my heart

Oh I know, I know, I know that it’s true
Yes it’s really meant to be

I’m taking my ride with destiny
Willing to play my part
Living with painful memories
Loving with all my heart

Made in heaven, made in heaven
It was all meant to be, yeah
Made in heaven, made in heaven
That’s what they say
Can’t you see
That’s what everybody says to me
Can’t you see

Deep in my heart

I’m having to learn to pay the price
They’re turning me upside down
Waiting for possibilities
Don’t see too many around

Made in heaven, made in heaven
It’s for all to see
Made in heaven, made in heaven
That’s what everybody says
Everybody says to me
It was really meant to be
Oh can’t you see
Yeah everybody, everybody says
Yes it was meant to be
Yeah yeah

When stormy weather comes around
It was made in heaven
When sunny skies break through behind the clouds
I wish it could last forever, yeah
Wish it could last forever, forever

Made in heaven
I’m playing my role in history
Looking to find my goal
Taking in all this misery
But giving it all my soul

Made in heaven, made in heaven
It was all meant to be
Made in heaven, made in heaven
That’s what everybody says
Wait and see, it was really meant to be
So plain to see
Yeah, everybody, everybody, everybody tells me so
Yes it was plain to see, yes it was meant to be
Written in the stars…
Written in the stars…
Written in the stars…”

 
 

Artwork and photos by Richard Gray

 
 

The two covers are not genuine original photographs, but a pair of composite shots. The two different cover shots of the view across Lake Geneva, were of one of sunrise and the other of sunset. Brian, Roger and John were photographed in a London studio, and the statue was still in it’s sculpturer’s/maker’s studio for it’s part of the photo session. The building on stilts, otherwise known as the duckhouse, is at one end of the lake shore at Montreux, and Freddie’s statue is pretty much at the other, and just a short distance from the band’s studios there.

Made in Heaven is the third single recorded by Freddie Mercury, and his fourth release as a solo artist Mr. Bad Guy. Originally featured in the mentioned Mercury’s debut album, the song was slightly edited and published as a 45rpm paired with She Blows Hot and Cold, described on the record sleeve as ‘A Brand New Track’. The single reached #57 on the UK Singles Chart.

After Mercury’s death, the song’s title gave the name to Queen’s 1995 posthumous album Made in Heaven. The song was also chosen, along with I Was Born to Love You, to be re-recorded for the album, with the previous vocals over a newly recorded instrumental track.

The song’s video was realized with the help of David Mallet, previously involved in the making of the music video for I Was Born to Love You, as well as five Queen clips. A Royal Opera House replica was built inside a warehouse in northern London (normal studios didn’t have high enough roofs), where Mercury wanted to recreate scenes from Stravinsky‘s The Rite of Spring and Dante‘s Inferno. The most remarkable element is probably the 67-foot tall rotating globe on top of which the singer stands in the last part of the videoclip. The outfit that Mercury wears in this music video is quite similar to the outfit worn in the music video for Queen song Radio Ga Ga.

 

To watch the music video, please click on the next link: https://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Genealogy-of-Style/597542157001228

Display of Brilliant Friends

Self-portraits

 
 

George Platt Lynes was an American fashion and commercial photographer. Born in East Orange, New Jersey to Adelaide (Sparkman) and Joseph Russell Lynes he spent his childhood in New Jersey but attended the Berkshire School in Massachusetts. He was sent to Paris in 1925 with the idea of better preparing him for college. His life was forever changed by the circle of friends that he would meet there. Gertrude Stein, Glenway Wescott, Monroe Wheeler and those that he met through them opened an entirely new world to the young artist.

He returned to the United States with the idea of a literary career and he even opened a bookstore in Englewood, New Jersey in 1927. He first became interested in photography not with the idea of a career, but to take photographs of his friends and display them in his bookstore.

Returning to France the next year in the company of Wescott and Wheeler, he traveled around Europe for the next several years, always with his camera at hand. He developed close friendships within a larger circle of artists including Jean Cocteau and Julien Levy, the art dealer and critic. Levy would exhibit his photographs in his gallery in New York City in 1932 and Lynes would open his studio there that same year.

By 1946, he grew disillusioned with New York and left for Hollywood, where he became chief photographer for the Vogue studios. He photographed Katharine Hepburn, Rosalind Russell, Gloria Swanson and Orson Welles, from the film industry, as well as others in the arts among them Aldous Huxley, Igor Stravinsky, and Thomas Mann. While a success artistically, it was a financial failure.

By May of 1955 he had been diagnosed terminally ill with lung cancer. He closed his studio. He destroyed much of his print and negative archives particularly his male nudes. After a final trip to Europe, Lynes returned to New York City where he died in December 1955. He was just 48.

 
 

Dorothy Parker

 
 

Jean Cocteau

 
 

Gloria Swanson

 
 

Christopher Isherwood

 
 

Yul Brynner

 
 

Tennessee Williams

 
 

Paul Cadmus

 
 

Henri Cartier-Bresson

 
 

Alfred Kinsey

 
 

Salvador Dalí