Stravinsky’s L’Histoire: Seeking Commerce, Finding Art

Igor Fedorovich Stravinsky was born in Oranienbaum, now Lomonosov in the Northwest Saint Petersburg Region of the Russian Republic, Russia, on June 17, 1882, and died in New York City on April 6, 1971. He is widely considered one of the most important and influential composers of the 20th century, notable for its stylistic diversity.

JCCC Performing Arts Series presents the Bach Aria Soloists in Stravinsky’s L’Histoire du Soldat (The Soldier’s Tale), 8 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 18. Tickets are available through the JCCC Box Office.

It is ironic that this beloved work was first conceived with a commercial motive. Stravinsky wrote L’Histoire du Soldat because he needed cash. Today it is an overwhelmingly popular piece of music. At the time, the composer was cut off with severe limitations on funds in Switzerland during the First World War, it occurred to him that a small portable theater on a circuit of Swiss villages and small towns might provide an income.

L’Histoir e du Soldat, or The Soldier’s Tale, was composed in Morges, Switzerland, in 1918 and first performed at the Théâtre Municipal de Lausanne, with Ernest Ansermet conducting, on September 28, 1918.

The first performances took place under circumstances altogether different from those Stravinsky had imagined, namely as an exceedingly fashionable event under the patronage of the exiled Grand Duchess Helen. Although, it began as a success, L’Histoire fell victim to the epidemic of Spanish influenza that forced the sudden closing of all the theaters in Lausanne.

L’Histoire du Soldat is often presented as a concert piece, but Stravinsky and the librettist, C.F. Ramuz, the Swiss poet and novelist, conceived it as a theater piece “to be read, played, and danced.”

“In bringing Stravinsky’s original rendition of L’Histoire du Soldat with instrumental septet, conductor, three actors and a dancer to our community, Bach Aria Soloists strengthens our spirit of collaboration!” says Elizabeth Suh Lane, the artistic director/founder and violinist of Bach Aria Soloists. “I love the notion of a simple, touring ensemble presenting Stravinsky’s innovative theater piece through Switzerland. I used to live in Bern and can well imagine the types of theaters, as well as the exhilaration of seeing such a novel creation. I’m guessing the majority of our audience will be seeing this interpretation for the first time.”

Part of this article was adapted from an essay by Michael Steinberg, San Francisco Symphony annotator, 1979-1999.

CategoriesCommunity News
KC Studio

KC Studio covers the performing, visual, cinematic and literary arts, and the artists, organizations and patrons that make Kansas City a vibrant center for arts and culture.


Leave a Reply