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Stravinsky and the King's Horse

Philip Bullock discusses the 1913 London premiere of Stravinsky's The Rite of Spring in the light of the sacrifice of suffragette Emily Davison, who died under the King's horse.

The infamous Paris premiere of Stravinsky's Rite of Spring is well known, but its London premiere in July 1913 was both less scandalous and more interesting. News of Stravinsky's radical score and the outrageous production of the Ballets Russes reached London quickly and created a predictable sense of excitement. Yet what made the performance particularly memorable was that just one month earlier, a young suffragette called Emily Davison had taken her own life by throwing herself under the King's Horse at the Derby.

There are intriguing comparisons between Davison's fate and that of the sacrificial heroine in The Rite of Spring, suggesting that radical politics and radical aesthetics had become strangely aligned. With the help of dance expert, Ramsay Burt and voices from the archive, Dr Philip Bullock reviews early British reaction to Stravinsky's ballets to reveal a story far less familiar than the well-documented French scene.

Dr Philip Bullock teaches Russian at the University of Oxford, specialising in Soviet literature, music and culture.

Producer: Marya Burgess.

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20 minutes