The Rite of Winter

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Modernist MysteriesModernist Mysteries: Perséphone
by Tamara Levitz
Oxford University Press
680 pages, $65.

 

IGOR STRAVINSKY’S Perséphone is one of the least understood works in the history of contemporary dance, music, and theater. Tamara Levitz’ Modernist Mysteries: Perséphone presents a hot, bubbling stew of Uranism, naked boys, golden torches, pédérastie, and Sapphist resistance. To say the original production was a bundle of contradictions would be an understatement.

The primary focus of this book is the 1934 premier of Ida Rubinstein’s production. Rubinstein, a fabulously wealthy bisexual Jewish-Russian performer, famously danced for Diaghilev in the Ballets Russes and continued its legacy with her own private company through the 1920s and ’30s. In an interview, Levitz remarked that by “situating Ida in the middle of my narrative, I hope to destabilize the patriarchal framework of modern music history. I also want to recover Sapphic history.”

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