To me this find is a sensation and I am pretty over-excited to share this with you all. I am writing this on May 2nd 2019, but I am allowing myself the pleasure of publishing this on the very day, the 102nd anniversary on May 17, 2019.
This may very well be the closest we will ever get to this once-in-history-moment and event when surrealism and modernism was "born": a modern recreation of the in/famous ballet "Parade".
It's a based upon an idea by Jean Cockteau who approached Erik Satie to compose the music for a ballet. He also managed to the get Djagilew's world famous and innovative Ballet Russe on board, it's then main dancer Léonide Massine created the choreography. In order to move things forward Picasso was commissioned to create the stage display and costumes, which he built from found objects and material he more or less randomly found at the theatre, Théâtre du Châtelet in Paris.Above you can see the flyer for the event, Picasso and a few stage hands sitting on the curtain, the finished curtain on display during an exhibition and an old image of the theatre.
The story is relatively simple, the ballet lives from it's extraodinary visual and instrumental language.
A few traveling show-people are trying to lure the audience in to view their performance. A French and an American manager are eager to get things started. A Chinese magician is juggling, two acrobates are displaying their art while an American girl comes along. A horse is also part of the troupe.
But audience - there is none. No one is interested to see their art, let alone their show.
The whole piece lasts only about 15 minutes, one of Satie's longer works. In addition to traditional instruments it does employ typewriters, shotgun sounds, whistles etc. I am unsure who brought those in, one source claims it was Cocteau against Satie's wishes, while usually Satie is praised for that idea. This will need further readings and investigations. Though it does work quite well artistically (as well as instigating the scandal), for the whole ballet embraces every day life and draws inspiration the latest events and gossip from the entertainment industry, such as currently touring magicians, quiet movie stars etc. The choreography also draws inspiration from every day street life, the whole package is a revolutionary mutli-media event.
There is the orchestral score, Cockteau's story line and a score for 4 handed piano.
- Choral - Prélude du Rideau Rouge
- Prestidigitateur Chinois
- Petite Fille Américaine
- Final - Suite au Prélude du Rideau Rouge
The presentation was a success, which means it was damned and ended as a scandal. Large parts of the audience were booing, abusing the composer Satie and Picasso, feulleton critics were devastating for Satie who (again) started a feud with one of Paris' most prominent critics. But the news spread and he was embraced by Zürich's DaDa artists, french young and emerging artists sought Satie's advice and suddenly he got some "students". So it was a very late career starter for him, just a few years before his death.
Only few artefacts from this event survive, one highlight is Picasso's theatre curtain. It displays an almost romantic roman inspired scene that sets the scene for the more cubistic city setting he used for the stage design. At the time it was highly critisized as not avantgarde enough, too backwards oriented. Today it is an immensely important original artefact from this iconic event.
Costumes had to be re-created from photos, the choreography has also been lost and had to be reimagined from the available photos.
And surrealism? Guillaume Apollinaire characterized Parade in it's accompanying programme sheet entitled „Parade et l’Esprit Nouveau“ as "a kind of over-realism (sur-réalisme)", which was later used by André Breton in his first surrealistic manifest. The rest is history.
And during the performance WWI was raging.
And here is a master thesis in French. I don't understand French. Much to my dismay. But it may be of interest.
After I found this I discovered several performances of Parade on YT. Though I must stress that the one I linked above is the most magical and feels most authentic to me. How
authentic I am in no way able to estimate. But exciting none-the less. Right now I feel that this find may very well be a moment to remember for me, a highlight for the rest of my life. But I will need to do a lot more reading and research.