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The Great American Revue

That Bacchanale Rag


Anna Pavlova and Mikhail Mordkin in Automne bacchanale / photographs by Mishkin Studio., Digital ID pavlova_0318v, New York Public LibraryAnna Pavlova and Mikhail Mordkin in Automne bacchanale / photographs by Mishkin Studio., Digital ID pavlova_0318v, New York Public Library"That Bacchanal Rag"

Layers on layers of references that could not fit into a caption:

The Passing Show of 1912 established the topical nature of Broadway revues. The authors, George Bronson-Howard and Harold Atteridge, combined references to contemporary politics, New York's cultural life, and both Broadway personalities and their fictional characters (in this case, producer/playwright David Belasco and Peter Grimm, a character that he wrote for David Warfield. Ned Wayburn, who served as both director and Dance Director codified his experiments with interpolation: staging cohesive sequences that allowed performers to present their specialties.

The show's Act I Finale, set in the Harem of Sewer-Man, parodied the play Kismet, with added text and visual references to Scheherazade and Sumurun.

I won't try to explain the plot, but at the end of the scene Ferusah, the Queen of the Harem, says: "Bring out all the choicest wines. Let in all the young men with vine leaves in their hair. Let us be worshippers of Bacchus, joyous and unrestrained," leading into the finale, "The Bacchanale Rag" (by Atteridge and Louis Hirsh). This is a great example of the sub-genre "Ragging the Classics" for which, in Atteridge's phrase, "Other writers will give brother writers inspiration, Handy opera will be dandy just for syncopation." The song, which puts words to the autumn section of Glazunov's The Four Seasons, led to a specialty in which a couple in Grecian tunics dance under a veil. The theater audience recognized it as a parody of Autumn Bacchanale, choreographed by Mikhail Mordkin for himself and Anna Pavlova, and a popular part of her touring repertory. Broadway satirist often picked on Mordkin, whose name inspired more puns than Volinine or Pavlova's other partners. The really knowledgeable would know that the ballet was, in turn, inspired by The Storm, an 1880 painting by Cot, which was commissioned by Catharine Lorillard Wolfe, current on view at the Metropolitan Museum of Art (Gallery 800, the last gasp of Romantic realism before the Impressionist galleries).


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"That Bacchanale Rag"

As well as the Mishkin photographs of Anna Pavlova in Autumn Bacchanale, the Digital Gallery includes an image of an additional parody, photographed by Johnson, in Salt Lake City, which was on Pavlova's extensive touring schedule. You can also go to the Metropolitan Museum's web site, and search the collections for the Cot painting. Some of you may also remember an ad in the NY Times Magazine from the 1960s that paired the painting with Demuth's I Saw the Figure 5, with the question "Which is Good Art?"

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