Wagner — Tannhäuser, Bacchanale


Lillian Loewenthal

Reference: Loewenthal, Lillian. The Search for Isadora: The legend & legacy of Isadora Duncan. Dance Horizons, 1993.

Isadora herself was threatened with cancellation of her concerts if she dared to appear in her transparent veils for what as described as her "sensuous" "Bacchanale" from Tannhäuser. The daily papers made it known that a police deputy was to be on hand in the theater to enforce the restraining order on her attire (waiting to close the curtain at the first drop of her modesty). The harried dancer tried to put the matter into some rational perspective with a letter to the newspapers. She was hoping to diffuse the situation by clarifying her personal concept of Wagner's score and her choreography. Those familiar with Isadora's interpretation of this music were equally cognizant of her belief that the spirit of the dance must transcend the corporeal, so that in the treatment of the love and carnal themes suggested in the music, only the imagination was titillated, not the flesh. To Georges-Michel she vented her frustrations: "If they annoy me about this, I will dance in a forest naked, naked, naked... with the song of birds and elemental noises for an orchestra."

To unruffle feathers, Isadora wore for this performance [in November 1911 at the Châtelet] (according to one source) a double layer of light scarves. Inevitably with all this commotion, public anticipation was high for the "Bacchanale" and the audience, not disappointed in the overall presentation, had actually awaited a less restrained interpretation. All in all, things proceeded without incident. Isadora was seen leaving the theater wrapped in ermine from head to foot, utterly fatigued and utterly delighted.

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