The question of whether Igor Stravinsky was straight, gay or bi- at the time he was composing the Rite of Spring has no obvious bearing on the content of the work. But it may nevertheless shed some light on the context in which it was created.
Robert Craft, the composer’s devoted companion, has written an extensive essay on the Rite in the Times Literary Supplement (not online), in which he returns to the supposition – advanced in his latest book – that Stravinsky was engaged in at least two relationships with men during the course of composing the Rite.
The more influential figure is Maurice Delage (below), a student of Ravel’s, who – Craft writes – became Stravinsky’s lover as well as the surrogate parent for his young children during the composer’s frequent absences… Delage was intimate in Stravinsky’s life, even sharing his home in Clarens…. his letters are embellished with ‘kisses and hugs’.
Nothing terribly shocking so far. But Craft continues:
When Delage refers to Stravinsky being ‘in the arms of that fiend Diaghilev’ the reader may understand it literally and wonder about those early years when Diaghilev treated Stravinsky as a minion on the way up. The Delage connection terminated with the Rite and Stravinsky’s resumption both of his family life in Switzerland and his hyperactive heterosexual philandering.
This paragraph, speculative to a degree, changes our view of history. If, as Craft suggests, Diaghilev had his fiendish way with Stravinsky, we may have to reconsider the genesis of the Rite as well as the entire tenor of that relationship, culminating in the composer’s determination to be buried beside his mentor in Venice. Are these intimacies relevant to the music? It is impossible to ignore them.