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Music, Theatre and Dancing at The Cave of the Golden Calf (1912-14): Performing Internationalism at London's 'First Nightclub'

Wednesday 5 May 2021, 4.00PM

Speaker(s): Rachel Cowgill (University of York)

Widely credited as being London’s ‘first nightclub’, Frida Uhl Strindberg's The Cave of the Golden Calf was a subterranean experimental cabaret-club on the edge of London's pre-war Bohemian district. Its strident internationalist manifesto set the tone for a provocative mix of theatre, opera, dance, and song from across the world, mixing the popular and classical, contemporary and historical. Saturated with artwork by Lewis, Epstein, Ginner, Gore, and Gill, The Cave also became a testing ground in the struggle for a distinctively British avant-garde expression – one holding its own in relation to futurist and primitivist strains from Europe, rejecting Victorian conservatism, and bulwarked against the alluring but emasculating tide of American culture. The Cave’s significance to the literary and visual arts has been discussed by Lisa Tickner, Peter Brooker, Richard Cork, Urmila Seshagiri and others; but this presentation explores the role, politics, and significance of music-based performance within this unique prewar environment. It was, for example, the venue for the first UK rendition of Schoenberg's Pierrot Lunaire, and also saw performances of Rubinstein's opera The Demon, Pergolesi's La serva padrona, Purcell's Dioclesian, vocal music by Monteverdi, keyboard music by J.S. Bach, and Continental cabaret chansons and acts from Scandinavia, Paris, Berlin, and Munich, in addition to hosting 'gypsy' orchestras, African American ragtime string bands, and exhibition dancers and singers from a range of traditions.  What, this paper explores, was the vision that tied all of this together, and where and how did things start to go wrong...?  

Location: Meeting ID: 915 8006 2656 Passcode: 840125