Authors: Alessandro Giammei and Taylor Yoonji Kang
Source: Modern Language Notes, vol. 135 no. 1, 2020, p. 203-230. Project MUSE, doi:10.1353/mln.2020.0021.
Publication type: Article
Abstract: For ninety years, a variety of sources (from 20th century encyclopedias and biographies to postwar scholarship and Wikipedia) reported that Alberto Savinio’s Persée premiered in 1924 at the Metropolitan Opera in New York. However that ballet, written in Paris in 1913 for Michel Fokine’s choreography, was never performed on stage. This article investigates the origins of such ‘fake news’ and shows how it spread in various languages up until today. It links Savinio’s 1913 Persée to Fokine’s 1924 Medusa, a shorter but similar ballet that did indeed premiere at the Met, but to music by Tchaikovsky. Drawing on dispersed documents, newspaper clippings, and archival material, we show that, in the Twenties, both Savinio and Fokine distorted the facts about Persée and Medusa in the media, and we argue that they did so in order to self-fashion as modern artists adapting to two opposite cultural systems: fascist Italy and interwar America.