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Opening Night of 'Les Noces'

A 2012 London staging of "Les Noces," the ballet that inspired perhaps one of the best parties of all time

© Robbie Jack/Robbie Jack/Corbis

Sara and Gerald Murphy were two wealthy American ex-pats living in Paris in the early 20th century. Art aficionados as well, they were friends with folks like Pablo Picasso, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Cole Porter and Igor Stravinsky. In June 1923, they wanted to celebrate the premiere of Stravinsky's composition, "Les Noces," at the Ballets Russes and honor those involved. So they threw an all-nighter on a barge puttering along the Seine [sources: Schjeldahl, Richardson].

The party soon became one of the most famous of its time, perhaps because of its uniqueness and playfulness. Stravinsky switched the guests' place cards. One person read attendees' palms. Marcelle Meyer, a famed pianist, sat down at the piano and played Scarlatti. Sara Murphy had created pyramids of toys -- clowns, animals, cars, dolls -- as centerpieces for the tables. Picasso comically rearranged them into a traffic pile-up, placing a cow on a fireman's ladder on the very top. At dawn, two guests held out an enormous laurel wreath for Stravinsky to jump through. And everyone drank lots of champagne all evening. Afterward, Stravinsky proclaimed the party one of the best nights of his life. And it confirmed the Murphys as one of Paris' chicest couples [source: Richardson].

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