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Diaghilevs Russian Seasons

Diaghilevs Russian Seasons

“L’Oiseau de feu” (Firebird, 1910). Russian prima ballerina Tamara Karsavina and Vaslav Nijinsky in Diaghilevs Russian Seasons

Diaghilevs Russian Seasons was a brilliant creation of the great Russian impresario and a patriot of our country Sergei Pavlovich Diaghilev (1872 – 1929). Extraordinary personality, the owner of the unique talents and gifts to open to surprise the world novelty, Diaghilev brought into the world of art new names of prominent choreographers. Among them – Fokine, Massine, Nijinska, Balanchine, the dancers and the dancers – Nijinsky, Viltzaka, Wojciechowski, Dolin, Lifar, Pavlova, Karsavina, Rubinstein, Spesivtseva, Nemchinova, and Danilova.

Vaslav Nijinsky

Vaslav Nijinsky

In May and June, the first ballet and operatic performances on the stage of the Theatre du Chatalet in Paris comprised the first Russian Season. These productions, staged under Diaghilev’s overall supervision, were truly Russian in every respect, that is, as concerned the music, the direction, the choreography, and stage design, while all actors, singers and musicians were of Russian origin. The spectacular acclaim that this and all subsequent Seasons enjoyed welled up into a triumph for all inner powers and traditions of Russian culture, let alone the performances as such.

According to Benois, Neither Borodin nor Rimsky, neither Chaliapin nor Golovin, Roerich or Diaghilev were the triumphant in Paris. In fact, what triumphed – Russian culture. Triumphed the entire originality of Russian art, with its power of conviction, its freshness and immediacy, and its wild force. Moreover, it became clear that the Russian artists themselves were prone to underestimate their own powers and did not realize what sort of an appearance they would present on European stages.

“Our Russian savage primitiveness”, our simplicity and naivete turned out in Paris – in the most cultured Paris – to be more subtle, more advanced, and sensitive than what was generally locally,” Benois recalled later on with acrid sarcasm.

He created and pulled together an excellent corps de ballet troupe of talented performers, many of whom have also become stars of a kind. Graceful Olga Khokhlova married to Pablo Picasso. Beautiful Valentina Kashuba was chosen “Miss New York”. Diaghilev’s ballerina Tamara Zheverzheyev became a star of Broadway, and the corps de ballet began from Serge Lifar – director of the Paris Grand Opera.

Michel Fokine (1880–1942) created the rebirth of classical dramatic dance (though his works often included Expressionist elements). Many regard his greatest work to be Petrushka; others consider it to be Les Sulphides. Fokine also choreographed The Dying Swan, Prince Igor, and Scheherazade. Fokine graduated from the Imperial Ballet School in 1898, and eventually became First Soloist at the Mariinsky Theater.

Prominent composers Tcherepnin, Stravinsky, Debussy, Prokofiev, de Falla, Satie, Auric, Nabokov, creating new and original music for the Diaghilev ballets. The magnificent artists of his time were the authors of the sets and costumes that have become iconic Alexander Benois, Leon Bakst and Nicholas Roerich, Mstislav Dobuzhinsky, Natalia Goncharova, Mikhail Larionov, Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse and Naum Gabo.

Leon Bakst (Rosenberg, LS) had special place in the history of fashion creativity. Under the influence of Oriental and antique style of Leon Bakst’s costumes for the ballet “Carnival”, “Scheherazade,” “Blue God,” “Afternoon of a Faun Dream” and “Daphnis and Chloe”, formed the famous in XX century Parisian couturiers work, Paul Poiret. Bakst motifs seen in the works of the Parisian fashion houses, “Paken”, “Callot Sisters,” “Drekol”, “Babani,” and many others.

Through the influence of Diaghilev’s Russian Seasons in the fashion of the 1910s were included trousers, turbans, women’s bras, pillows, lampshades, and even later, a tan! The wide crinoline dresses for the ballet by Michel Fokine, “Carnaval” became the impetus for the creation of fashion during the First World War silhouette “war crinoline”.

Alexander Benois, one of the main instigators of “Russian Seasons”, the author of costumes for the ballet “Le Pavillon d’Armide,” “Les Sylphides” and “Petrushka”, referred to as a harbinger of the Russian style.

Subsequently, this trend will be reflected in the work of the talented pair of Natalia Goncharova, for example, in the ballet “Les Noces” and Sergei Larionov in the ballet “Buffoon.” Diaghilev was able to keep pace with the times, so in 1924 he drew Coco Chanel to create costumes for the ballet “Blue Train”. The unusually modern for its time costumes for the ballet was “Sailors” and “Kitty”, made of metal, plastic and fabric designs by Naum Gabo and Anton Pevsner.

Sergei Pavlovich Diaghilev died on August 19, 1929 in Venice, in his favorite city. On his tomb it was inscribed: “Venice – the constant inspirer of our calm.”

After Diaghilev’s early death in 1929, the dancers scattered, and the company’s property was claimed by creditors. In 1932 Colonel Wassily de Basil and his associate Rene Blum revived the company under the name Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo. Balanchine and Massine worked with them as choreographers, and Tamara Toumanova was a principal dancer. De Basil and Blum argued constantly, in 1938 the founders split and De Basil founded another company, which he called the Original Ballet Russe, while Blum renamed his group Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo. The three companies were the subject of the 2005 documentary film Ballets Russes.

The Ballets Russes performed between 1909 and 1929 in many countries. Directed by Sergei Diaghilev, it is regarded as the greatest ballet company of the 20th century. Many of its dancers originated from the Imperial Ballet of Saint Petersburg. After the Russian Revolution of 1917, younger dancers came from those trained in Paris, within the community of exiles.

The company featured and premiered now-famous (and sometimes notorious) works by the great choreographers Marius Petipa and Michel Fokine, as well as new works by Bronislava Nijinska, Léonide Massine, the young George Balanchine at the start of his career, and Vaslav Nijinsky with the debut performance of The Rite of Spring by Igor Stravinsky.

Now the Russian Ballet costumes are kept in Canberra at the National Gallery of Australia, in London, Stockholm, Texas, and, of course, in St. Petersburg Theater Museum.

The images scanned from the book “World of Art”. «Мир искусства» Объединение русских художников начала XX века. Издательство «Аврора», Ленинград. 1991 (“World of Art” Unification of Russian artists of the early XX century. Publishers ‘Aurora’, Leningrad. 1991)

Diaghilevs Russian Seasons