Diaghilev's Ballets Russes

Diaghilev's Ballets Russes

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This Blog is dedicated to preserving and celebrating the history and memories of Diaghilev's Ballets Russes, its legendary ballet dancers, choreographers, scenery artists, musicians and composers.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Serge Diaghilev-Ballet Impressario, Died August 19, 1929

Serge Diaghilev was a law student when he came to St. Petersburg. While there he became co-founder of the progressive art magazine Mir Iskusstva (The World of Art) in 1899. The same year he was appointed artistic adviser of the Maryinsky Theatre. He resigned this post in 1901 and when the magazine stopped publishing in 1904, and he concentrated on organizing exhibitions of Russian art in St. Petersburg and Paris. In 1908 he brought a production of Boris Godunov to Paris, with the famous singer, Feodor Chaliapin. In 1909, he brought to Paris a season of opera and ballet and, with the best dancers from the Maryinsky, and he scored a great success. Prior to 1909, an independent ballet company was almost unheard of. Most ballet companies were part of an opera company or was subsidized by the court or the ruling power. The Paris Opera was the home of the ballet, even in Russia the ballet was part of the opera. In 1909, when Diaghilev decided to bring a small company of dancers to Paris he did this by bringing the great opera star Chaliapin to share the program. Both people in Russia and Paris thought that he was crazy. Diaghilev struggled to get enough money for his Paris project. After the first season in Paris, he had to raise money again, during the dancers yearly time off. He had to get them back to St. Petrersburg before their season started.

After the innagural performance May 19, 1909, repeat visits in the following years resulted in the formation of the Ballets Russes in 1911 as an independent private company. The final season for Diaghilev's Ballets Russes was in 1929. Diaghilev died in Venice, Italy, on August 19, 1929, and is buried on the nearby island of San Michele.

Although Diaghilev reformed European ballet, his company was often on the verge of bankruptcy. He never returned to Russia after the 1917 revolution. In fact, Diaghilev's Ballets Russes never performed in Russia. With his infallible flair, and his immaculate taste he anticipated what the audiences wanted. Instead of a full-length ballets he gave them Aurora's Wedding, and the second act of Swan Lake, Les Sylphides, La Boutique Fantastique, Les Biches, Jeux, and many more.

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