The Info List - Sergei Diaghilev

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Sergei Pavlovich Diaghilev (/diˈæɡɪlɛf/; Russian: Серге́й Па́влович Дя́гилев, IPA: [sʲɪˈrɡʲej ˈpavɫovʲɪtɕ ˈdʲæɡʲɪlʲɪf]; 31 March [O.S. 19 March] 1872 – 19 August 1929), usually referred to outside Russia as Serge Diaghilev, was a Russian art critic, patron, ballet impresario and founder of the Ballets Russes, from which many famous dancers and choreographers would arise.


1 Early life and career 2 Ballets Russes 3 Personal life 4 Death and legacy 5 Cultural depictions 6 References 7 Further reading

7.1 Archival sources

8 External links

Early life and career[edit]

Portrait of Sergei Diaghilev
Sergei Diaghilev
by Valentin Serov
Valentin Serov

Portrait of Serge Diaghilev with His Nanny, by Léon Bakst
Léon Bakst

Sergei Diaghilev
Sergei Diaghilev
was born to a wealthy and cultured family in Selishchi (Novgorod Governorate), Russia; his father, Pavel Pavlovich, was a cavalry colonel, but the family's money came mainly from vodka distilleries.[1] After the death of Sergei's mother, his father married Elena Valerianovna Panaeva, an artistic young woman who was on very affectionate terms with her stepson and was a strong influence on him. The family lived in Perm
but had an apartment in Saint Petersburg and a country estate in Bikbarda (near Perm).[2] In 1890, Sergei's parents went bankrupt, having for a long time lived beyond their means, and from that time Sergei (who had a small income inherited from his mother) had to support the family. After graduating from Perm gymnasium in 1890, he went to the capital to study law at St. Petersburg University, but ended up also taking classes at the St. Petersburg Conservatory of Music, where he studied singing and music (a love of which he had picked up from his stepmother). After graduating in 1892 he abandoned his dreams of composition (his professor, Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov, told him he had no talent for music). During his years at University, Diaghilev's cousin Dmitry Filosofov introduced him to a circle of art-loving friends who called themselves The Nevsky Pickwickians.[3] They included Alexandre Benois, Walter Nouvel, Konstantin Somov, and Léon Bakst. Although not instantly received into the group, Diaghilev was aided by Benois in developing his knowledge of Russian and Western art. In two years, he had voraciously absorbed this new obsession (even travelling abroad to further his studies) and came to be respected as one of the most learned of the group. With financial backing from Savva Mamontov
Savva Mamontov
(the director of the Russian Private Opera
Private Opera
Company)[4] and Princess Maria Tenisheva, the group founded the journal Mir iskusstva (World of Art). In 1899, Diaghilev became special assistant to Prince Sergei Mikhaylovich Volkonsky, who had recently taken over directorship of all Imperial theaters. Diaghilev was soon responsible for the production of the Annual of the Imperial Theaters in 1900, and promptly offered assignments to his close friends: Léon Bakst
Léon Bakst
would design costumes for the French play Le Coeur de la Marquise, while Benois was given the opportunity to produce Alexander Taneyev's opera Cupid's Revenge. In 1900–1901 Volkonsky entrusted Diaghilev with the staging of Léo Delibes' ballet Sylvia, a favorite of Benois. The two collaborators concocted an elaborate production plan that startled the established personnel of the Imperial Theatres. After several increasingly antagonistic differences of opinion, Diaghilev in his demonstrative manner refused to go on editing the Annual of the Imperial Theatres and was discharged by Volkonsky in 1901[5] and left disgraced in the eyes of the nobility. At the same time, some of Diaghilev's researchers hinted at his homosexuality as the main cause for this conflict. However, his homosexuality had been well known long before he was invited into the Imperial Theatres. Ballets Russes[edit] Further information: Ballets Russes In 1905 he organized a huge exhibition of Russian portrait painting at the Tauride Palace in St. Petersburg, having travelled widely through Russia for a year discovering many previously unknown masterpieces of Russian portrait art. In the following year he took a major exhibition of Russian art to the Petit Palais in Paris. It was the beginning of a long involvement with France. In 1907 he presented five concerts of Russian music in Paris, and in 1908 mounted a production of Mussorgsky's Boris Godunov, starring Feodor Chaliapin, at the Paris Opéra. This led to an invitation to return the following year with ballet as well as opera, and thus to the launching of his famous Ballets Russes. The company included the best young Russian dancers, among them Anna Pavlova, Adolph Bolm, Vaslav Nijinsky, Tamara Karsavina
Tamara Karsavina
and Vera Karalli, and their first night on 19 May 1909 was a sensation. During these years Diaghilev's stagings included several compositions by the late Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov, such as the operas The Maid of Pskov, May Night, and The Golden Cockerel. His balletic adaptation of the orchestral suite Sheherazade, staged in 1910, drew the ire of the composer's widow, Nadezhda Rimskaya-Korsakova, who protested in open letters to Diaghilev published in the periodical Rech. Diaghilev commissioned ballet music from composers such as Nikolai Tcherepnin (Narcisse et Echo, 1911), Claude Debussy
Claude Debussy
(Jeux, 1913), Maurice Ravel (Daphnis et Chloé, 1912), Erik Satie
Erik Satie
(Parade, 1917), Manuel de Falla (El Sombrero de Tres Picos, 1917), Richard Strauss
Richard Strauss
(Josephslegende, 1914), Sergei Prokofiev
Sergei Prokofiev
(Ala and Lolli, 1915, rejected by Diaghilev and turned into the Scythian Suite; Chout, 1915 revised 1920; Le pas d'acier, 1926; and The Prodigal Son, 1929); Ottorino Respighi
Ottorino Respighi
(La Boutique fantasque, 1919); Francis Poulenc
Francis Poulenc
(Les biches, 1923) and others. His choreographer Michel Fokine
Michel Fokine
often adapted the music for ballet. Diaghilev also worked with dancer and ballet master Léonide Massine. The artistic director for the Ballets Russes
Ballets Russes
was Léon Bakst. Together they developed a more complicated form of ballet with show-elements intended to appeal to the general public, rather than solely the aristocracy. The exotic appeal of the Ballets Russes
Ballets Russes
had an effect on Fauvist painters and the nascent Art Deco
Art Deco
style. Coco Chanel
Coco Chanel
is said to have stated that "Diaghilev invented Russia for foreigners." [Rhonda K. Garelick]. Perhaps Diaghilev's most notable composer-collaborator, however, was Igor Stravinsky. Diaghilev heard Stravinsky's early orchestral works Fireworks and Scherzo fantastique, and was impressed enough to ask Stravinsky
to arrange some pieces by Chopin for the Ballets Russes. In 1910, he commissioned his first score from Stravinsky, The Firebird. Petrushka (1911) and The Rite of Spring
The Rite of Spring
(1913) followed shortly afterwards, and the two also worked together on Les noces (1923) and Pulcinella (1920) together with Picasso, who designed the costumes and the set. After the Russian Revolution
Russian Revolution
of 1917, Diaghilev stayed abroad. The new Soviet regime, once it became obvious that he could not be lured back, condemned him in perpetuity as an especially insidious example of bourgeois decadence. Soviet art historians wrote him out of the picture for more than 60 years.[6] Diaghilev made Boris Kochno his secretary in 1920 and staged Tchaikovsky's The Sleeping Beauty in London
in 1921; it was a production of remarkable magnificence in both settings and costumes but, despite being well received by the public, it was a financial disaster for Diaghilev and Oswald Stoll, the theatre-owner who had backed it. The first cast included the legendary ballerina Olga Spessivtseva and Lubov Egorova
Lubov Egorova
in the role of Aurora. Diaghilev insisted on calling the ballet The Sleeping Princess. When asked why, he quipped, "Because I have no beauties!" The later years of the Ballets Russes
Ballets Russes
were often considered too "intellectual", too "stylish" and seldom had the unconditional success of the first few seasons, although younger choreographers like George Balanchine
George Balanchine
hit their stride with the Ballet
Russes. The start of the 20th century brought a development in the handling of tonality, harmony, rhythm and meter towards more freedom. Until that time, rigid harmonic schemes had forced rhythmic patterns to stay fairly uncomplicated. Around the turn of the century, however, harmonic and metric devices became either more rigid, or much more unpredictable, and each approach had a liberating effect on rhythm, which also affected ballet. Diaghilev was a pioneer in adapting these new musical styles to modern ballet. When Ravel used a 5/4 time in the final part of his ballet Daphnis and Chloe (1912), dancers of the Ballets Russes
Ballets Russes
sang Ser-ge-dia-ghi-lev during rehearsals to keep the correct rhythm. Members of Diaghilev's Ballets Russes
Ballets Russes
later went on to found ballet traditions in the United States (George Balanchine) and England ( Ninette de Valois
Ninette de Valois
and Marie Rambert). Ballet
master Serge Lifar
Serge Lifar
went on a technical revival at the Paris Opera
Ballet, enhanced by Claude Bessy and Rudolf Nureyev
Rudolf Nureyev
in the 1980s. Lifar is credited for saving many Jewish
and other minority dancers from the Nazi concentration camps during World War II. After dancing with the Ballets Russes
Ballets Russes
in 1925, Ruth Page emerged as a founder of her own ballet troupes based in Chicago, including the Chigaco Opera
Ballet.[7] [8] [9] Personal life[edit] Diaghilev's emotional life and the Ballets Russes
Ballets Russes
were inextricably entwined. His most famous lover was Nijinsky. However, according to Serge Lifar, of all Diaghilev's lovers, only Léonide Massine, who replaced Nijinsky, provided him with "so many moments of happiness or anguish."[10] Diaghilev's other lovers included Anton Dolin, Serge Lifar and his secretary and librettist Boris Kochno. Ironically, his last lover, composer and conductor Igor Markevitch
Igor Markevitch
later married the daughter of Nijinsky. They even named their son Vaslav.[11] Nijinsky's later bitter comments about Diaghilev inspired a mention in W. H. Auden's poem "September 1, 1939":

What mad Nijinsky wrote About Diaghilev Is true of the normal heart; For the error bred in the bone Of each woman and each man Craves what it cannot have, Not universal love But to be loved alone.

Diaghilev dismissed Nijinsky summarily from the Ballets Russes
Ballets Russes
after the dancer's marriage in 1913. Nijinsky appeared again with the company, but the old relationship between the men was never re-established; moreover, Nijinsky's magic as a dancer was much diminished by incipient madness. Their last meeting was after Nijinsky's mind had given way, and he appeared not to recognise his former lover. Diaghilev was known as a hard, demanding, even frightening taskmaster. Ninette de Valois, no shrinking violet, said she was too afraid to ever look him in the face. George Balanchine
George Balanchine
said he carried around a cane during rehearsals, and banged it angrily when he was displeased. Other dancers said he would shoot them down with one look, or a cold comment. On the other hand, he was capable of great kindness, and when stranded with his bankrupt company in Spain during the 1914–18 war, gave his last bit of cash to Lydia Sokolova
Lydia Sokolova
to buy medical care for her daughter. Alicia Markova
Alicia Markova
was very young when she joined the Ballet Russes and would later say that she had called Diaghilev "Sergypops" and he had said he would take care of her like a daughter. Dancers such as Alicia Markova, Tamara Karsavina, Serge Lifar, and Lydia Sokolova
Lydia Sokolova
remembered Diaghilev fondly, as a stern but kind father-figure who put the needs of his dancers and company above his own. He lived from paycheck to paycheck to finance his company, and though he spent considerable amounts of money on a splendid collection of rare books at the end of his life, many people noticed that his impeccably cut suits had frayed cuffs and trouser-ends. The film The Red Shoes is a thinly disguised dramatization of the Ballet
Russes. Death and legacy[edit]

Diaghilev's gravestone, Isola di San Michele, Orthodox section, Venice, Italy (April, 2011)

Throughout his life, Diaghilev was severely afraid of dying in water, and avoided traveling by boat. He died of diabetes[12] in Venice
on 19 August 1929, and is buried on the nearby island of San Michele, near to the grave of Stravinsky, in the Orthodox section.[13] The Ekstrom Collection of the Diaghilev and Stravinsky
Foundation is held by the Department of Theatre and Performance of the Victoria and Albert Museum.[14] Cultural depictions[edit]

Nijinsky, film by Herbert Ross, portrayed by Alan Bates
Alan Bates
(1980). Anna Pavlova, film by Emil Loteanu; portrayed by Vsevolod Larionov (1983).


^ Joan Acocella, "The Showman," The New Yorker, September 20, 2010, p. 112. ^ Acocella, "The Showman," p. 113. ^ Stephen Walsh. Stravinsky: A Creative Spring. (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1999). p. 129. ^ Richard Taruskin, Stravinsky
and the Russian Traditions (Oxford University Press, 1996), p. 493. ^ Prince Serge Volkonsky. My reminiscences (in Russian) ^ Clive James, Cultural Amnesia (W. W. Norton & Sons, 2007), p. 169. ^ Ruth Page - Early Architect of the American Ballet
a biographical essay by Joellen A. Meglin on www.danceheritage.org ^ Ruth Page's Obituary in The New York Times
The New York Times
9 April 1991 on www.nytimes.com ^ New York Public Library
New York Public Library
Archives - Ruth Page Collection 1918-70 at the New York Public Library
New York Public Library
for the Perfroming Arts - Jerome Robbins Dance Division, New York City, USA on archives.nypl.org ^ Norton, Leslie " Léonide Massine
Léonide Massine
and the 20th Century Ballet", McFarland & Co, 2004, p80 ^ Roy, Sanjoy "Step-by-step guide to dance: Diaghilev's Ballets Russes", The Guardian, 11 December 2009 [1] ^ "Who was Sergei Diaghilev? What you need to know about the trailblazer, visionary and ballet pioneer". Telegraph.co. Retrieved 2017-03-31.  ^ Wilson, Scott. Resting Places: The Burial Sites of More Than 14,000 Famous Persons, 3d ed.: 2 (Kindle Locations 12127-12128). McFarland & Company, Inc., Publishers. Kindle Edition. ^ Victoria and Albert Museum
Victoria and Albert Museum
London, Department of Theatre and Performance

Further reading[edit]

Buckle, Richard, Diaghilev, London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1979 Scheijen, Sjeng, Working for Diaghilev, Gent: BAI, 2005; exhibition catalogue of the last major exhibition dedicated to Diaghilev Garafola, Lynn, Diaghilev's Ballets Russes, New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1989 Scheijen, Sjeng, Diaghilev: A life, Profile Books, 2009 Garelick, Rhonda K., Mademoiselle: Coco Chanel
Coco Chanel
And The Pulse Of History, New York: Random House, 2015

Archival sources[edit]

Howard D. Rothschild collection on Ballets Russes
Ballets Russes
of Serge Diaghilev at Houghton Library, Harvard University
Harvard University
- this collection is divided into four series: I. Manuscripts and objects II. Photographs and scrapbooks III. Howard D. Rothschild papers IV. Drawings and prints Stravinsky-Diaghilev Foundation collection at Houghton Library, Harvard University Ekstrom Collection: Diaghilev and Stravinsky
Foundation is held by the Victoria and Albert Museum
Victoria and Albert Museum
Theatre and Performance Department. Serge Diaghilev correspondence, 1910–29 (131 items) are housed at the New York Public Library Sergei Diaghilev
Sergei Diaghilev
manuscript items listed in ArchiveGrid

External links[edit]

Wikiquote has quotations related to: Sergei Diaghilev

Serge Diaghilev at Encyclopædia Britannica "Diaghilev and the Ballet
Russes" Victoria and Albert Museum "The Protean Master of the Ballets Russes" Alastair MacCaulay, The New York Times, 25 August 2010

v t e

Igor Stravinsky

Operas and musical dramas

The Flood L'Histoire du soldat Mavra The Nightingale Oedipus rex Perséphone The Rake's Progress Renard


Agon Apollo Le baiser de la fée The Firebird Jeu de cartes Les noces Petrushka Pulcinella Orpheus The Rite of Spring
The Rite of Spring
(discography) Scènes de ballet

Symphonies and concertos

Capriccio for Piano and Orchestra Concerto for Piano and Wind Instruments Concerto in D Concerto in E♭ ("Dumbarton Oaks") Ebony Concerto Symphonies of Wind Instruments Symphony in C Symphony in E♭ major Symphony in Three Movements Violin Concerto in D


Cantata Canticum Sacrum Mass Requiem Canticles Le roi des étoiles A Sermon, a Narrative and a Prayer Symphony of Psalms Threni

Piano and pianola

Scherzo Les cinq doigts Concerto for Two Pianos Étude pour pianola Five Easy Pieces Piano-Rag-Music Piano Sonata Piano Sonata in F♯ minor Quatre études Serenade in A Sonata for Two Pianos Tango Three Easy Pieces Trois mouvements de Petrouchka


Abraham and Isaac Berceuses du chat Le chant du rossignol Circus Polka Danses concertantes Double Canon (in Memoriam Raoul Dufy) Duo Concertant Élégie Elegy for J.F.K. Epitaphium Fanfare for a New Theatre Feu d'artifice Monumentum pro Gesualdo Movements for Piano and Orchestra Octet Ode Pastorale Pribaoutki Scherzo à la russe Scherzo fantastique Septet Three Pieces for Solo Clarinet Three Pieces for String Quartet Variations

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& Igor Stravinsky
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(film) Sergei Diaghilev Neoclassicism Petrushka chord Psalms chord Werner Reinhart Serialism Fyodor Stravinsky Soulima Stravinsky Stravinsky

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