“People whistled, shouted and laughed”: scandalous productions of Sergei Diaghilev

Diaghilev and the theater

Sergei Diaghilev was fond of music from early childhood, he was especially influenced by the works of Pyotr Tchaikovsky. In 1890 St. Petersburg University, and in parallel with his studies took lessons from the composer Rimsky-Korsakov. At university, he was “very fond of” atmosphere and snobby form, as Diaghilev himself admitted.

Shortly after graduating, Diaghilev went to St. Petersburg, he began to organize exhibitions of European and Russian artists (Levitan, Serov and others). He became interested in theater through editorial work, first in the niche modernist publication Mir Iskusstva and then in the Imperial Theater Yearbook, which brought him closer to the group. At the Imperial Theatre, the first production of the ballet “Sylvia”, which was not worked on due to the scandal, was offered. Diaghilev invited familiar artists from the Art World to the performance, which did not please the local authorities. He cut ties with the theater management to protest.

Since 1906, the impresario has been holding exhibitions abroad, and two years later he presented the world with the first “Russian Season” in Paris.

The thorny path of the “Russian Seasons”

The program of the first season has been worked on by “World of Art” artists Alexander Benois, Lev Bakst and Nicholas Roerich, as well as leading artists of the Imperial Theater – Vatslav Nijinsky, Tamara Karsavina and decadent diva Ida Rubinshtein. Thanks to the modernist perspective of music, choreography and visual arts, the productions were a huge success in Paris. The Western audience then saw the first ballets – “Armida Pavilion”, “Polovtsian Dances” and “Boris Godunov”.

General Producer of the National Opera Center in St. Petersburg and A.Ya. Vaganova Rinat Dulmaganov, Diaghilev’s innovation was to combine different types of art in one production.

“It combined music, visual arts and dance into one artistic expression. There is each one separately. Russian Seasons has music by Igor Stravinsky and choreography by Vaslav Nijinsky,” Dulmaganov said in a conversation with socialbites.ca.

Faina Dmitrieva, Chairman of the Diaghilev House Cultural Foundation, emphasized that the impresario successfully exhibits national culture in her works. Some – for example, the “Rite of Spring” – were not immediately understood by the Western public. According to the memoirs of contemporary Romola Pulskaya, “people whistled, vilified the artists and the composer, shouted, laughed.”

“It was the modernism of its time, based on Russian national folklore. The fact is that these were deeply national stories unknown to Europe. Sergei Pavlovich himself said: “Our time will come.” And so it happened, ”added Faina Dmitrieva.

The premiere of the ballet The Rite of Spring, choreographed by Nijinsky, took place in Paris in May 1913. The idea for its creation belonged to the composer Igor Stravinsky and the artist Nicholas Roerich. In the center of the plot is a ceremony in honor of the pagan holiday of the Holy Spring.

But Diaghilev himself never followed the leadership of the people. “In an interview with the Times, he said: “I’ve been striving for 25 years to create a new movement in theater – and my quest has been recognized, but my performances are called strange. But the game was supposed to be weird.” When the first phone rang or the first light came on, everyone also thought it was strange. The first “call” of Diaghilev was the performance of “Polovtsian Dances”, and then “Petrushka” and “Holy Spring” and “Parade” and others, ”art critic Rinat Dulmaganov told socialbites.ca.

Diaghilev – philanthropist

Another merit of Diaghilev is that he managed to grow a galaxy of stars of ballet art. For example, he recruited the impressionist choreographer Leonid Myasin from the Moscow corps ballet to his team. He soon became the sole director of the “Russian Seasons” from 1915 to 1921.

“He called himself a philanthropist. It is believed that this is so for the creators: it helped them enrich themselves with world culture, send them to museums and fill them with books. He invested his knowledge, vision and foresight in them,” said Rinat Dulmaganov.

In 1917 Myasin staged the controversial ballet Parade by Pablo Picasso to music by Eric Satie. At that time, the director became interested in cinema and tried to recreate scenes from it in his own way:

“With a uniform jacket and a short white skirt, [главная героиня «Парада», американская девочка] He crossed the stage in a series of jerky leaps, waving his arms from side to side. Then she copied Charlie Chaplin’s shuffling gait, followed by a pantomime reminiscent of the movie “Polina’s Dangerous Adventures” – the girl jumped on a train on the move, swam across a river, competed in high-speed pistol shots, and, finally, tragically, when the Titanic sank. way he died. All this was skillfully danced and imitated by Maria Shabelskaya, ”Myasin himself described the choreography in his memoirs“ My Life in Ballet ”.

At the “Parade” premiere, the people of Paris revolted. “Curtain!” He ran onto the stage shouting. At this time, a horse with a cubist mouth entered the stage and began to perform circus tricks – he knelt, danced, bowed. The audience, apparently, decided that he was mocking the protests of the actors and said: “Death to the Russians!”, “Picasso – Bosh!” They completely lost their heads shouting. Ilya Ehrenburg, contemporary author of Diaghilev, “The Russians are Boche!” he wrote.

From a historical point of view, the “Parade” was of great importance for theater and ballet. Under the influence of Sati’s original music, “Six” and “Arkey School” composer circles were formed. The music of the French is reflected in the works of Igor Stravinsky.

In 1924, a promising and young choreographer Georges Balanchivadze (aka Balanchine) appeared in the Diaghilev group. In “Russian Seasons” she gave nine major performances, including the opera-ballet “Child and Magic” to the music of Maurice Ravel.

After Diaghilev’s death, Balanchine moved to the United States, working on Broadway and giving rise to modern neoclassical ballet art. Things turned out less rosy for the ensemble’s choreographer, Mikhail Fokin. “Fokine’s enthusiasm lasted for about six years, maybe a little less, maybe a little more: between 1907 and 1914. Then things went downhill, ”wrote ballet critic Vadim Gaevsky about him. After the failure of the ballet “Til Ulenspiegel” in New York, Vaslav Nijinsky began to suffer from mental health problems – he was diagnosed with schizophrenia.

“Dyagilev’s ballets influenced modern dance with the appearance of music unusual for that time, which he commanded and knew how to sound. He gave a new look to the artistic and decorative design he ordered and knew how it should look. Also on the choreography he ordered and knew how to stage and perform. Sometimes it came to scandals. He saw the final result: how it will look not only on the stage, but also in history”, concluded art critic Rinat Dulmaganov.

The last performance of “Russian Seasons” took place on August 4, 1929 in the French city of Vichy. Sergei Diaghilev died 15 days later from blood poisoning. His funeral was paid for by pianist Misia Sert and fashion designer Coco Chanel.

Thanks to Sergei Diaghilev, Russian ballet has become not only a matter of national pride, but also a worldwide phenomenon. The Russian Seasons tour, led by Impresario, was opened to the Western public by artist Nicholas Roerich and composer Igor Stravinsky. On the occasion of the 150th anniversary of Diaghilev’s birth, socialbites.ca talks about the novelty and the public rejection of famous ballets.

Source: Gazeta


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