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, October 24, 2011

Composer Riccardo Drigo Died Oct. 1, 1930

Riccardo Drigo was an Italian composer of ballet music and Italian Opera, a theatrical conductor, and a pianist. Drigo is most noted for his long career as Director of Music of the renowned Imperial Ballet of St. Petersburg, Russia, for which he composed music for the original works and revivals of the choreographers Marius Petipa and Lev Ivanov.

Riccardo Eugenio Drigo was born in Padua, Italy. Drigo attended the prestigious Venice Conservatory. Drigo graduated from the conservatory in 1864, and was hired as a rehearsal pianist at the Garibaldi Theatre in Padua.

In the spring of 1902, Drigo and a group of dancers from the Imperial Ballet were invited by Raoul Gunsbourg, director of the Opéra de Monte-Carlo, to produce a ballet in Monaco. Drigo composed the music for the ballet-divertissement titled La Côte d'Azur (The French Riviera), set to a libretto by Prince Albert I. The ballet premiered at the Salle Garnier on March 30, 1902, and featured the Prima ballerina Olga Preobrajenska.

Drigo's final original full-length ballet score was also Marius Petipa's final work — the fantastical La Romance d'un Bouton de rose et d'un Papillon. In 1919, Drigo was repatriated to his native Italy. For his farewell gala at the former Imperial Maryinsky Theatre, the Ballet Master, Fyodor Lopukhov mounted a new version of La Romance de la rose et le Papillon which Lopukhov staged under the title Le Conte du Bouton (The Tale of the Rosebud).

Among Drigo's original scores for the ballet, he is most noted for Le Talisman (Petipa, 1889); La Flûte magique (Ivanov, 1893); Le Réveil de Flore (Petipa, 1894); and Les Millions d’Arlequin (a.k.a. Harlequinade) (Petipa, 1900). Drigo's score for Les Millions d’Arlequin spawned a popular repertory piece, the Serenade, which the composer later adapted into the song Notturno d'Amour for Beniamino Gigli. Drigo's work on Tchaikovsky's score for Swan Lake—prepared for the important revival of Petipa and Ivanov—is certainly his most well-known adaptation of existing music.

Riccardo Drigo died on October 1,1930 at the age of 74, in his birthplace, Padua. There is now a street in Padua which is named Via Riccardo Drigo in his honour.

Le Coq d'or Premiered Oct. 7, 1909 in Moscow as an Opera - It premiered as an Opera/Ballet in Paris in 1914.

The ballet Le Coq d'or (The Golden Cockerel) was originally staged in 1914 in London and Paris, by Michel Fokine for Diaghilev's Ballets Russes. This work was an opera-ballet, a danced interpretation of the Rimsky-Korsakov's epic opera of the same name, with the dancers accompanied by a chorus and solo singers.

In 1937, Fokine revised the work for the Ballets Russes company of Colonel W de Basil, creating a single-act ballet in three scenes which premiered at Covent Garden on September 23, 1937. For this straight-dance version, the Rimsky-Korsakov score was adapted and arranged by Nicolas Tcherepnin, and Fokine condensed the original opera libretto, which Vladimir Bielsky had adapted from a Pushkin poem. Artist Natalia Gontcharova based her neo-primitive set and costume designs on those she had made for the 1914 version, recreating the original curtain and modifying other elements to produce a brilliantly colourful tableau. Her costume for the Cockerel, using real gold thread, was introduced in the 1937 production, the 1914 version having used a prop to represent this character.

The United States premiere took place in the Metropolitan Opera on March 6, 1918 with Marie Sundelius in the title role, Adamo Didur and Maria Barrientos in the actual leads, and Pierre Monteux conducting.

The story of Le Coq d'or concerns the fate of the lazy King Dodon when he renegs on his promise to reward an astrologer with anything he desires in exchange for the gift of a magical golden cockerel. Dodon is seduced by the beautiful Queen of Shemakhan, against whom he has been waging war, and brings her home as his bride. When the astrologer claims the Queen as his reward, the King kills him in a fit of rage and is, in turn, killed by the cockerel. Despite the surface naivety and humour, the story has strong undercurrents of both sensuality and satire.

There is an emphasis in the 1937 version on the contrast between fantasy and reality, with the Astrologer reminding the audience at the end that, apart from himself and the Queen, all was illusion. The Golden Cockerel and the Queen are the only roles danced on pointe. Both are technically demanding, and provide strong balletic highlights amid the mime and burlesque elements.

Lydia Lopokova Birthday Oct. 21, 1892

Lydia Lopokova was born in St. Petersburg, Russia on October 21, 1892. All of her siblings became ballet dancers, and one of them, Fyodor Lopukhov, was a chief choreographer of the Mariinsky Theatre from 1922-1935 and 1951-1956.

Lydia trained at the Imperial Ballet School. She left Russia in 1910, joining the Diaghilev's Ballets Russes. She stayed with the ballet briefly, leaving for the United States after the summer tour. She rejoined Diaghilev's Ballets Russes in 1916, dancing with her former partner Vaslav Nijinsky, in New York and later in London. She first came to the attention of Londoners in The Good-Humoured Ladies in 1918, and followed this with a raucous performance with Léonide Massine in the Can-Can of La Boutique Fantasque.

When her marriage to the company's business manager, Randolfo Barrochi, broke down in 1919, the dancer abruptly disappeared, but she decided to rejoin the Diaghilev for the second time in 1921, when she danced the Lilac Fairy and Princess Aurora in 'The Sleeping Princess'. During these years she became a friend of Stravinsky, and of Picasso, who drew her many times.

Lydia was known also as Lady Keynes, the wife of the economist John Maynard Keynes. In 1933, Lydia danced her last ballet role, as Swanilda in Coppélia, for the new Vic-Wells Ballet.

Read about her and her life in Bloomsbury book Ballerina.

Artist Picasso's Birthday Oct. 25, 1881

Parade was Picasso’s first collaboration with the Ballets Russes and in a letter sent to a friend, Jean Cocteau the librettist said “Picasso amazes me every day, to live near him is a lesson in nobility and hard work” (Rothschild 49).

Picasso’s studio in Rome had a little crate that held the model of "Parade" with its trees and houses, and on a table were the painted characters: the Chinaman, Managers, American girl, and horse.

Cocteau described his friend’s unusual artistic process: “A badly drawn figure of Picasso is the result of endless well-drawn figures he erases, corrects, covers over, and which serves him as a foundation. In opposition to all schools he seems to end his work with a sketch.” The audiences were amazed by the first ballet to have cubist costumes, sets, and choreography.