London’s Coliseum Theater took the baton from Paris on Wednesday for hosting seven ballets from Sergei Diaghilev’s famous Russian Seasons enterprise revived by ballet master Andris Liepa for his “Russian Seasons-21st Century”, a project that stunned Europe none the less than Diaghilev’s productions a century ago.
The unfading hits of Diaghilev’s troupe – “Petrushka” composed by Igor Stravinsky, “Chopeniana” set to nocturnes and waltzes by Frederic Chopin, and the fiery “Polovets Dances” from Alexander Borodin’s opera “Prince Igor” – gathered full houses in Paris this spring. The program of the London tour has been expanded to include more of Diaghilev’s legacy – “Fire-Bird”, “Bolero”, “Shekherezada” and “The Afternoon of a Faun” as wall as the almost forgotten short ballets to music by Russian composers – “The Blue God”, “Tamar” and “Le Pavilion d’Armide”.
In May, the great impresario who led Russian ballet to the peak of its glory will be honored with an international ballet festival in his native city of Perm in the Urals. Perm Ballet Chief Choreographer Alexei Miroshnichenko holds that Diaghilev’s ballets must return to modern stage. He is currently rehearsing “Daphnis et Chloe” put on by Mikhail Fokine to music composed by Maurice Ravel on commission from Diaghilev. Leaving Fokine’s choreography unchanged, Miroshnichenko transferred the action from antiquity to the early 20th century and from Greece to an African desert, telling a passionate love story of a Moroccan dancer and a French legionary.
In October, St. Petersburg will launch a music festival called “Diaghilev. Post Scriptum”. This is an attempt to show a dialogue between the impresario and composers. Diaghilev was very exigent as far as music was concerned. He commissioned his ballets to the best composers. Natalya Metelitsa is the festival’s director and this is what she says.
Composer Vladimir Dukelsky is fairly unknown today, but he was one of Diaghilev’s favorites. Diaghilev, who discovered Stravinsky and Prokofiev, asked Dukelsky to write music to “Zephyr and Flora”, which was premiered in 1924. Another ballet composed by Dukelsky for Diaghilev was “Baryshnya-Krestyanka” or “Miss Peasant”. Unfortunately, it has never been staged. Dukelsky settled in the United States where he became Vernon Duke and wrote 11 ballets for George Balanchine. We found a musical score in the United States Library of Congress. This was Dukelsky’s “Orphic Trilogy” for choir and orchestra. It will be performed at our festival.
Also on the festival’s program will be an exhibition of costumes and sets from Diaghilev’s productions restored by Belgian designer Isabel de Borshgraf.