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In May, 1909 Sergei Diaghilev astonished the world of dance with his first ballet presentations in Paris, among them, Le Pavillon d’Armide and Cléopatre – spectacles which demonstrated an unprecedented combination of vitality and grace, originality and technical sophistication. Diaghilev’s magnificent productions of the 1910s and 1920s showcased dancers, choreographers, designers and musicians such as Karsavina, Nijinsky, Fokine, Bakst and Stravinsky, and the development of modern ballet is unthinkable without reference to their names.
As a primary axis of Diaghilev’s activities during the life of the company known as the Ballets Russes, Monte Carlo is celebrating this centenary with a major exhibition of over three hundred artworks relating to the Saisons Russes between 1909 and 1929. Co-organized by the Musée National de Monte Carlo and the Ekaterina Cultural Foundation of Moscow, «Une Fête Merveilleuse: Serge Diaghileff et Les Ballets Russes»/«A Festival of Wonders. Sergei Diaghilev and the Ballets Russes» will open in the Salle d’Expositions, Monte Carlo, on 23 June, 2009, and then at the State Tretiakov Gallery, Moscow, in September. Organized by John E. Bowlt (University of Southern California, Los Angeles) and Zelfira Tregulova (Moscow Kremlin Museums), «Une Fête Merveilleuse” is the fruit of a new partnership between a Monaco public institution and a Moscow private initiative and comes in the wake of their highly successful “Valet de Carreau/”Jack of Diamons” exhibition of 2005.
The legendary productions of Le Pavillon d’Armide, Cléopatre. Schéhérazade, Sacre du printemps. Petrouchka, Parade and Ode -- with special emphasis on ballets which premiered in Monte Carlo such as Narcisse and La Chatte -- are brought to life through stage designs, costumes, paintings, sculptures, photographs, de luxe editions, programs, archives and items of material culture: the stellar artists of Diaghilev’s company such as Anisfeld, Bakst, Benois, De Chirico, Delaunay, Derain, Golovin, Goncharova, Larionov, Picasso, Roerich and Tchelitchew framed the new choreography and dancing of Fokine, Karsavina, Nijinsky, Pavlova and many other stars -- and «Une Fête Merveilleuse” pays homage to their luminous attainment.
While the focus of «Une Fête Merveilleuse” is on the ballets and operas, Diaghilev’s scenic achievements are complemented by a substantial number of contextual paintings, drawings and other artifacts which helped to define Russia’s cultural renaissance of the first decades of the 20th century. Masterpieces by Serov, Somov, Vrubel and other representatives of Russia’s fin de siècle enhance the panorama of costume and set designs, leading us into the ecstatic states of Russian Symbolism, Art Nouveau and Decadence. The exhibition draws upon a wide variety of public and private collections, national and international, and makes substantial use of the rich and previously untapped archives of Kochno and Lifar now in the possession of the Musée National de Monte Carlo as well as the Fokine collection in the St. Petersburg Theatre Museum. The result is a dazzling assessment of one of the most exciting and original chapters in the history of modern culture.
«Une Fête Merveilleuse: Serge Diaghileff et Les Ballets Russes»/«A Festival of Wonders. Sergei Diaghilev and the Ballets Russes» is part of a broader appreciation of the Diaghilev era in Monte Carlo and Moscow which includes ballet performances, films, lectures and an international conference. The exhibition is accompanied by a fully illustrated, scholarly catalog with contributions by leading specialists in the history of the Russian dance and the visual arts. The documentary section of the catalog contains rich archival material, including letters, photographs, choreographic notes and memoirs, many published here for the first time.
John E. Bowlt (Professor, University of Southern California, Los Angeles) and Zelfira Tregulova (Deputy Director, Kremlin Museums, Moscow).
Monaco, Villa Sauber, 9 July – 27 September 2009
Monaco, Salle des Arts du Sporting d’Hiver, 9 July – 30 August 2009
Moscow, State Tretiakov Gallery, 27 October 2009 – 25 January 2010