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Overview (3)

Date of Birth 31 March 1872Perm, Russia
Date of Death 19 August 1929Venice, Italy  (complications from diabetes)
Birth NameSergei Pavlovich Diaghilev

Mini Bio (1)

Sergei Pavlovich Diaghilev was born on March 19, 1872, into a wealthy noble family in Novgorod, Russia. His father, named Pavel Diaghilev, was a distinguished General to the Russian Tsar Nicholas II. His mother died at his birth. Young Sergei Diaghilev grew up in a highly cultured environment. He studied piano and singing from the early age. He also took lessons in painting at the St. Petersburg Academy of Arts, and studied music with Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov at the St. Petersburg Conservatory. From 1891-1896 Diaghilev studied law and graduated from the Law Department of the St. Petersburg University. There he developed a life-long friendship with his fellow law student Alexandre Benois. They formed a circle of artists and art connoisseurs known as 'Mir Iskusstva' (World of Art). In 1898-1904 he founded and edited the influential art magazine "Mir Iskusstva" (The World of Art). From 1899-1901 Diaghilev was a special artistic adviser to the Imperial Directorship of Theatres and to Mariinsky Theater in St. Petersburg, Russia.

Diaghilev's first partners Alexandre Benois and Leon Bakst became his life-long collaborators. They produced the first international art show of contemporary artists from Scandinavian countries and Russia in St. Petersburg in 1900. In 1904 they organized the largest portrait show ever in Tavrichesky Palace in St. Petersburg. That show also included a research of over 7 thousand portraits in various traditional and contemporary styles and involved art historians, restorers, and artists from many Russian cities. Alexandre Benois also collaborated with Diaghilev on publication of art catalogs, books and the 'Mir Iskusstva' art magazine, which promoted artistic innovations and challenged the existing order. Their book 'History of Russian Painting' (1904) became the first comprehensive work on the subject. In 1905 Diaghilev and Benois organized an important art exhibition of contemporary Russian artists in St. Petersburg and in 1906 he took a major exhibition of Russian art to the Petit Palais in Paris.

In 1906 Diaghilev settled in Paris and began the biggest Russian-European multicultural project in history which became known as the "Russian Seasons" and "Ballets Russes" (Russian Ballet). In 1907 he produced the first series of concerts of Russian music in Paris. Sergei Rachmaninoff, Aleksandr Glazunov, Alexander Scriabin, and Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov conducted their own works, as well as the works of Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, Aleksandr Borodin and Mikhail Glinka. In Paris Opera, in 1908, Diaghilev produced 'Boris Godunov', an opera by Modest Mussorgsky, starring Feodor Chaliapin Sr.. Next year Diaghilev secured support from Grand Prince Vladimir Romanov and took a company of top Russian dancers, including Anna Pavlova and Vaslav Nijinsky to Paris. After several successful seasons in Paris, Diaghilev staged the "Russian Ballet" shows in Geneva, Madrid, Rome, London and New York. He later staged 'The Sleeping Beauty' by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky in London.

Diaghilev's ability to link talented people with generous patrons was legendary. He made connections for Pablo Picasso and Henri Matisse, as well, as other artists with important Russian art collectors, such as Shchukin, Morozov, Ryabushinsky and others. Diaghilev managed to organize sponsorship for his large-scale "Russian Seasons" ballet and opera productions. From 1908-1912 he produced Russian operas in Paris and from 1913-1914 he made opera productions in London. There Diaghilev produced and directed opera 'Boris Godunov' with Feodor Chaliapin Sr. in the title role. In 1914 he transformed opera 'Golden Cockerel' into an innovative cross-style ballet-opera and brought an updated 'Prince Igor' with Feodor Chaliapin Sr. to London. His "Ballets Russes" (Russian Ballet in Russian Seasons) was founded with assistance of choreographer Mikhail Fokin and artists Leon Bakst and Alexandre Benois. Diaghilev was associated with the dancers of the first rank, such as Anna Pavlova, 'Matilda Kshesinskaya', Tamara Karsavina, Vaslav Nijinsky, and George Balanchine. Diaghilev's ballet traditions were later continued by George Balanchine in the United States, Anna Pavlova and her troupe in Europe, and Serge Lifar at the Paris Opera.

Sergei Diaghilev collaborated with the best talents of his time; composers Claude Debussy, Maurice Ravel, Igor Stravinsky, Darius Milhaud, Richard Strauss, Erick Satie, and Sergei Prokofiev. From the circle of Gertrude Stein, Sergei Diaghilev engaged such authors as Jean Cocteau and André Gide. Distinguished artists, such as Pablo Picasso, Andre Derain, Georges Braque, Henri Matisse, Giorgio De Chirico, Alexandre Benois, Konstantin Korovin, Alexander Golovin and Pavel Tchelitchev worked with him as stage set and costume designers. One of Diaghilev's consultants was Guillaume Apollinaire, who also acted as writer and artistic adviser for "Ballets Russes" (Russian Seasons).

During WWI Diaghilev made transformations in his projects by bringing together a larger diversity of talents. He understood the changes of cultural paradigm after WWI and updated the format of his project from 1917-1929. His 1917 production of ballet 'Parade' was the first collaboration of Eric Satie (I) and choreographer Leonide Massine with Pablo Picasso, who at that time married the Russian ballerina Olga Khokhlova. In 1920's Diaghilev produced innovative ballets 'Lani' and 'Le train bleu' (Blue Express) with choreographer Bronislava Njinska and costume designer Coco Chanel with participation of Pablo Picasso. Later he introduced avant-garde ideas from Vsevolod Meyerhold in his production of 'Stalnoi Skok' by Sergei Prokofiev with choreographer Léonide Massine and designer Sergei Jakulov. In 1928 production of 'Apollon musagete' Diaghilev collaborated with Igor Stravinsky, 'George Balanchine; and Coco Chanel.

Sergei Diaghilev brought cultures together and challenged the existing cultural order in a highly productive way. By expanding his international activities into art exhibitions and stage shows, Diaghilev connected people and ideas in what became arguably the first continuous large-scale cross-cultural and cross-genre project in the 20th century. From 1905-1914 his "Russian Seasons" employed mostly Russian and French performers and artists, whom he already knew. After WWI, from 1918-1929 Diaghilev welcomed all talents from all backgrounds; the best Russian and International performers, composers, authors and artists all came to him. His talent and exquisite taste ensured the highest quality of his "Russian Seasons" productions during the 25 years of his leadership and after. His idea of showing the best parts instead of a full-length ballets became a success, and ensured the revival of classic ballet in the 20 century. His partners became leaders of their own projects and carried his innovative style. Diaghilev's apprentices worked in major cultural centers across the world.

Sergei Diaghilev died in Venice, Italy on August 19, 1929. His funeral cortège proceeded by gondola to the cemetery island of San Michele where he was laid to rest. His tomb is visited by his graceful followers who made a tradition to lay red roses and ballet shoes.

- IMDb Mini Biography By: Steve Shelokhonov

Trivia (1)

The most famous ballet impresario of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. His company, the Ballet Russes, premiered the original productions of Stravinsky's "The Firebird", "Petrouchka" and "Le Sacre du Printemps" (The Rite of Spring), as well as the ballet versions of Debussy's "Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun" and Rimsky-Korsakov's "Scheherazade".

Personal Quotes (1)

I could make a choreographer out of this inkwell if I wanted to.

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