Narcissse is a classical ballet performed in one Act. Narcisse premiered on April 26, 1911 at Casino, Monte Carlo. Narcisse was a replacement ballet for Daphnis Et Chloe. Diaghilev had invited Ravel to St. Petersburg, to work with Bakst and Fokine on Daphnis Et Chloe. Ravel was late in producing the score, and Fokine could not begin the choreography, so Narcisse was done in its place.
Narcisse was originally danced by the legendary Tamara Karsavina, Bronislava Nijinska and Vaslav Nijinsky. In the photo on the right, is Bronislava Nijinska dancing in Narcisse with Fokine's wife Vera Fokina.
Mikhail Mikhailovich Fokine was born on April 25, 1880 in St. Petersburg, Russia, the seventeenth of eighteen children, five of whom grew to adulthood. His father, Michael, was a merchant and his mother, Catherine, a native of Mannheim, Germany, loved the theater. Older brother, Nicholas, a cavalry officer, frequently attended ballets which he would describe in detail to a much younger Fokine. Hundreds of applications were submitted each year for the ten or twelve spots in the Imperial School of Ballet at St. Petersburg. Fokine was granted a secret audition because his father frequently stated, “I do not want my Mimotchka to be a ‘hoofer’’.” However, once his father learned that Fokine had achieved the number one ranking, he relented.
In 1889, Fokine entered the Imperial School of Ballet where dance instruction was intense and academic subjects secondary. Upon graduating, in 1898, he joined the Maryinski Imperial Ballet at St. Petersburg, the home of opera and ballet in Russia, as a soloist, and began dancing with the famous Anna Pavlova.
When creating the ballets Firebird and Petrouchka, Fokine collaborated with Igor Stravinsky and with Maurice Ravel for Daphnis and Chloe. He also worked closely with Serge Rachmaninoff to present Paganini in 1939.
On January 23, 1942 Fokine’s last ballet, The Russian Soldier premiered at the Boston Opera House. That summer he went to Mexico City to stage Helen of Troy and injured his leg, causing him to return to New York. He was hospitalized with pleurisy, developed double pneumonia and died on August 22, 1942. His body was waked at the Campbell Funeral Home in Manhattan, a funeral service was held at the Russian Orthodox Church of Christ the Saviour and burial took place at Ferncliff Cemetery in Hartsdale. Vera joined him there in 1958 and Vitale in 1977.
As a memorial to Michel Fokine, one of his eighty–one ballets, Les Sylphides, was performed simultaneously by seventeen ballet companies around the world.
Prokofiev was born in Ukraine. He composed his first opera by the age of nine. Later he applied, and was accepted into the St. Petersburg Conservatory. He continued at the Conservatory, studying piano conducting under Nikolai Tcherepnin. He journeyed to London where he made contact with Diaghilev who commissioned Prokofiev's first ballet, Ala and Lolli. Diaghilev rejected the work when Prokofiev brought it to him in Italy in 1915. Diaghilev gave him another chance and commissioned Prokofiev to compose the ballet Chout. The ballet premiered in Paris on May 17, 1921 and was a huge success. In 1928-1929, Prokofiev composed what was to be the last ballet for Diaghilev, The Prodigal Son, which was staged on May 21, 1929 in Paris with Serge Lifar in the title role. Diaghilev died only months later. In 1930, Prokofiev began his first non-Diaghilev ballet On the Dnieper, Op. 51, a work commissioned by Serge Lifar who had been appointed maitre de ballet at the Paris Opera. Another ballet commission came from the Kirov Theatre, it was the ballet Romeo and Juliet. Today, Romeo and Juliet is one of Prokofiev's best-known works. However, the ballet's original happy ending caused the premiere to be postponed for several years. In 1943 Prokofiev composed the ballet Cinderella (Op. 87), one of his most melodious and celebrated composition.
He continued at the Conservatory, studying piano conducting under Nikolai Tcherepnin. He journeyed to London where he made contact with Diaghilev who commissioned Prokofiev's first ballet, Ala and Lolli. Diaghilev rejected the work when Prokofiev brought it to him in Italy in 1915. Diaghilev gave him another chance and commissioned Prokofiev to compose the ballet Chout. The ballet premiered in Paris on May 17, 1921 and was a huge success.
In 1928-1929, Prokofiev composed what was to be the last ballet for Diaghilev, The Prodigal Son, which was staged on May 21, 1929 in Paris with Serge Lifar in the title role. Diaghilev died only months later.
In 1930, Prokofiev began his first non-Diaghilev ballet On the Dnieper, Op. 51, a work commissioned by Serge Lifar who had been appointed maitre de ballet at the Paris Opera.
Another ballet commission came from the Kirov Theatre, it was the ballet Romeo and Juliet. Today, Romeo and Juliet is one of Prokofiev's best-known works. However, the ballet's original happy ending caused the premiere to be postponed for several years.
In 1943 Prokofiev composed the ballet Cinderella (Op. 87), one of his most melodious and celebrated composition.
Joan Miró i Ferrà born April 20, 1893 to the families of a goldsmith and watchmaker, the young Miró was drawn towards the arts community that was gathering in Montparnasse and in 1920 moved to Paris. There, under the influence of the poets and writers, he developed his unique style: organic forms and flattened picture planes drawn with a sharp line.
In 1926, he collaborated with Max Ernst on designs for Sergei Diaghilev. With Miró's help, Ernst pioneered the technique of grattage, in which he troweled pigment onto his canvases. Miró married Pilar Juncosa in Palma de Mallorca on October 12, 1929; their daughter Dolores was born July 17, 1931. Shuzo Takiguchi published the first monograph on Miró in 1940. In 1948–49, although living in Barcelona, Miró made frequent visits to Paris to work on printing his techniques at the Mourlot Studios (lithographs) and at the Atelier Lacourière (engravings). A close relationship lasting forty years developed with the printer Fernand Mourlot and resulted in the production of over one thousand different lithographic editions.
Le Spectre de La Rose Premiered April 19, 1911. Le Spectre de La Rose was choreographed by Michel Fokine, music by Carl Maria von Weber and designs by Leon Bakst. Le Spectre de la rose premiered on April 19, 1911 in Monte Carlo by Diaghilev's Ballet Russe. Dancers at the premiere were Vaslav Nijinsky as the Spirit of the Rose and Tamara Karsarvina as the Young Girl.
The ballet tells the story of a young woman who returns from a ball and brings home a rose. She falls asleep in a chair and dreams of dancing with the spirit of the rose until the spirit disappears with a spectacular leap through the window and she awakes.
Australian audiences first saw the Fokine version as part of the very first performance by the Monte Carlo Russian Ballet on its 1936-1937 tour to Australia. It opened on 13 October in Adelaide's Theatre Royal and featured Valentina Blinova and Igor Youskevitch. Spectre was subsequently performed by the Covent Garden Russian Ballet on its 1938-1939 tour to Australia and by the Original Ballet Russe on the tour of 1939-1940. It was given over 120 performances during the three Ballets Russes tours.
The Ballets Russes performances of Fokine's Le Spectre de La Rose were followed in the 1940's by those of the Borovansky company, initially during their first Australian tour in 1944. In 1947, Kathleen Gorham performed as the Young Girl after her promotion to the rank of junior ballerina with this company. The work entered the repertoire of the Ballet Guild in 1953, featuring Laurel Martyn and Raymond Trickett. Australian audiences also saw Ballet Rambert performing Fokine's Spectre during their 1947-9 tour, and, in 1962, Margot Fonteyn performing as the Young Girl while touring with an ensemble of 8 dancers from the Royal Ballet. Fonteyn was personally coached in this role by Karsavina.
Jeux Enfants (Children's Games) was first performed in Monte Carlo. It is a modern ballet in one act. The libretto was by Boris Kochno, music by Georges Bizet, scenery and costumes by Joan Miro and choreography by Leonide Massine.
The ballet is reminiscent of childhood dreams with Miro's fresh and simple colors of sctual toys. Irina Baronova and Tamara Toumanova alternated the part of the Top, both spinning with swift fouettes! David Lichine danced the role of the Traveler and Leon Woizikovsky the role of the athlete. The part of the Child was performed by Tatiana Riabouchinska.
Adolph Bolm was a student at the
In 1918, he was the choreographer for the New York Metropolitan Opera, and the Chicago Civic Opera in 1920. Bolm toured South America in 1928 and took up residence in
The ballet was first performed on April 13, 1933 in the Theatre de Monte Carlo in Monte Carlo. Les Presages (Destiny) is a ballet in three scenes with both the libretto and the choreography by Leonide Massine. Music by Tchaikovsky (Symphony No.5) and the scenery and costumes were by Andre Masson. This was the first of Massine's symphony ballets. The three principal ballerina roles were Passion, Action and Frivolity. Irina Baronova, Nina Verchinina and Tatiana Riabouchinska created these roles respectively. David Lichine was the Lover in the 2nd movement and the Hero in the 4th movement with Leon Woizikovsky appearing as Fate.
Le Beau Danube (The Beautiful Danube) Premiered April 13, 1933
Le Beau Danube (The Beautiful Danube) premiered April 13, 1933 in the Theatre de Monte Carlo, Monte Carlo. It is a one act romantic ballet with both the libretto and choreography done by Massine. Music is by Strauss and the orchestra arranged by Roger Desmormiere. Scenery and costumes were by Vlladimir Polunin with the new costumes by Count Etienne de Beaumont.
Originally conceived by Massine for Count Etienne de Beaumont's, Soiree de Paris in 1924, the ballet was revived and reconstructed into one scene instead of two with new décor and costumes. Massine assembled numerous works of Strauss and composed dances to them to tell his story. The role of the Street Dancer was danced by Danilova with Massine as Hussar. Tatianna Riabouchinska was the original Young Girl and Edward Borovansky the Strong Man with the cigarette behind his ear.
Les Femmes De Bonne Humeur (The Good-Humored Ladies) was first performed on April 12, 1917 at Teatro Constanza, Rome. It is a comic one act ballet. The libretto adapted from a comedy La Donne di Buon Umore, by Carlo Goldoni. The music is by Domenico Scarlatti, and was orchestrated by Vincenzo Tommasini.
The choreography was by Leonide Massine, the first of Massine's series of ballets in the Italian Commedia del'Arte tradition. The scenery designed by Leon Bakst. It was composed in Italy during the war. Lydia Lopokova danced the role of Mariuccia. Massine and Stanislas Idizikowsky, Lubov Tchernicheva, Leon Woizikovsky made up the rest of the original cast.
L’Epreuve D’Amour (The Proof of Love) or Chung-Yang and the Mandarin, a comedic ballet in one act was first performed on April 4, 1936 in Theatre de Monte Carlo in Monte Carlo. Libretto by André Derain and Michel Fokine, music by Mozart, choreography by Michel Fokine and scenery and costumes by Andre Derain. The discovery of Graz of an unknown score by Mozart in his Chinese style suggested the idea to this ballet.
Vera Zorina was born Eva Brigitta Hartwig in, Berlin, Germany. Her father Fritz was a German and her mother Billie Hartwig was Norwegian. Vera Zorina was brought up in Kristiansund where she debuted as a dancer at the Festiviteten, the oldest opera house in Norway. She received her education at the Lyceum for Girls in Berlin but was trained in dance by Olga Preobrajenska and Nicholas Legat. She was presented to Max Reinhardt at age 12 who cast her in his A Midsummer Night's Dream (1929) and Tales of Hoffman (1931). A performance at London's Gaiety Theatre led to her entrance into the company of the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo in 1933.
She changed her stage name to Vera Zorina when she joined the Ballet Russe. She won a lead role in the London company of On Your Toes (1937) and was seen by American film producer Samuel Goldwyn, who signed her to a seven year film contract. Between 1938 and 1946, she would appear in a number of Hollywood movie productions.
She was George Balanchine's second wife; they were married from 1938 to 1946. She danced in productions he choreographed, both on the stage and screen, including On Your Toes, a Broadway hit later adapted for the screen by Lawrence Riley.
Vaslav Nijinsky was born in Kiev, Russia, while his parents, dancers Eleonora Bereda and Foma Nijinsky were on tour. He entered the Imperial School in St. Petersburg in 1898, and upon graduation in 1907 became a soloist with the Maryinsky Theatre.
He met Sergei Diaghilev, and Nijinsky went to Paris with him and danced the leading roles in Le Pavillion d'Armida and Les Sylphides with Anna Pavlova in 1909. The next year he danced the golden slave in Scheherazade.
He continued to dance with the Diaghilev's Ballets Russes after 1909, although Anna Pavlova left because Diaghilev favored his male dancers.
Although Vaslav danced with many great ballerinas he was most associated with Tamara Karsavina, with whom he danced in 1911 in one of the most famous ballets of the time, Le Spectre de la Rose.
Nijinsky’s choreography broke away from his classical training. His ballets were controversial, his Jeux made headlines in the morning press, and Le Sacre du Printemps had the audiences shouting obscenities in the theater and on the streets of Paris.
In 1913 the Ballets Russes toured South America, and because of his fear of ocean voyages Diaghilev did not accompany them. Without his mentor's supervision Nijinsky fell in love with Romola de Pulszky, a Hungarian dancer. They were married in Buenos Aires: when the company returned to Europe, Diaghilev, in a jealous rage, fired them both.
During World War I, Nijinsky, a Russian citizen, was interned in Hungary. Diaghilev succeeded in getting him out for a North American tour in 1916, during which he choreographed and danced the leading role in Till Eulenspiegel. Signs of his dementia praecox were becoming apparent to members of the company. He became afraid of other dancers and that a trap door would be left open. Nijinsky spent may years in and out of mental hospitals.
In 1947 the family moved to London, where he was cared for by his loving wife, Romola, until his death in 1950. He is buried in Paris at the Sacre Coeur Cemetery.
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
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.
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. After World War I, Picasso made a number of important associations and relationships with figures associated with Serge Diaghilev's Ballets Russes. Among his friends during this period were Jean Cocteau, Jean Hugo, Juan Gris and others. In the summer of 1918, Picasso married Olga Khokhlova, a ballerina with Sergei Diaghilev’s troupe, for whom Picasso was designing a ballet, Parade, in Rome; and they spent their honeymoon in the villa near Biarritz of the glamorous Chilean art patron Eugenia Errázuriz. Khokhlova introduced Picasso to high society, formal dinner parties, and all the social niceties attendant on the life of the rich in 1920s Paris. The two had a son, Paulo, who would grow up to be a dissolute motorcycle racer and chauffeur to his father. Khokhlova’s insistence on social propriety clashed with Picasso’s bohemian tendencies and the two lived in a state of constant conflict. During the same period that Picasso collaborated with Diaghilev’s troup, he and Igor Stravinsky collaborated on Pulcinella in 1920.
The most notable of Diaghilev's composers was Igor Stravinsky, who is now recognised as the premier composer of the early twentieth century. Diaghilev had hired the young Stravinsky at a time when he was virtually unknown to compose the music for The Firebird, after the composer Anatoly Lyadov proved unreliable. Diaghilev was thus instrumental in launching Stravinsky's career in Europe and the United States of America.
Stravinsky's early ballet scores were the subject of much discussion. The Firebird (1910) was seen as an astonishingly accomplished work for such a young artist (Debussy is said to have remarked drily: "Well, you've got to start somewhere!"). Many contemporary audiences found Petrushka (1911) to be almost unbearably dissonant and confused. The Rite of Spring caused a near-riot by the audience, stunned because of its willful rhythms and aggressive dynamics. The Rite of Spring had to be pulled after just a few performances. The audience's negative reaction to it is now regarded as a theatrical scandal as notorious as the failed runs of Richard Wagner's Tannhäuser at Paris in 1861 and Jean-Georges Noverre's and David Garrick's Chinese Ballet at London on the eve of the Seven Years' War. However, Stravinsky's early ballet scores are now widely considered masterpieces of the genre. Even his later ballet scores (such as Apollo), while not as startling, were still superior to most ballet music of the previous century.
Paquita Premiered in Paris April 1, 1846 presented at the Salle Le Peletier by the Paris Opera Ballet. In 1847, Paquita was staged for the first time in Russia for the Imperial Ballet of St. Petersburg by Marius Petipa and Pierre-Frédéric Malevergne.
Paquita was the first work ever staged by Petipa in Russia. In 1881, Petipa produced a revival of the ballet for which he added new pieces specially composed by Ludwig Minkus. This included the Pas de trois for the first act, and the Paquita Grand pas classique and the Mazurka des enfants for the last act.
Petipa's version of Paquita was retained in the repertory of the Mariinsky Theatre until 1926.
Serge Lifar was born on April 2, 1903 in Kiev, Ukraine and trained there by Bronislava Nijinska. Lifar was dynamic and controversial in his personal life. He was accepted into the Ballets Russes in 1923. Serge Lifar's career was delayed a year because he did not accept Serge Diaghilev's invitation to breakfast. Diaghilev insisted that Lifar's training continue with Enrico Cecchetti, Nicolai Legat and Pierre Vladimirov. Lifar was known for his notorious and unscrupulous displays of ego. While partnering Alicia Markova at London's Drury Lane Theatre, his extremely unprofessional jealousy of her triumph caused a scandal. In 1938, they danced again when Markova was making her debut in America. The ballet was almost ruined by Lifar's attempts to steal scenes, causing a critic to write that his performance in Giselle would justify changing the name of the ballet to Albrecht.
Lifar eventually replaced Anton Dolin as Diaghilev's favorite, when Dolin left to dance in Cochran's Revues with Vera Nemtchinova. Diaghilev made sure Lifar continued his daily classes with Enrico Cecchetti. Wherever Lifar went, Cecchetti was there to give him lessons. Lifar was the last of the Ballets Russes' Premier Danseurs, although Dolin did return to the company as one of the stars. Two of Lifar's greatest achievements as a dancer in the Ballets Russes were in Balanchine's Apollo and The Prodigal Son.
After Serge Diaghilev's death in 1929, Lifar became Premier Danseur of the Paris Opera Ballet, whose reputation had declined since the Victorian era. By 1933, he had become its Director and Professor of Dance. In 1939, Lifar joined the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo where he again danced with Alicia Markova, this time at London's Covent Garden.
In the summer of 1994 on the stage of the National Ukraine Opera the First International Ballet Contest was held named after Serge Lifar. The new contest happened to be unique. For the first time in Europe young ballet artists and balletmasters contended simultaneously. The Sixth Lifar International Ballet Competition was held in April, 2006.